Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

This is from Amazon Prime Video. Full disclosure, I picked this for Bad Move of the Week based on title alone. I mean, Prime Target? Wikipedia does not have an entry for  this, so I pulling details from IMDB. This came out in 1991 from Hero Films and stars David Heavener as free-range cop John Bloodstone, a Dirty Harry remake. In fact, that’s how this one starts out.

Some really bad people have been cornered by the law, and they have some hostages. They want a helicopter, or they will start killing hostages. They do.

Bloodstone is called. He is the only one with the attitude to take on a situation like this. He is given a car and, significantly, a blow torch. He rams the truck through the sheet metal wall of the building where the crooks are holed up and turns the blow torch on them. The situation is quickly settled.

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But not for Bloodstone. He is hauled onto the carpet and suspended from duty (and pay) for his bloodthirsty ways. The only assignment he can get is transporting a critical government witness to give testimony at a trial. Bloodstone has to take the job, because he is in dire straits with his mortgage. Officials offer him a large sum to take the job. He asks for $25,000. They agree. Something is wrong. Viewers are beginning to think said officials don’t expect Bloodstone to successfully complete the mission, so it doesn’t matter how much they offer him.

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Bloodstone goes to a secret government facility to pick up his cargo. Whoa! It’s Tony Curtis. Not really Tony Curtis, but Tony Curtis playing mobster Marietta Copella, prepared to sing to the jury but doubtful he will ever make it to the courthouse.

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Copella is mostly right. The fix is in. A trusted agent drops by the secure facility and guns down those guarding the place. And he uses a gun he has pilfered from Bloodstone’s house.

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I have yet to figure out why the hit on the facility after Copella has been  carted away, but it doesn’t matter. The shooter next catches up with Bloodstone and Copella on the highway, disguised as a motorcycle cop. He stops the car. Checks Bloodstone’s license and registration, steps to the front to examine the plate, then opens fire.

To no effect. Bloodstone is wearing his ballistic vest, and when the “cop” steps around to finish off Copella, Bloodstone nails him.

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The bullets that killed the government agents are traced to Bloodstone’s gun, and an alert is put out on him. When he stops at a service station a news-wise civilian calls the sheriff, who arrives and puts the arm on Bloodstone. Just then two government agents arrive. They gun down the sheriff and the civilian. Bloodstone, unarmed, turns the tables, grabbing a gun from one of the agents and putting both of them away.

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Copella and Bloodstone hole up in a motel where, in the adjoining room, a comely lass is taking a shower, for the benefit of all the men watching this movie.

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How does the buxom bimbo fit into the plot? When Bloodstone figures two more hit men are coming his way he steps next door, pulls the winsome lady into bed, and under the sheets pretends to hump. When one of the rogue agents breaks into the room and prepares to finish off Bloodstone and the babe, Bloodstone shoots him dead from beneath the sheets.

Then Bloodstone steps into the bathroom, aims carefully, and kills the other agent in the adjoining room with two shots through the wall.

On the run, Bloodstone and Copella encounter two hot-blooded souls making out by a lake side. They take the canoe and make their escape.

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Bloodstone arranges with his one trusted pal at the police department, Captain Leo Tompkins (Isaac Hayes), to get him and Copella to the courthouse safely. They show up at a meeting, where an armored truck awaits. Also a policeman to arrest Bloodstone. When the cop starts the truck to drive it around, it blows up. Tompkins is appalled. Bloodstone figures he is going to have to do this one on his own.

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Obviously an ambush is arranged at the courthouse steps. But the sniper on the roof misses with his first shot, hitting Copella in the arm. Bloodstone takes out the sniper and confront’s the crooked commissioner and his henchmen. One goes for his weapon, and Bloodstone ices him. Tompkins take the second under tow. That leaves the crooked commissioner, who grabs Bloodstone’s pretty wife as a hostage.

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You guessed it. At a pre-arranged signal, the wife tells Bloodstone to  go for it, and he puts three slugs into the bad guy.

There is a lot wrong with this. Too much of it is beyond belief.

Forget about the blowup over the opening hostage situation. We have a bunch of professionals who can’t handle the standoff and allow hostages to be killed while they vacillate, so they call in a rogue cop. Then, after said Dirty Harry has settled the matter without additional loss of innocent life, they lower the boom on him? Only in speculative fiction.

There is a crowd of conspirators involved. This weight would sink even Watergate. Somebody would have spilled before this got two feet.

A professional shooter on the courthouse roof with a telescopic sight misses on his first shot? You have to be kidding me. Besides, what was the sniper’s plan B. After missing, what does he do? He stands up, exposing himself so Bloodstone can drop him off the roof with a single pistol shot.

Nah, I’m not buying much of this. Look for me to review the follow on. Same name, but with a different setting.

Politicians Say The Darndest Things

One of a continuing series

ObamaSyrianRefugeesTerrorists

Who is the most recent politician saying the darndest things? How about Congressman Steve King representing the Iowa 4th District? Here is what he had to say recently:

While chatting today with Stephen Bannon of Breitbart News, Rep. Steve King took issue with the claim that the mounting hostility to refugees is undermining American values. The Iowa Republican said that “the argument that ‘that’s not who we are’ is just one of the mantras that they put out, it’s not supported by logic or rationale.”

“Who we are? We should not be a suicidal nation,” King said. “My wife said this morning, ‘If you had 100 grapes and you knew that two of them were fatally poisonous, would you sit there and eat the grapes until one of them killed you? Or would you decide, I’m not going to take that bunch of grapes at all?’ That’s what we’re dealing with here with the Syrian refugees.”

This is, of course, interesting logic. Pause for a moment to review a bit of irony:

WASHINGTON, March 14 [1989]
Food stores around the country pulled tons of grapes and other fresh fruit from their shelves today as the Food and Drug Administration broadened its investigation of a possible attempt to poison Chilean produce with cyanide.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that it had joined the inquiry, which has so far turned up traces of the poison in a small batch of grapes shipped last month from Chile to Philadelphia.

