January 23, 2018

Saturday Brunch, January 6, 2018, Politics-free edition

Hello, friends, and welcome to the weekend. Ready for some brunch?

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Let’s start with some nice sporty news. The NFL regular season ended on Sunday, and the alphabet officially has more W’s than the Cleveland Browns. I think what happened is the following conversation:

2016 Browns: “Well, we finished 1-15. Can’t really get worse than that”

2017 Browns: “Hold my beer!”

I’ve also heard the city is going to re-name them The Cleveland Brons… No, not because of Lebron, but because the Browns have no Ws.

How did you spend New Year’s Eve or day?  Here are some pictures from around the world of people from different cultures celebrating the New Year. What a wonderful, diverse world we live in.

Red Square in Moscow

Maasai tribe members perform a traditional dance on Nungwi Beach in Zanzibar, Tanzania.

Fireworks light up the sky over the London Eye in central London.

Performers look at selfie photos before going on stage at a countdown event marking the arrival of the New Year in Beijing, China

People in Kim Il Sung Square watch fireworks light the sky above the Taedong River in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Vikings from the Shetland Islands hold lit torches during the annual torchlight procession to mark the start of Hogmanay (New Year) celebrations in Edinburgh

Pakistani people prepare to release lanterns as they gather to celebrate the new year in Lahore

Sydney, Australia

A woman prays in front of lanterns to celebrate the New Year at a Buddhist temple in Seoul, South Korea.

Taking the plunge during the traditional San Silvestre Swim at La Comandancia beach in northeastern Spain.

Performers parade through the streets as part of the annual Joburg Carnival in Johannesburg, South Africa. Many of the costumes are hand-made each year for the event.

Muslim faithful of the Ya Lateef Islamic Society sit as they pray into the New Year at Ibafo, Ogun State in southwest of Nigeria

Lights and fireworks are seen at the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

Shinto priests walk in a line to attend a ritual to usher in the new year in Tokyo

Lazer light show at Burj Khalifa, Dubai

People dance during the New Year’s celebrations on a beach in Mumbai, India

 

 (Photo by Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images)

Taipei, Taiwan.

Nepalese people from ethnic Gurung community wear traditional attire as they dance in a parade to mark their New Year also known as Tamu Losar in Kathmandu.

If you lived in most areas of the U.S. you may have notice things got a little chilly this week. In fact, in some places it was colder than Mars. This, of course, does not invalidate global warming. In fact, it may be a sign of it:

 For the past decade or so, climate scientists have noticed that when the Arctic has an especially warm winter, the northern continents become especially cold and snowy. A plethora of studies in the past three years have seemed to confirm the connection: When the Arctic is extremely warm, it seems to loose cold air across the world, and northern North America suffers an extremely cold winter. Why? Scientists aren’t sure yet, but they think it may arise from a destabilized jet streamor a weakened stratospheric polar vortex.

Just this past July, a team of researchers found that frigid winters, driven by a warm Arctic, were already reducing the productivity of American agriculture. They estimated that this warming has already cost Texas a 20 percent decline in corn production for some years.

In Boston, record high tides and extreme cold produced this effect (so maybe don’t complain about scraping your car windows tomorrow, eh?)

Also, off the coast of Nantucket, there were “slurpy waves”:

Perhaps things will warm up a bit, now that Elsa has been arrested:

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In any case, this might be a helpful reminder:

The Pentagon confirmed last week that it had spent 22 million dollars on a program to collect data on UFO’s. Just think, instead of wasting it like that they could have bought a couple dozen toilet seats. Ross Douthat at the Gray Lady uses the occasion to opine on why we are so fascinated by the possibility of alien contact, though we have no hard evidence for it:

…our alien encounters, whether real or imaginary, are the same kind of thing as the fairy encounters of the human past — part of an enduring phenomenon whose interpretations shift but whose essentials are consistent, featuring the same abductions and flying crafts and lights and tricks with crops and animals and time and space, the same shape-shifting humanoids and sexual experiments and dangerous gifts and mysterious intentions.