There have been no reports of death or illness from Chilean fruit.

To be sure, Congressman King did not have this particular incident in mind when he made his remarks. It is possible he had in mind the image at the top of this post. That image is from the Facebook site titled Political Correctness Gone Wild.

PoliticalCorrectnessGoneWild

Supposedly all of this is about political correctness, popularized as “PC.” PC is supposed to be a poke at overly ingratiating politeness—specifically, politeness where politeness is not due. What often happens is that opponents of something wholly pragmatic stick on the PC label to knock off some of the shine. It’s apparent in this instance that is what is happening.

A cold look at the matter of the Syrian refugees reveals some inconvenient facts. See additional details from The Christian Post:

  • The vetting process for refugees, including those from Syria, appears to be comprehensive and as exhaustive as can be made.
  • “The United States has resettled 784,000 refugees since September 11, 2001.” “[T]hree resettled refugees have been arrested for planning terrorist activities — and it is worth noting two were not planning an attack in the United States and the plans of the third were barely credible.”
  • “About 70 percent of refugees who participate in employment-training no longer need public assistance six months after resettling.

But, back to the poisoned grapes. Can I promise Congressman King that no Syrian refugee accepted under the current plan will commit crimes in this country or even plot terrorism. I cannot, and I do not need to. Further, I will guarantee that based on reliable population statistics, some will eventually run afoul of the law, and some will even be convicted of homicide while living in this country.

Does Congressman King want to keep people out of this country on the off chance, credible or not, they will pose a threat? He needs to think again. Such a restriction would have trapped any number of conservative Americans:

TIMEcoverTimothyMcVeigh

This undated photo provided by the Erath County Sheriff’s Office shows Eddie Ray Routh, who was charged with killing former Navy SEAL and "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield at a shooting range southwest of Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Erath County Sheriff's Office, File)

This undated photo provided by the Erath County Sheriff’s Office shows Eddie Ray Routh, who was charged with killing former Navy SEAL and “American Sniper” author Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield at a shooting range southwest of Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Erath County Sheriff’s Office, File)

Knock Knock. These were your neighbors.

We are not finished with politicians saying the darndest things. Keep reading.

Candidates Acting Stupidly

One of a continuing series

FiorinaPeopleOfFaithHitler

It’s going to get worse before it gets better. You can count on it. Politicians, especially candidates, are my favorite source when it comes to lessons in foolishness:

“I do think it’s worth saying,” Fiorina declared, “that people of faith make better leaders because faith gives us humility, faith teaches us that no one of us is greater than any other one of us, that each of us are gifted by God. Faith gives us empathy; we know that all of us can fall and every one of us can be redeemed. And faith gives us optimism, it gives us the belief that there is something better, that there is someone bigger than all of us. And so I think it’s important that we elect a leader of faith and that we elect a leader, as well, who knows that more prayer, not less, is necessary in public life and in all our lives.”

This was not presidential candidate Carly Fiorina’s first encounter with the cow patty that is foolish pronouncement. Her path to national glory has already found its way to the warm and moist:

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina won applause in Wednesday’s debate for her vivid description of a live fetus she said was shown in an antiabortion group’s undercover video about Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

But the image she described isn’t in any of the videos released by the antiabortion group. Instead, one video from the group depicts a former employee of a tissue procurement company stating what she says she saw at a Planned Parenthood clinic. There was never any video that depicted, as Ms. Fiorina stated, a live fetus on a table being prepared for organ harvesting.

As remarkable as was Fiorina’s stance on the non-existent video, her latest is no measure of poetic license. Some dissection will illustrate:

[F]aith gives us humility.”

Let’s see how that works. Here is a snippet from what I gather to be Fiorina’s handbook on faith:

Zechariah 13:3 King James Version (KJV)

And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the Lord: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth.

Be we be ever so humble.

“[F]aith teaches us that no one of us is greater than any other one of us.” For example:

Jeremiah 50:21-22 King James Version (KJV)

21 Go up against the land of Merathaim, even against it, and against the inhabitants of Pekod: waste and utterly destroy after them, saith the Lord, and do according to all that I have commanded thee.

22 A sound of battle is in the land, and of great destruction.

“[E]ach of us are gifted by God:”

Deuteronomy 13:6-10 King James Version (KJV)

If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;

Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth;

Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him:

But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.

10 And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

“Faith gives us empathy. ” See above.

“And faith gives us optimism:”

Revelation 20:11-15 King James Version (KJV)

11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.

12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

 

I am really looking forward to that. In truth, rather than people of faith, I enjoy a world populated by people with good sense. People of faith give me a pain.

Not yet

Not yet

** FILE ** President Bush declares the end of major combat in Iraq as he speaks aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln off the California coast, in this May 1, 2003 file photo. Democratic congressional leaders on Tuesday, May 1, 2007 sent Iraq legislation setting timetables for U.S. troop withdrawals to President George W. Bush and a certain veto.  On the fourth anniversary of the president's "Mission Accomplished" speech, Senate Majority Democratic Leader Harry Reid said that Bush "has put our troops in the middle of a civil war. A change of course is needed."  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

** FILE ** President Bush declares the end of major combat in Iraq as he speaks aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln off the California coast, in this May 1, 2003 file photo. Democratic congressional leaders on Tuesday, May 1, 2007 sent Iraq legislation setting timetables for U.S. troop withdrawals to President George W. Bush and a certain veto. On the fourth anniversary of the president’s “Mission Accomplished” speech, Senate Majority Democratic Leader Harry Reid said that Bush “has put our troops in the middle of a civil war. A change of course is needed.” (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Junior Varsity Team

From Wikipedia: ISIS territory as of 24 August 2014

From Wikipedia: ISIS territory as of 24 August 2014

Here’s what the President had to say about ISIS:

“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Obama said, resorting to an uncharacteristically flip analogy. “I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.”

That looked like a sizable opening for some:

Christians are being “butchered” in Iraq and Syria by the Islamic State and we knew this was coming starting last year, but President Barack Obama called ISIS “junior league or something JV,” said Rev. Franklin Graham, adding that the president “absolutely” must be more vocal and speak out in defense of Christians being persecuted in the Middle East.

That was from the notable expert on international military balance of power the Reverend Franklin Graham. There have been others:

Yes, truth is the first casualty of war and the Obama administration certainly wouldn’t be the first to fudge the numbers. But there is a line between propaganda to confuse the enemy and lies to confuse the American people. And this administration is guilty of some real whoppers.

That post did not directly address the President’s assertion that ISIS is junior varsity. The fact remains that he has gotten a lot of heat over this assertion, so it may be worth an assessment. Is ISIS (ISIL, Daesh) big league or not.

I did that already months ago:

All right then. We have all seen the videos. We have all studied the news reports of atrocious behavior.The threat “We will raise the flag of Allah in the White House,” has caught our attention. What then to make of this new face of religious fundamentalism?

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel lightly put it “This is beyond anything that we’ve seen. So we must prepare for everything.” He is speaking of ISIS, Islamic State in Syria, which can most generously described as a bunch of frat boys with Kalashnikov rifles.

And that should have just about taken care of that. Not only does the President of the United States consider ISIS to be junior league, I do, as well. And I have the last word here. Here’s a little skeptical analysis:

If ISIS is not JV, then who is? Here are the facts about ISIS:

  • No firm control over defined geography
  • No significant industrial base
  • Dependent on external clients for financial support
  • Fluid or weak bureaucracy
  • Ill-defined legal structure
  • Weak technological and intellectual resources

Besides all that, they are starting at the bottom rungs of military ratings. What they have going for them is an energetic, dedicated fighting force. What they do not have is a lot of depth in their military organization. They have some top generals and a bunch of committed fighters. They do not have the seasoned command structure required of a modern fighting force.

They lack the weaponry of a modern fighting force:

  • Limited or no air defense radar
  • No high performance aircraft
  • No military air transport
  • No navy
  • No long range missiles
  • No way to deliver heavy military ordnance
  • Primitive intelligence gathering capabilities.

Let’s compare ISIS to a modern, but not first tier military, Egypt:

  • F-16 fighter jets
  • One of the most powerful air defenses in the world
  • National military academy
  • M1 Abrams tanks
  • Electronic counter measures aircraft
  • Modern naval fleet, including submarines

And much more. In all of this there is not much left for ISIS/ISIL/Daesh but junior varsity. I really hate it when the President and I are on the same page with something.

Posted on Facebook

Posted on Facebook

Keep reading.

Stranger in a Strange Land

ReligionReplaceCommonSense

I have this cell phone, but I think it’s only for emergencies. I seldom get any call unless they’re from Rachel. But on Tuesday I got a call from my friend Zack. Zack’s a religious guy, and he was calling me up to find out if I planned to watch the CNN special report Atheists, Inside the World of Non Believers. I told him I was, and I was going to record it. And I did.

So here is what I found out. It’s an hour long, and it’s about how atheists get along in a world that’s wall-to-wall believeniks. It starts off with the story of a middle-age couple who are deeply religious. Christianity is the foundation of their lives. The problem is their college-age son is an atheist. Not only that, he heads up the atheist group at his college.

Of course the parents are devastated. They still love their son, but they are sure he is lost. That’s lost in non-recoverable, not just missing action. He’s going to Hell. They will never see him again after they die. Family meetings are strained. Conversation is limited. Religion can do that to people.

There’s also the case of the preacher, quite successful at conveying the good word to his flock, who has read more from the Bible than he should have (that’s dangerous). It came inexorably to him that Christianity was a big hoax. There is no magic sky person. Furthermore, nobody, but no body, is going to Hell. He carried on for a while, during which time he learned some useful skills. Then he resigned his position, moved to another town and entered legitimate employment.

There is also the case of the practicing pulpiteer who no longer believes. He gets up in front of the congregation Sunday after Sunday and issues forth reassurances. And other days besides. And he gives good advice and tends to the spiritual needs of his people. He’s a good pastor. He feels he’s helping people. But it’s all based on a lie.

You can’t cover atheism in a whitewash world without including Richard Dawkins and David Silverman. Dawkins is a world class biologists and an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford. He is the author of numerous books explaining biological evolution in language for the masses, and he is a vocal spokesman against religion of all stripes. Wikipedia says this about Silverman:

David Silverman (born August 13, 1966) is the current president of the American Atheists, a nonprofit organization that supports the rights of atheists and the removal of expressions of religion in public when possibly interpretable as governmental endorsement, in accordance with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

There’s that and a lot more, and it’s all about people of good sense living in mind-locked society. It’s about how they cope and how society views them.

I look around me, and I see a lot of that. There’s an aspect of atheist activism that is all wrapped up with how society treats atheists. How atheists need to be accepted and recognized as worthy citizens. I’m not like that.

My problem is I’m not all that concerned about people’s attitude toward me. I long ago learned that a chunk of what people accept as truth is an inch shy of reality. If I end my existence stepping on a land mine, it’s not going to be because I trusted somebody’s phony mine detector.

And that’s why I’m not out there with a bunch of others clambering for acceptance. I’m stuck enough on myself not to need it. Whoa, you may say. Aren’t you going to miss out on a passel of worthwhile relationships? Not likely. People who do not accept me tend to be those who sell phony mine detectors. I’ve had my feet for a long time, and I plan to keep them.

Primary Colors

This is so cute. Some students from the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Oklahoma were having a pleasant night out. Just having fun. Exactly what you would expect for a college fraternity. There are some details.

It was Saturday. The students were on a bus, heading for a party. A nice night out. Meet some girls. Maybe have something to drink. Good college fun. And there was a video. That’s the problem. There was a video.

From Yahoo News

From Yahoo News

Allow me to translate:

You can hang him from a tree, but he’ll never sign with me… …there will never be a nigger SAE.