Jacque Vallée suggested that contemporary U.F.O. narratives are of piece with stories about Northern European fairies and their worldwide kith and kin — and that it’s more reasonable to think that we’re reading our space age preoccupations into a persistent phenomenon that might be much weirder than a simple visitation from the stars. . . his arguments for the basic continuity between folklore and flying saucers are quite compelling, and I suspect he’s correct about the commonality of these experiences …

Sometimes our own elite opinion seems to be shopping for a new religion: I have read books in the last year pitching versions of Buddhismpantheismand paganism to the post-Christian educated set. For such shoppers, the striking overlap between U.F.O.s and fairy stories might eventually become an advertisement for an updated spiritualist cosmology, not a strike against it — especially if woven together with multiverse and universe-as-simulation hypotheses that imply a kind of metaphysics of caprice.

Meanwhile those of us who remain Christian — and yes, this is a Christmas column, U.F.O.s and all — can be agnostic about all these strange stories, not reflexively dismissive, since Christianity does not require that all paranormal experiences be either divinely sent or demonic or imaginary.

Thoughts?

I knew it: Well, this is embarrassing. A Nobel Laureate has retracted a 2016 paper in Nature Chemistry that explored the origins of life on earth, after discovering the main conclusions were not correct. Even though the paper was published only 18 months ago, it has already been cited by 26 other papers in the scientific literature. Why? Because it appeared to solve a very serious problem in what is probably the most popular origin-of-life scenario.

The origin of life hypothesis you were likely taught in school (the prebiotic soup theory and the Miller-Urey Experiments) are now relegated to the ash-heap of failed theories. But what mechanism, then, can account for non-living materials giving birth to life? After all, one of the fundamental laws of biology is bio-genesis: life comes from life.

One possible scenario is the “RNA world” hypothesis. In this view, life was not initially based on DNA. Instead, it was based on a similar molecule, RNA. But it has many difficulties:

One of the many problems with this origin-of-life scenario is that in all studies so far, RNA needs enzymes in order to replicate properly. Other RNA molecules could, in theory, do the jobs that enzymes are doing now, but no mechanism by which this happens has been found. That’s where the retracted paper [by Nobel Laureate Jack W. Szostak] comes in. It reports on a series of experiments that seemed to demonstrate a possible way in which RNA could be replicated over and over again without the help of enzymes.

But in subsequent experiments this year, Tivoli Olsen — a member of Szostak’s lab — could not reproduce the 2016 findings. When she reviewed the experiments from the Nature Chemistry paper, she found that the team had misinterpreted the initial data.

The errors were “definitely embarrassing,” Szostak told retraction watch:

In retrospect, we were totally blinded by our belief [in our findings]…we were not as careful or rigorous as we should have been (and as Tivoli was) in interpreting these experiments.

Jay Wile (Ph.D in nuclear physics) writes about this:

This happens a lot in science. Scientists aren’t unbiased investigators who don’t have any stake in the outcome of their experiments. Generally, when we do experiments, we are looking for some result. If we aren’t careful, that can make us see things which aren’t really there. In this case, that’s what happened to the authors of the paper.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not writing about this to insult Dr. Szostak and his team. In fact, I applaud them! Not only did they step up and do the right thing (regardless of the consequences), but Dr. Szostak even freely admitted the reason for the error.

I am writing this so that people understand there is no such thing as an unbiased scientist. We all approach science with our inherent biases, and those biases affect our results. The problem isn’t the bias. The problem is that so many scientists (as well as science journalists and science educators) pretend that it doesn’t exist!

In Somersworth, New Hampshire, two very different symbols now share space. At ground level, a monument of the Ten Commandments, and just above it, the “atheist flag” will blow in the breeze.  It seems last summer the Ten Commandments monument here was either intentionally knocked over or fell over, no one’s really sure. The City, which owns the traffic island, suddenly had to make a choice. Should it be moved to private land? Or re-erected? It stirred intense debate. In the end, the City decided to put the monument back up, but also add two flag poles. One would fly the city’s official flag, the other would be a rotating flag to honor Somersworth’s diversity. That’s opened the door to a rather unconventional request. In January, the town will fly the atheist flag over the Ten Commandments.“The City wants to celebrate diversity, and I don’t think you can get much more diverse than putting an atheist flag over the Ten Commandments,” says Richard Gagnon, a local atheist, who put in the request. Okay then.

Oh, you didn’t know the atheists had a flag? Thought it was “not a worldview or belief system, but simply a negation of a certain belief?” That’s sweet.