“Hang him from a tree?” Hang whom? There will never be a what [at] SAE (Sigma Alpha Epsilon)? I had to check my calendar. Yes, this really is the 21st century. I need to check again.

I need to take another look at something else, as well. These aren’t young men on there way to careers cutting your grass, right? These people are not headed toward jobs that involve asking, “Do you want fries with that?” That was also my conclusion. These people are what?

These people were—maybe not now—headed for positions in society that would manage our businesses, sit on the bench in our courts, make decisions affecting foreign policy. These were supposed to be the cream of society. It it possible a mistake has been made somewhere?

A chilling possibility is this is not the entire story. It’s possible this is merely the shadow of a rot that permeates our society. It is possible that somewhere, right now, somebody is pushing a broom after hours in a school building who should, instead, be working out plans to increase industrial productivity. Worse, it is possible that somewhere someone is helping write laws for all of us to live by—someone who should instead be picking up trash along the interstate.

Death Explained

normal_starbirth

Have you ever gone to a big time sporting event of great importance, one that featured the top players, one that decided a critical championship? The competition was intense, and the outcome was in doubt. Interest was high.

Then something unexpected came up, and you had to leave the game before it was over. And later you never could learn the outcome of the game. Maybe people you asked would not tell you, but more likely you could never find anybody who had attended the game or possibly anybody who ever heard of the game. And you never found out how the game ended, and it always remained a mystery to you.

Death is not like that.

The big time sporting event is the Universe and everything that happens in it from way before you were born until way after you are gone. All you can ever learn about the Universe, the world, is what happened right up until the time you die. And when you die, for all purposes, the Universe ceases to exist. What happens in the Universe after you die is of no consequence to you, because you no longer exist. In any form.

It’s not like this, either:

So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

People get the wrong idea. They get many wrong ideas. “After you die you go to another place.” No. You don’t go to another place. Then, if you don’t go to another place, you spend the rest of eternity in complete darkness, devoid of any stimulus, any interaction with others or with any thing. No. You don’t.

So, what’s it like when you die? You ask that question, but you already know. You know the answer, because you’ve been dead before. You may ask me when was it you ever dead before. I respond, “Where were you in the year 1753?” You say you weren’t even born then. I say that’s true. You were dead. How did it feel? You don’t know, because you weren’t there then. I tell you it’s going to be like that again after you die.

Do you think I’m telling you that you should not fear death? Yes. Do you think I’m telling you that you should not respect your own life? No. You should not be careless with your life, and you should not forfeit it casually. Think of the consequences.

If you allow yourself to die needlessly, you will not suffer. Others will. You are part of a society of people. You have friends and family. You have other members of the community that may depend on having you around. Generally, if you die you will be sorely missed. If you give up your life for little profit you will disappoint people you care about.

But, you now conclude, once you are dead the effect on others will be of no concern to you. Nothing will be of any concern to you. You will be dead. You will not exist. You will not feel anguish for the pain of others.

Think again. Right up until the moment you die you have an empathy for others in your life. During this time you will feel concern for the consequences of your death, even if not after. Even if you carry rational thinking to the extreme, this concern will prevent you from deliberately moving toward your death.

Concerning suicide, the needless killing of yourself. Of what consequence is this? Those who care for you will be sorely disappointed in your action. They will fell hurt that you have chosen to reject their company and to leave it permanently. They may think bad thoughts of you. But you will not feel anguish over this, because you will be dead. In many instances it is the contemplation of these consequences that keeps many from ending their lives needlessly. It’s frightening to consider that faulty thinking is what’s keeping so many of us alive.

Concluding that all of the foregoing is true or even makes sense, what is it that keeps people alive? What installs in a person the desire to preserve his own life? There are a number of explanations, only one of them has any basis in fact.

The primal motivation to preserve life is that death is fearful. Burned into our brains is a dread of dying. Where does this come from? It comes from millions of years of biological evolution. Members of a population that have little regard for preserving their lives tend not to reproduce. This is often up to the point where the individual exits the gene pool. Consider the black widow spider. The male mates with the female at the sacrifice of his own life. Up until that point the male works to preserve his own life, avoiding predators to the best of his ability.

Animals, to the best of their ability, generally strive to avoid predation. See a bird pecking at seeds in your back yard feeder. Try to approach and grab the bird, and it will fly away. Birds lacking this reflex soon disappear from the gene pool. The converse is observed. Birds that evolved on remote islands, such as the Galapagos, do not suffer predation from other animals. There is nothing there that eats them. They have lost this reflex. Researchers studying the famous finches can reach out and pick one up to put a band on its leg.

So that explains our lust for life in terms of the natural Universe. What about in terms of the mystical Universe? People have made up explanations. Catholic priests will remind followers that suicide is a sin. If you kill yourself you will be damned to Hell. People who kill themselves are denied a Catholic funeral service. It works the other way around. Some religious followers believe that killing oneself to further a cause earns rewards in another life. Supposedly 72 virginal young women is one such prize. So, the religious view of death can cut both ways.

If death is inevitable and not all that unpleasant, then what’s the purpose of life? This may not be a Douglas Adams quote, but it should be: “Your job is to have a good time.” If you actually have a duty in life that duty is to enjoy it while you can. You’re not coming this way again.

This should not be construed as a prescription for launching upon a hedonistic lifestyle. To the contrary, I add naively, a hedonistic life may not be all that enjoyable. If it’s the admiration, respect and the good company of your fellow beings that you crave, your best fit will be as a cooperative member of society. Before this gets too far along the road, please be reminded that religion is not the answer. For affirmation take a few minutes today to switch on the television news.

Anyhow, you’re alive, which goes without saying. Where do you go from here? Allow me to be the most recent to inform you that you are going to die. What until then? Advice is free.