Is the scarlet letter intentional?

That led me thinking: which religions/groups have the best and worst flags? Here are your choices (note, most of these are non-official, since religions are not countries):

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Christian Flag; You may remember it from your VBS or AWANA days

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Hindu Flag

Flag of the Greek Orthodox Church.svg

Greek Orthodox Flag

PHA flag #2

Humanist Flag

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Sikh Flag

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Muslim Flag

Buddhist Flag

Some Oregonians are struggling with a new task: pumping gas. On January 1, a new law went into effect that brought Oregon into the latter half of the 20th century:  Gas no longer has to be put into your car by an attendant; you can now pump diluted dinosaurs yourself. The transition has not been. . .seamless:

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Lastly, the legendary author of Lord of the Rings would have been 116 this week – so why not end with some LOTR memes?

 

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Comments

  1. Susan Dumbrell says:

    Thank you for the photo of our Sydney Harbour Bridge at midnight New Year.
    Some call it ‘the blowing up our Bridge!’.
    The 10 minute fireworks and music display over the Harbour and from The Bridge were awesome.

  2. Are they called the Cleveland Browns because they make a hash of everything?

    • They’re actually named for their first coach, Paul Brown. Another fun fact – Cleveland gets a large portion of its electricity from the rotation of Paul Brown’s body every time a Brown’s game’s scores are posted.

      I’m a Cleveland expat, so I’m allowed to be bitter. 😛

      • john barry says:

        Eeyore, I spent a week in Cleveland one day. I also won as a third place prize , a 5 day stay in Cleveland in a contest, winner only had to stay one day, second place two and third place five. I come from a city that does not have a professional football team either so lots in common.
        One of my favorite singing groups in the 1960’s were the Browns, brother and 2 sister trio. They had a hit titled the Three Bells, it was about a mans life , his name was little Jimmy Brown. Shows you how the music culture has change. Their big hit was Mr. Blue. I do not know their present status but it appears they may be playing offensive line for the Cleveland Browns. Seriously, do really like their big hit songs including the Old Lamplighter but lately I seem to be getting into hip hop and rap as it speaks to me in a personal way. My hip is bad, I hop around and I cannot rap my head around new ideas.
        At least the people in Cleveland can put gas in their own cars, they just have no where to go. My apologizes to Cleveland, it is a nice city really , it just has always struck me as so Erie.

        • Daniel Jepsen says:

          Your stream-of-consciousness comments are very funny

          • Indeed.

          • Christiane says:

            I’m enjoying John Barry’s humor also. Headless Unicorn Guy (HUG) is another one whose humor is addictive. Glad they are both around.

            • john barry says:

              Christiane, You might be interested to know I am a Marxist but fortunately a Groucho Marxist. Many prefer the strong , silent type like Harpo but Groucho expressed his world view in more eloquent manner. Do I really think that Groucho was naturally witty, You can Bet Your Life on that.
              If humor is addictive I will be out on the street selling it , getting people addicted and perhaps get California and Colorado to legalize it even if for medical purposes.
              One of the declines in America to me is the lowering of the bar for humor in so any areas, the likes of Will Rogers, Bob Hope, Jackie Mason, Mort Stahl , the Smother Brothers, Steve Allen and Johnny Carson. Lenny Bruce and George Carlin, would be tame now. Can you imagine Mike Nicholas and Elaine May now being on TV? Of course this is “old man” talk but there is more coarseness and shock value in comedy now than back when I was young, but then I guess talkies ruined everything.
              Of course my bar is not set too high, as the clip of Johnny Carson and Ed Ames when he threw the tomahawk at the target and the landing and reaction still make me laugh. I try not to take myself too seriously and it seems I have succeeded as the world does not take my profound , correct and insightful thoughts and comments in the serious manner they deserve. Many times people ask me “are you serious” , I am afraid to say yes so I stand like Harpo.
              Can you imagine the honeymooner Ralph Cramden doing his “to the moon ” comment to Alice now? It was funny because it assumed correctly the viewers knew who had the real power in the relationship and it was after all a show. Of course , when one was told that Lewis and Martin could make you “die laughing” they did not take it as a threat. Jerry Lewis an icon in France , go figure. If I bring a little humor into anyone’s life I am glad as one of the big influences in my life was the Good Humor man who was to many cold on the outside but if you looked inside the truck it was rewarding and you learned good things come in many flavors.

              • Christiane says:
                • john barry says:

                  Christiane, thanks, love the cartoon about finding Alice. In the 60’s in Vero Beach at the bars one had a sign that the Apollo mission was actually the Alice Kramden rescue mission. How low budget, how innocent, how witty , how universally human and how funny were the Honeymooners? They still hold up . Audrey and Jane Meadows parents were missionaries in China and there was always a minor debate on where Audrey was born as she probably shave a few years off her age at the beginning .

          • john barry says:

            Robert F. Thanks for the links, Cleveland Rocks really good song, Had forgot about it but also forget where I park my car also so I am not alarmed. Actually every city in America that I have been to has its own charm and good points. It is sad that we in America are losing a lot of our regional distinct differences. Go to a mall in Cleveland coupled with all the national chains and you would think you are in a generic city. Short people would be a no no now, also have forgotten Newman.

            • Generic suburbs, and their malls, have been a fact of life in America for a while now. City centers, otoh, have kept some of their distinct personalities.

  3. Pellicano Solitudinis says:

    J.R.R. Tolkien would have been 126, not 116.

    One of those for whose life and work I am very thankful. To the Professor!

    • Dana Ames says:

      To the Professor!

      Do you know the blog “A Pilgrim in Narnia”? If you don’t, you should….

      Dana

  4. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    > They estimated that this warming has already cost Texas a 20 percent
    > decline in corn production for some years.

    That must explain the insane price increases of popcorn at the theater!

    • There’s only so much water that can be pumped out of the aquafer…

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        Thank goodness for Canada then – with all that glacial melt we should be set for as many decades as I’ve got left.

        Canadian National RR goes through my state – kernels by the ton.

        And we can setup a deal: MI will send Texas great lakes water in exchange for oil to run the poppers.

      • john barry says:

        Tom Aka Volkmar, I was taught we are drinking the same water as the dinosaurs, as earth is like a snow globe. With my local water company it sure taste like it.

    • That, and price gouging.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        What?! Come now, be fair, no good God fearing capitalist would exploit the need a man has for his Star Wars.

  5. MORE LOTR JOKES! MORE!!

  6. Very tasty brunch, Daniel. Mucho gracias!

  7. Dan from Georgia says:

    – Thanks for the wonderful New Year’s celebration pics! I love to see people celebrating in all different kinds of ways, with dazzling lights and all…yeah…I know it’s kind of new-agey…but so what.

    – Also re: the arctic cold wave…I come from Minnesota and we have a little hamlet in the northeastern corner of the state that regularly sees temps drop down to -40F or colder EVERY winter. It’s ALWAYS colder there than in (in)famous International Falls, MN. Just down the road is Tower, MN, where the states all-time low of -60F was recorded. Glad I live in Georgia now.

    – Also love the LOTR meme’s!

  8. WHAT!! There’s a state-full of people who don’t know how to fill their own tanks?? Sheesh….

    • Well, we have two whole states and a District where people don’t know how to drive in rain or snow.

    • More than one, New Jersey also has this mysterious affliction!

      • Grew up in NJ, never had to pump my own gas, unless I traveled out of state. Now I live in PA, and miss the full service stations. In NJ, state law prohibits pumping your own gas.

  9. senecagriggs says:

    “I am writing this so that people understand there is no such thing as an unbiased scientist. We all approach science with our inherent biases, and those biases affect our results. The problem isn’t the bias. The problem is that so many scientists (as well as science journalists and science educators) pretend that it doesn’t exist!”
    ______________

    retractionwatch.com – One of my favorite websites.

    • There is no such thing as an unbiased scientist, but there is unbiased science. The skeptical methodology of science, when pursued over time with diligence even by the most imperfectly unbiased community of scientists, results in unbiased scientific results. You can’t make theology equal to scientific knowledge by pointing out human bias; science skeptically tests all knowledge, including its own, because of its awareness of human bias in experience and knowledge; theological models, on the other hand, loathe skepticism.

      • Daniel Jepsen says:

        Robert, good thoughts. My two cents on the matter:

        I would not go so far as Thomas Kuhn and Karl Popper, who basically argued that both the answers and the questions of science are determined by the unconscious biases of society at large (and the scientific establishment that is part of that society). However, if they overplayed the subjective element in science, almost everyone else underplays it.