Be productive. Do good things for other people. Your life will be more enjoyable as a consequence. You regret not being able to live forever? You can to the next best thing. You can prolong your existence. Produce some lasting works. Have a child. Give good advice. Invent something. Post something on the Internet. Posting something on the Internet is like carving it in stone. Or at least writing it in ink:

Erica Albright: It didn’t stop you from writing it. As if every thought that tumbles through your head was so clever it would be a crime for it not to be shared. The Internet’s not written in pencil, Mark, it’s written in ink.

In the mean time, stick around. The game’s not over yet.

Reasons to Believe

 

Jesussins

Facebook can (possibly) be a significant medium for the exchange of ideas. And sometimes not. However I do appreciate those times when I encounter somebody who is willing to continue the dialogue, to advance a personal position, rather than just breaking off the exchange by hitting the unfriend button. Here is a recent exchange. I have deleted insignificant verbiage supplied by Facebook.

Jenelle Wilcox shared Jim Davis‘s photo.

September 5

I was a bit surprised at myself being hesitant at posting this. So I read it again and decided if I didn’t post it what does that say about me and my faith. Here it is. Now it’s time to read John 13:38 — with Sue Keller and 9 others.

ReasonToBelieve-01

John Blanton “I will deny you in front of my father at the gates of Heaven. ” This is supposed to be a serious threat?

Jenelle Wilcox You know what John : ) I would rather take my chances believing it, than to find out later I should have believed it. And there is a comfort in believing Heaven is there, and that my four babies I miscarried along the way, maybe there to meet their mother…my brother and sister were killed in a train wreck before I was born and I like the belief that one day I will meet those children, our daughter recently passed away, it is comforting to believe we may see her again one day, then there is my mother I adored and went to soon, she was my best friend…so see I have reasons to believe what the Bible tells us. If you are offended please that is sad, but you don’t have to read my posts…..I do wish you a really good day to day and ask the Lord bless you with a peaceful spirit. Also, I would not want to be denied at the Gates of Heaven. Have a Blessed Day.

John Blanton My apologies if I sometimes sound too sour a note. My problem seems to be that I am constrained to live in the real world where actions have real consequences. I sometimes forget there are many who do not share my affliction, but I should not. I have lived years past 70 and have observed too many occasions when tragic results have come from actions based on fantasy. Many of your other posts seem so bedded on solid thinking and reflect a real concern for others. Occasional lapses should be overlooked.

Jenelle Wilcox YOU ARE SO FUNNY! I REMEMBER ONE TIME WHEN A GENTLEMAN WHO HAD ACTUALLY SERVED AS ACCOUNTANT AND EXECUTOR TO THE FORD ESTATE….. FOUND WHEN I TOLD HIM I HAD A HARD TIME BELIEVING THAT A MAN ACTUALLY DID WALK ON THE MOON, EVEN THOUGH I COULD SEE IT, BUT I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST AND HIS FATHER OF WHOM I CANNOT SEE….JOHN (THE EXECUTOR) FOUND THAT MYSTIFYING : ) HE PASSED AWAY, HE WAS A WONDERFUL FRIEND AND TUTORED ME FOR TWO YEARS IN BUSINESS ACCOUNTING IN MY SMALL BUSINESS BACK IN THE DAY. I PRAY HE WILL BE IN HEAVEN ONE DAY ALSO. FAITH FOR ME IS USUALLY A VERY PERSONAL THING AND I RARELY DISCUSS ANY OF IT, FOR I DON’T BELIEVE IT IS UP FOR ARGUMENT… I DO ALSO BELIEVE THAT WE ARE EACH GIVEN A FREE WILL TO CHOOSE WHAT WE BELIEVE AND THAT IS EACH OUR PRIVILEGE. WHAT DID YOU DO FOR A LIVELIHOOD PRIOR TO YOUR RETIREMENT. ALSO, HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT PARTICIPATING IN BLANTON FAMILY DNA PROJECT? DO YOU KNOW WHICH BLANTON BRANCH YOU DESCEND FROM : ) WITH DOCUMENTATION AS PROOF???? WE ALL HAVE TO SUPPLY THAT IN ORDER TO TEST IN MY PROJECT : D

As you can see, I was immediately taken with the threat, “I will deny you in front of my father at the gates of Heaven.” I was thinking, what kind of threat is that? The implication is that after I am dead I will still be concerned that somebody will deny me. After I am dead I will still be meeting people. This is serious? Can’t be. After I am dead I will be dead and will no longer be walking and talking, let alone working my way through a performance review. This is zombie movie plot stuff. So I called into question the significance of the threat that is not a threat.

It was with gratitude that I obtained a follow-up on my response, said response being even more interesting than the original post. Of course I was dismayed to read of the personal tragedies in Wilcox’s life. These are not something we can wish on anybody. Past all that I could not help but pick up on a thread of her argument: “I would rather take my chances believing it, than to find out later I should have believed it.”

Yes. That’s something I have seen a lot of. It goes like this: If it is true, and you don’t believe, then by the time you find out it was true all along, then you are screwed. If it’s true, and you believe, then when you ultimately can confirm that it’s true you are safe. You have not done anything to screw yourself. Left unsaid in the foregoing is that if it’s false there was nothing to be concerned about either way. The conclusion of this line of reasoning is you should pick door number one labeled “Jesus.” Believe it’s true, and you have covered all your bets.

Really?

Let’s extend this logic. Suppose somebody promises that if you believe in Jesus, then you will be rewarded with everlasting life and happiness, even after you are “dead.” According to the foregoing argument it’s best to pick door number one.

Now let’s suppose there is another door. This door is labeled “Believe in Bob.” The promise is that if you pick the Bob door, and Bob turns out to be real, then not only will you received everlasting life and happiness, even after you die, but you will receive a new car.

Now you may think that receiving a new car is small change compared to the additional reward of everlasting life and happiness, even after death, but keep in mind that you have nothing to lose by picking the Bob door. So why pick the Jesus door over the Bob door? Jesus never promised you a new car, and there is a good chance that if you pick the Jesus door you will not receive a new car after you are dead and living your everlasting life.

Wait, there’s more.

There are also Alex, Doris, William, Ben and Jerry doors. Each one offers and additional reward for believing over that of the previous one. By now the Jesus door is beginning to look all the less attractive.

This may seem bizarre at first reading, but it is a natural consequence of Wilcox’s argument, namely it’s better to be safe than to be sorry. None of the situations described above offer any reason to believe in Jesus, Bob, Alex, Doris, William, Ben and Jerry. By now you should be wondering why a thinking person would ever put forth such a silly argument.

Once again I was gratified that Wilcox posted a response to my response. Despite what appears to be a stuck all-caps key, a particular excerpt seems reasonable and also something with which I can wholly agree: “FAITH FOR ME IS USUALLY A VERY PERSONAL THING AND I RARELY DISCUSS ANY OF IT, FOR I DON’T BELIEVE IT IS UP FOR ARGUMENT… I DO ALSO BELIEVE THAT WE ARE EACH GIVEN A FREE WILL TO CHOOSE WHAT WE BELIEVE AND THAT IS EACH OUR PRIVILEGE.”

It really is a matter of faith and not a matter of fact, which has always been my position.

Heartland Headed Nowhere

I forgot all about Heartland Institute. Yes I did. The last time I paid them any attention was back in 2012. What I stated then was that Heartland Institute appears to use money rather than actual science to counter inconvenient facts of science.

A big deal with Heartland Institute was global warming. I highlighted the phrase because, as all know by now, it has a special meaning. The term has come to represent the apparent fact that human activities are causing a precipitous warming of Earth’s atmosphere and oceans. More specifically, the burning of fossil fuels is causing an increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, causing the atmosphere to more effectively trap solar energy. The consequences range from melting of polar ice, which will result in a devastating rise in sea levels—not so devastating maybe to Orlando, Florida, which promises to become a seaside resort—to possible crop damaging climate change. Mitigating action seems to indicate reduced use of fossil fuels, an action opposed to those who own stock in the industry.

Heartland Institute to the rescue. To counter the findings of researchers in the field Heartland engages in various practices to dissuade the voting public from accepting these findings. Desmoglog obtained pilfered internal Heartland documents and heartlessly exposed the contents:

Tue, 2012-02-14 13:13 BRENDAN DEMELLE

Heartland Institute Exposed: Internal Documents Unmask Heart of Climate Denial Machine

Internal Heartland Institute strategy and funding documents obtained by DeSmogBlog expose the heart of the climate denial machine – its current plans, many of its funders, and details that confirm what DeSmogBlog and others have reported for years. The heart of the climate denial machine relies on huge corporate and foundation funding from U.S. businesses including Microsoft, Koch Industries, Altria (parent company of Philip Morris) RJR Tobacco and more.

We are releasing the entire trove of documents now to allow crowd-sourcing of the material. Here are a few quick highlights, stay tuned for much more.-Confirmation that Charles G. Koch Foundation is again funding Heartland Institute’s global warming disinformation campaign. [Update: Apparently even the Koch brothers think the Heartland Institute’s climate denial program is too toxic to fund. On Wednesday, Koch confirmed that it did not cut a check for the $200K mentioned in the strategy memo after all. A statement released on KochFacts.com and the charleskochfoundationfacts.org states that “…the Charles Koch Foundation provided $25,000 to the Heartland Institute in 2011 for research in healthcare, not climate change, and this was the first and only donation the Foundation made to the institute in more than a decade. The Foundation has made no further commitments of funding to Heartland.”]

Greenpeace’s Koch reports show the last time Heartland received Koch funding was in 1999.

That link is critical not so much for its negative finding of Koch support as for its links to the purloined Heartland documents. Here is a typical excerpt:

January 2012
Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy

Given the increasingly important role the Heartland Institute is playing in leading the fight to prevent the implementation of dangerous policy actions to address the supposed risks of global warming, it is useful to set priorities for our efforts in 2012. This document offers such a set of priorities. I propose that at this point it be kept confidential and only be distributed to a subset of Institute Board and senior staff. More details can be found in our 2012 Proposed Budget document and 2012 Fundraising Strategy memo. In 2012 our efforts will focus in the following
areas:

Increased climate project fundraising

Our climate work is attractive to flinders, especially our key Anonymous Donor (whose contribution dropped from $1,664,150 in 2010 to $979,000 in 2011 – about 20% of our total 2011 revenue). He has promised an increase in 2012 – see the 2011 Fourth Quarter Financial Report. We will also pursue additional support from the Charles G. Koch Foundation. They returned as a Heartland donor in 2011 with a contribution of $200,000. We expect to push up
their level of support in 2012 and gain access to their network of philanthropists, if our focus continues to align with their interests. Other contributions will be pursued for this work, especially from corporations whose interests are threatened by climate policies.

Development of our “Global Warming Curriculum for K-12 Classrooms” project.

Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective. To counter this we are considering launching an effort to develop alternative materials for K-12 classrooms. We are pursuing a proposal from Dr. David Wojick to produce a global warming curriculum for K-12 schools. Dr. Wojick is a consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy in the area of information and communication science. His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science. We tentatively plan to pay Dr. Wojick $100,000 for 20 modules in 2012, with funding pledged by the Anonymous Donor.

It’s difficult to read through this without getting the idea that Heartland has left the field of public relations and image building and has entered the realm of advocacy. The problem with advocates of a flawed cause is they can come to believe their own stuff. Another danger is that when you abandon science and reason you no longer have science and reason working for you. That is apparently what happened with Heartland and is the root to a disastrous campaign they launched in early 2012.

Heartland Institute compares belief in global warming to mass murder

US thinktank launches poster campaign comparing Unabomber and Osama Bin Laden to those concerned about global warming
Billboards in Chicago paid for by The Heartland Institute along the inbound Eisenhower Expressway in Maywood, Illinois. Photograph: The Heartland Institute

Billboards in Chicago paid for by The Heartland Institute along the inbound Eisenhower Expressway in Maywood, Illinois. Photograph: The Heartland Institute

It really is hard to know where to begin with this one. But let’s start with: “What on earth were they thinking?”

The Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based rightwing thinktank notorious for promoting climate scepticism, has launched quite possibly one of the most ill-judged poster campaigns in the history of ill-judged poster campaigns.

I’ll let its own press release for its upcoming conference explain, as there’s simply no need to finesse it further:

Billboards in Chicago paid for by The Heartland Institute point out that some of the world’s most notorious criminals say they “still believe in global warming” – and ask viewers if they do, too…The billboard series features Ted Kaczynski, the infamous Unabomber; Charles Manson, a mass murderer; and Fidel Castro, a tyrant. Other global warming alarmists who may appear on future billboards include Osama bin Laden and James J. Lee (who took hostages inside the headquarters of the Discovery Channel in 2010).
These rogues and villains were chosen because they made public statements about how man-made global warming is a crisis and how mankind must take immediate and drastic actions to stop it.
Why did Heartland choose to feature these people on its billboards? Because what these murderers and madmen have said differs very little from what spokespersons for the United Nations, journalists for the “mainstream” media, and liberal politicians say about global warming. The point is that believing in global warming is not “mainstream,” smart, or sophisticated. In fact, it is just the opposite of those things. Still believing in man-made global warming – after all the scientific discoveries and revelations that point against this theory – is more than a little nutty. In fact, some really crazy people use it to justify immoral and frightening behavior.

But then comes the best bit:

Of course, not all global warming alarmists are murderers or tyrants.

Don’t bother trying to follow the link to the Heartland press release. It is long since void.

My point: When you abandon reason, reason is not available to you when it can best benefit you.

This has been out since early 2012, but I only caught sight of it this week on somebody’s Facebook feed. When I saw this I blinked twice and responded, “Does Kaczynski still believe in gravity?”

Others have not been so kind. The reaction was swift and deadly. Other billboards were crafted, if not actually erected. Some were humorous:

PalinBilboard

Some were right out of Comedy Central:

HeartlandBillboard-07

Some were classics in irony:

HeartlandBillboard-04

Some were a tad cruel:

HeartlandBillboard-03

Some were excessively cruel:

HeartlandBillboard-02

The fallout from Heartland’s disastrous billboard campaign may have been fatal:

The ultra-conservative Heartland Institute admitted it was in financial crisis on Wednesday, with the flight of corporate donors making it difficult to pay staff or cover the costs of its annual conference aimed at debunking climate science.

In a speech at the close of this year’s climate conference, Heartland’s president, Joseph Bast, acknowledged that a provocative ad campaigncomparing believers in human-made climate change to psychopaths had exacted a heavy cost.

However, Bast also attributed Heartland’s current problems to his weakness in financial management.

“These conferences are expensive, and I’m not a good fundraiser so as a result I don’t raise enough money to cover them. We really scramble to make payroll as a result to cover these expenses,” Bast said.

People who know me know that I am an advocate of the science behind global warming. It makes sense, it’s based on serious research conducted by professional scientists, it’s the consensus of scientists working in the area, it’s solid science, it’s factual. Conversely, the supposed science detracting from the scientific consensus is misbegotten, fatally flawed, erroneous, deceitful, conceived in malice and largely purchased by people with political or economic interests. Heartland Institute is the exemplar of the opposition to the scientific consensus. Where they are not devious they are then clueless. Do not deceive yourself that you can deny the science of global warming without signing onto the likes of Heartland Institute. Opposition to the scientific consensus has nothing going for it besides Heartland thinking and other barren fields of human endeavor.

NBC’s Mysterious Origins of Man

Screen shot from the documentary

Screen shot from the documentary

In a previous post I reviewed the stories about the Sphinx, the Piri Reis map, even Stonehenge. What could possibly top those? The strange ideas of Charles Hapgood, for starters.

While at Springfield College, a student’s question about the Lost Continent of Mu prompted a class project to investigate the lost continent of Atlantis, leading Hapgood to investigate possible ways that massive earth changes could occur and exposing him to the literature of Hugh Auchincloss Brown.

In 1958, Hapgood published The Earth’s Shifting Crust which denied the existence of continental drift and featured a foreword by Albert Einstein. In Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings (1966) and The Path of the Pole(1970), Hapgood proposed the hypothesis that the Earth’s axis has shifted numerous times during geological history. In Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings he supported the suggestion made by Arlington Mallery that a part of the Piri Reis Map was a depiction of the area of Antarctica known as Queen Maud Land. He used this to propose that a 15 degree pole shift occurred around 9,600 BCE (approx. 11,600 years ago) and that a part of the Antarctic was ice-free at that time, and that an ice-age civilization could have mapped the coast. He concludes that “Antarctica was mapped when these parts were free of ice”, taking that view that an Antarctic warm period coincided with the last ice age in the Northern hemisphere, and that the Piri Reis and other maps were based on “ancient” maps derived from ice-age originals. Later research concerning the paleoclimatology and ice sheets of Antarctica have completely discredited the interpretations by Hapgood that an Antarctic warm period coincided with the last glacial period in the Northern hemisphere and any part of it had been ice-free at and prior to 9,600 BCE (approx. 11,600 years ago).

[Some links deleted]

Graham Hancock is author of Fingerprints of the Gods. He explains the Orontius Finaeus map found by Hapgood in the map room of the Library of Congress:

And the mystery of this map is that it shows Antarctica as it looks under the ice long before Antarctica is supposed to have been discovered, and perhaps the greatest mystery of all is that it shows the Antarctic Peninsula, not as it looks today, covered by more than a mile of ice, but as it actually looks underneath that covering of ice. Now we, ourselves, have only known what the land under the Antarctic Peninsula looks like since 1958, when seismic surveys were taken across the ice cap.