        The main limitation on scientific knowledge, of course, is that science can only measure and study what science can study and measure. Which is not a problem if we already KNOW that nothing exists which cannot be studied or measured by science. But that is a philosophical question, not a scientific one. Very few people seem to get this.

        • I agree, up to a point. But some of the resistance in religion, and the Christian church(es), to having science examine the evidence for and validity of their claims is the result of not wanting to deal with findings that might be contradictory to traditional assertions. Where religion and science really run afoul of each other is in the area of psychology/sociology, and the anthropology (I’m not talking about the study of anthropology here, but the implications that may be drawn from other disciplines regarding human nature ) that come from them, where science has discovered truths about human being that diametrically oppose theological assertions. I admit that these scientific disciplines have been hazier in their findings, and more likely to be altered every few years, but as they are becoming more evidence-based, and as more diligence is put into the studies and the experimental models are refined, less hypothesis to hypothesis drift is occurring. And traditional religion, Christianity included, is very averse to change its anthropology, its doctrine of human being, because it realizes this has serious implications for the whole theological system, including the doctrine of God. Nevertheless, scientific finding are getting more exact, and more irrefutable; it won’t do for theology just to dig its heals in, without any evidence to the contrary, or to claim that science has no right to examine its anthropological foundations. Science has every right, and the ability, to study humanity; does religion have the ability?

          • seneca griggs says:

            Recent studies suggests that 2/3s of all psycho/social research isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

            I’m skeptical about everything except Scripture. I’m a conservative Evangelical after all and we believe Scripture trumps all other revelation [ though we also admit our very human flaws that can lead us to misinterpret and mis-apply Scripture]. But 95 percent or higher of Scripture is quite simple to understand. After all, God didn’t give us Scripture only for academicians but for the common man to understand God’s will in our lives.

            And that seems to be the dividing line as seen here on I-monk. The competing views of Scripture.

            Yeah, I still believe with all my heart Adam and Eve were the very first human beings, fully human, not myth, not fable.

            • Strange that God would give scripture for “the common man to understand”, as opposed to only experts, when throughout history the vast majority of humanity was illiterate, nor could they have afforded to buy books or scrolls, if they had existed in sufficient quantities for many of them to purchase, which they didn’t. In fact, concentrated study of written Scripture, or any text for that matter, was limited to a very few scholars and religious experts, who could read and write, and had texts at hand to do so. How very inefficient of God to intend the sacred texts for “the common man”, yet send them in a form, and to a time, when only experts had access to them, or could afford them.

              • +1

              • Human language is flawed and imperfect by nature, and is always evolving to fit the needs of the culture. That doesn’t negate Scripture as being inspired and the Word of God though, but just proceed with caution..

              • +2

              • seneca griggs says:

                The mainstream consensus is that the New Testament was written in a form of Koine Greek, which was the common language of the Eastern Mediterranean from the Conquests of Alexander the Great (335–323 BC) until the evolution of Byzantine Greek (c. 600)

                • 1) That has nothing to do with widespread illiteracy at the time it was the New Testament was written.
                  2) Is Koine Greek the language you read the NT in? If you only trust the Scripture, then you’d think you would do your best to learn the languages it was written in, so you don’t have to trust scholars to translate it for you, since only Scripture is worthy of your trust. Non-Arab Muslims learn Arabic so that they can read the Koran in its own language; should you do any less with the Bible?

                  • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

                    Is Koine Greek the language you read the NT in?

                    No, the REAL original language — Kynge Jaymes Englyshe!

            • –> “I’m skeptical about everything except Scripture.”

              What about THE INTERPRETATION of Scripture? Any skepticism there? And how do you decide which interpretation to be skeptical of and which to view as good?

            • Klasie Kraalogies says:

              Bit here is the kicker. To say you only trust Scripture is To say you only trust yourself. Because your comprehension depends entirely just on yourself – and more importantly, on your assumptions. No person is a bubble. To acknowledge this is to acknowledge you need more than yourself…. And that is a frightening aspect to most.

              • Adam Tauno Williams says:

                “”” To acknowledge this is to acknowledge you need more than yourself…. And that is a frightening aspect to most.”””

                Yet something even every puppy understands to be true. It requires hubris not to see it.

              • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

                Save your bandwidth.
                You’re butting your head against at least a century of a Gospel of Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation.
                “Just Me and JEESUS” and “The Plain Meaning of SCRIPTURE(TM)!

            • Clay Crouch says:

              Would you please direct us to those studies?

            • The more I study Scripture and people who read it the more convinced I become that “the common man” is appallingly inept at understanding said Scriptures. Translations are certainly helpful, yet they inevitably represent political bias and group-think.

              I am skeptical, to say the least, of any idea of “perspicacity” of the text–especially in translation.

            • If you’re not reading the Scriptures in the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, you’re not reading God’s word(s), but humans’ versions of God’s word(s).

              Just like “inerrancy” (according to inerrantists) applies only to the autographs, so the word “Scripture” should apply only to the texts in the original languages. Everything else is biased human reasoning.

              See? I can up the ante of orthodoxy and “true Christian.”

              • john barry says:

                EricW, I can safely say it is all Greek to me. They say the Greeks have a word for it but I would not understand it as again it is all Greek to me. I do think the modern word Geek is derived from dropping the r from the work Greek but I have done no research on that thought as I just had it, I might, just might be wrong.
                The best thing the Greek culture has provided modern man is of course———————the movie 300. Oh , I forgot another really good thing is the yogurt , sponge divers and maybe gyros but I am only an amateur historian mostly studying the influence of arts in society such as Art Linkletter, Arthur “Artie” see Clark, Arthur Conan Doyle who is not to be with the barbarian , Arthur Ashe, Art Carny and Arthur Geoffrey. As I spent a lot of time studying business math in high school I was not able to get into my historical study until what use to be called “junior college”.
                I am trying to find out if King Arthur is real but so far I cannot locate any of his relatives. It seems he may have had marriage problems but that is just gossip. I believe King Art as I call him invented the round table and years later the English became the Round Heads and even fought over it, the English love their roundness.

              • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

                If you’re not reading the Scriptures in the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, you’re not reading God’s word(s), but humans’ versions of God’s word(s).

                What about the REAL original language — KYNGE JAYMES ENGLYSHE?

            • seneca, the problem with the 95% that is so easy to understand is that we usually don’t know what we don’t know. It was written for the common man (at least much of the NT – most of the OT was probably written for the literate elite), but that common man lived thousands of years ago in cultures with very different value systems, family structures, economic systems, social relationships, etc. We may think we understand what Scripture means (at least 95% of it), but, for example, the words ‘faith’ and ‘grace’ had very different meanings to Paul’s first-century readers than they do to most Protestants today (particularly evangelicals). The way to see that is to see how they used those words in contexts and documents other than Scripture.. Reading Scripture (as with any other ancient document) is really like visiting another planet. Most people assume people in ancient times were just like us, thought just like us, valued the same things we do, and understood their faith just like us, but they didn’t.

              To simply read it and assume that we can understand 95% without the help of people who really study those ancient cultures, and therefore have a good understanding of how the original readers would have understood those texts is either to deceive oneself or to believe the ‘magic book’ fallacy (that the Holy Spirit magically makes it all [or 95% anyway] clear to any sincere reader, also known as the highly overrated ‘doctrine of perpescuity’). If that’s how it works, it begs the question Christian Smith asks (in ‘The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not A Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture’): why are there so many conflicting views on essential questions of the faith (e.g. ‘Four Views of the Atonement’, ‘Four Views of Christ’, ‘Four Views on Hell’, ‘Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: Four Views’ – all expressing differing views of evangelicals)?

    • In fact, theological loathe skepticism so much that, in former times in Christendom, people were burned at the stake for public skepticism about authoritatively accepted theological models. Fortunately, the enlightenment came along, embraced science and its methodology, gradually began to dominate the intellectual culture and society itself, and ultimately put an end to theology’s ability to punish people with execution for public skepticism. Of course, publicly expressed theological skepticism can still get you punished if your a professor or student at many seminaries and other religious institutions, but not by death, and not by the state. Thank you Enlightenment, thank you science.

  10. What’s wonderful about primary science methodology is that it takes for granted the bias in human expectation and perception, and deploys a powerful countermeasure against it. The countermeasure involves the implicit invitation to all scientists to test the results found by any scientific researcher in carefully constructed experiments of their own. All new hypotheses, and even old theories, are subject to further testing designed to yield results that neutralize the human bias element in them as much as possible. In a sense, scientists compete against each other, but they do so as a skeptical community. not just as individuals, and they do so without proprietary rights to control experimental models used by others to test the validity of their own research results. The remedy for human bias is built right into scientific methodology; in fact, the methodology was developed in order to remedy human bias, as much as possible, in experience of and knowledge about the world.

    • Andrew Zook says:

      Would the Church benefit from such a “countermeasure” within it? Not sure what it would look like, call itself, or how it would function, but it seems this point in the church age we need a more “skeptical community”….which would mitigate the individualist, human bias element leading to the vast amounts of confused and/or destructive theory (interpretations) and practice. Does this exist somewhere now? What do you all think?

      • Hi, Andrew. I don’t feel able to fully answer that question. Religious experience and knowledge overlap with scientific experience and knowledge, but not completely, and so I would say that skepticism has to be used carefully, discretely (not necessarily discreetly) and differently in theology than it is in science, as in most human endeavors and projects. One thing for certain, theology should embrace completely, without qualification, the chastening of its forms of experience and knowledge that skepticism introduces, by imitating science (as an institution) in never using violence or coercion to settle matters of truth, and by being aware of its own tendency toward human error; these two would require a willingness to be and remain relatively powerless, and humility. In other words, for the church, the practice of theology should be Christlike. Is that too much to ask? History says it is.

        • There are several stumbling blocks in this process…

          1) if you assume the starting material is infallible, and that logic is infallible, then by definition any logical inference from the infallible starting material is also infallible. This goes for tradition as well as the Bible.

          2) We are God’s people, and God would never allow us to fall into error! (Again, this is a flaw in all forms of the faith.)

          3) As one of my teachers put it, “Just as nature hates a vacuum, theologians hate mysteries.” We’d rather have a lame answer than no answer at all. And since it’s *our* lame answer, your lame answer is heretical and wrong.

      • Ultimately, theology is concerned with relationship, human to human as well and human to divine, and relationship is not friendly to overt skepticism. Nevertheless, a nuanced, humane and gentle form of skepticism needs to be, and usually is, practiced, even in the best relationship.; in fact, its probably necessary for their flourishing. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him; but I will maintain mine own ways before him..”

        • When I say that theology is primarily concerned about human and divine relationship, I of course am referring to personal relationship.

          • Burro (Mule) says:

            And, as always, you have to a person to be in a personal relationship. Alas, I am mostly a bundle of contradictory fears and lusts, an individual rather than a full-orbed person.

            “How can we meet the gods face to face until we have faces?”

            The great benefit of positivism is that it forces, yes forces, the prick and the mystic to agree on what I call a least common denominator of reality.

  11. Somewhere C. G. Jung talked about how UFO sightings were likely the way 20th century, technologically formed, modern human beings processed and accommodated experiences that in former times were attributed to angels, leprechauns and sprites. He also pointed out the archetypal similarity in form between a flying saucer and a mandala. Although I don’t particularly like the old magician, I think he was right on the money with about this.

    • Jacques Vallee made a similar connection, only he thought the entities behind both are real.

      • Jung thought they were real, too. You know that he had a familiar spirit, whom he called Philemon? That’s why I distrust him: I think he was being manipulated by his own human bias, and by other, non-human entities (as Vallee suggested about UFO phenomenon). Jung wasn’t scientific enough.

        • I did not know that about Jung. Can’t say I’m surprised though. :-/

          • It seems to me that the kind of technology that would allow a race of extraterrestrial intelligent beings to traverse interstellar/intergalactic space, or between different dimensions or universes, would be indistinguishable from what we would call magic.

            • Many a role-playing game is based on that exact premise. 😉

              • Whitley Streiber wrote a couple of books in the 1970s/80s about his own experience with what he initially took to be extraterrestrials, but later came to refer to simply as “the Visitors”. The books are fascinating, though more than a little creepy.

                • john barry says:

                  Robert F. I had strange encounters with people I took to be weird, foreign, perhaps coming from a different world as they were so strange. I told my Mother about them and what to call them to describe them, ————— she told me to call them your cousins as that is what they are.

            • @Robert F – Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law.

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarke%27s_three_laws

              • Nice. Never heard that before.

              • john barry says:

                Markhh, I am more familiar with Burke’s Law an old TV series, with the late Gene Barry, no relationship to me, as I am from the Barry DNA that contained no talent. Whatever mystery or crime had to be solved he applied Burke’s law and it was. It was also science fiction not a reality show like they have now.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Herr Jung was One Weird Dude.

    • john barry says:

      Robert F. , I believe the noted singer Francis Albert Sinatra had a song dedicated to Jung “the Jung at Heart”, it was about fairy tales could come true if you were Jung at heart. I do not think, based on my extensive research and using my intellect , sharpened by 2 years of high school business math, that Jung believed that fairy tales could come true. I thought that there was a TV series dedicated to study Jung, The Jung and Restless but it was about real life not stale concepts. I was getting too involved in my study of Jung , my wife tried to tell me gently by playing the old Nat King Cole hit “They Tried to Tell Us We Are Too Jung”, it worked as you have to be very young to study Jung but it does help to stay young like the beautiful Loretta Young or Jung in Swedish. I do think that Carl was once Jung and foolish.

  12. I want to live in a culture where no one is embarrassed to admit they were wrong and are willing to change their minds when the evidence warrants. Then and only then can we talk about rationality with a straight face and have pretensions to have left the dark ages.

    • john barry says:

      Stephen I have it made, I live in a culture where no one is embarrassed to admit I am wrong and tell me so. I think and this is my own theory that Tesla and Edison helped bring us out of the dark ages but my knowledge of history is sketchy as I was home schooled and we were homeless. It was not easy.

  13. I’d kill for a full-service gas station here in the OC….or anywhere in SoCal.

    I love visiting my daughter in MA…there are full service there….and I go to them!

  14. So, the Hindu and Greek Orthodox flags are cool, but the humanist flag makes me want Little Caesar’s…

  15. john barry says:

    AdeptOaf, I rendered unto Little Caesar what is his, what is about $5, I hope the atheist do not start to worship their flag.
    I was going to study Hen Do but goggle kept directing me to Tyson food processing whose flag may look a lot like the Greek Orthodox as Tyson is trying to develop a two breast chicken not two headed.

  16. David Cornwell says:

    ” If we aren’t careful, that can make us see things which aren’t really there. In this case, that’s what happened to the authors of the paper.”

    It’s all fake: the news; science; global warming. Our president is right. Fake fake fake. Can’t even believe what you see out the window. Or in the window.

  17. after just two days
    the snow has gone grimy — yet,
    some magic remains

  18. Daniel Jepsen, wonderful brunch! Very tasty subjects!

  19. Epiphany light —
    easy to miss, hard to see,
    except for the wise

  20. The scene in LOR where Eowyn confronts and defeats the Witch-king of Angmar has always touched me deeply. I believe it has imparted to me a sense of what true nobility is like, and true nobility is a deeply touching quality to behold.

    • Maybe you’ll like this Robert.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1ClFD7cC1Y

      This song was written and recorded by local DC performer Lori Kelly who has since moved to Nashville. Our loss.

    • Burro (Mule) says:

      For a work with very little in the way of female characters, Eowyn is considered Tolkien’s best developed minor character.

      Samwise being considered his best major character.

      • Christiane says:

        And ‘Eowyn’ has become a popular name for girl babies among LOTR fans.

        • There’s a thirty year old woman who attends my church with the name of Arwen. That means her parents are approximately my age and named her from a pre-movie love of the books! I think it’s kinda cool.

  21. senecagriggs says:

    What happened to Sunday?

    • Sorry Seneca and all — moving weekend. Simply could not get a post done.

      • Susan Dumbrell says:

        Its OK CM.
        Moving is a real pain.
        Can be very tiring and stressful.

        I played some Bach.

        Susan

      • john barry says:

        Chaplin Mike, understandable and not further info needed if one has ever moved. Thanks for answering as it is good to know all is well with you. Good luck and God Bless. My neighbors are urging me to move as they say it will best for all but I do not want to. Hope they have not listed my house yet , as they have offered to list for free. Can you imagine being a nomad?

      • Hope all is going well with your move, CM.