Not elaborated by Hancock, the program’s host and narrator actor Charles Heston, or anybody else in the program, is any kind of realistic view of the evidence presented. The Bad Archaeology site provides a more reasoned perspective:

Charles Hapgood (and those derivative of him) used other maps allegedly showing Antarctica that are, at first sight, even more convincing than the Piri Re‘is map. The first of these is a product of Orontius Finaeus Delphinus (1494-1555), whom most Bad Archaeologists consistently and incorrectly refer to as Oronteus (more properly, his name was Oronce Fine or Finé, although the Latinised version seems to be in more common use, at least among the Bad Archaeologists). The map in question was published in 1531 and its supporters claim that it shows the continent at the correct scale, placing the Weddell and Ross Seas as well as Queen Maud Land, Wilkes Land and Marie Byrd Land in their correct longitudes. Again, if these claims are correct, they would display an even more remarkable knowledge of the continent than that supposedly (but demonstrably not) shown by Piri Re’is.

Although there are fairly obvious similarities between the general depiction of the southern continent by Orontius Finaeus and modern maps of Antarctica, they do not stand up to close scrutiny; indeed, there are more differences than similarities, much as one would expect from a map drawn without genuine knowledge of the southern continent! To show that Orontius’s Terra Australis corresponds to the outline of Antarctica, it was necessary for Hapgood to rotate the depiction by about twenty degrees, move the South Pole by 7½° (1,600 km) and alter the scale, as Terra Australis is 230% the size of Antarctica. Hapgood used this change in scale to explain the absence of the Antarctic Peninsula (Palmer Land), which he believed Orontius Finaeus had to omit from his map as it would have overlapped with South America at that scale; he explained that Finaeus confused latitude 80° south with the Antarctic Circle. Just as with his treatment of Piri’s map, Hapgood also had to shuffle whole sections of coastline to make them fit. It is unclear how the hypothesised original map had become fragmented and wrongly recombined; it is even more unclear how the fringe writers can go on to claim that various geographical features are shown in their correct places and at the correct scale. Again, these writers ignore what we know about the life of Oronce Fine.

Hancock again:

The clearest deduction of all is that whoever drew up those original source maps thousands of years ago had a level of technology as high as our own. They had explored the whole globe from north to south and from east to west. So this is testimony of and advanced and as yet unidentified civilization in remote prehistory.

We can only hope that mapping technology has improved significantly above that which produced the Orontius Finaeus map.

But what about The Lost City of Atlantis? We are finally getting around to that.

Atlantis (Ancient Greek: Ἀτλαντὶς νῆσος, “island of Atlas“) is the name of a fictional island mentioned within an allegory on the hubris of nations in Plato’s works Timaeus and Critias, where it represents the antagonist naval power that besieges “Ancient Athens”, the pseudo-historic embodiment of Plato’s ideal state (see The Republic). In the story, Athens was able to repel the Atlantean attack, unlike any other nation of the (western) known world, supposedly giving testament to the superiority of Plato’s concept of a state. At the end of the story, Atlantis eventually falls out of favor with the gods and famously submerges into the Atlantic Ocean.

Despite its minor importance in Plato’s work, the Atlantis story has had a considerable impact on literature. The allegorical aspect of Atlantis was taken up in utopian works of several Renaissance writers, such as Bacon‘s New Atlantis and More‘s Utopia. On the other hand, 19th-century amateur scholars misinterpreted Plato’s account as historical tradition, most notably in Donnelly‘s Atlantis: The Antediluvian World. Plato’s vague indications of the time of the events—more than 9,000 years before his day—and the alleged location of Atlantis—”beyond the Pillars of Hercules“—has led to much pseudoscientificspeculation. As a consequence, Atlantis has become a byword for any and all supposed advanced prehistoric lost civilizations and continues to inspire today’s fiction, from comic books to films.

While present-day philologists and historians unanimously accept the story’s fictional character, there is still debate on what served as its inspiration. The fact that Plato borrowed some of his allegories and metaphors—most notably the story of Gyges—from older traditions has caused a number of scholars to investigate possible inspiration of Atlantis from Egyptian records of the Thera eruption, the Sea Peoples invasion, or the Trojan War. Others have rejected this chain of tradition as implausible and insist that Plato designed the story from scratch, drawing loose inspiration from contemporary events like the failed Athenian invasion of Sicily in 415–413 BC or the destruction of Helike in 373 BC.

[Some links deleted]

Time for a short geography lesson. There is a connection between Atlantic Ocean, Atlantis and Atlas. The Atlas Mountains are a significant range in northwestern Africa, you can see them from Spain. The Strait of Gibraltar nearby is the gateway from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, and that ocean was named after those mountains. Atlas, of course, being the Greek God who supported the world on his shoulders. And, yes, the city of Atlanta, Georgia, ultimately received its name from the Atlantic Ocean.

From The North Texas Skeptic

From The North Texas Skeptic

From host Charlton Heston:

If a technologically advanced culture did live on the Earth thousands of years ago, what happened to it? The Greek philosopher Plato described an advanced civilization, whose legend was preserved by Egyptian priests. As the story goes, Atlantis was a great empire of engineers and scientists, who were in many ways more technologically advanced than we are today. It was destroyed 12,000 years ago by floods and earthquakes, forcing its survivors to seek refuge all over the world. For centuries scientists and explorers have searched in vain for a continent that fits Plato’s description of Atlantis.

MysteriousOriginsOfMan-19

We next meet Rand Flem-Ath, co-author of When the Sky Fell.

Rand Flem-Ath is a librarian and author from British Columbia, Canada. He is best known for his books about the lost continent of Atlantis and the theory of Earth crust displacement. Flem-Ath has written numerous fiction and nonfiction where he advances what is known as the pole shift hypothesis.

[Some links deleted]

Here’s some extra reading on the pole shift hypothesis:

In the 1970s and 1980s a series of books not intended as fiction by former Washington newspaper reporter Ruth Shick Montgomery elaborates on Edgar Cayce readings.

In 1997 Richard W. Noone published 5/5/2000, ICE: The Ultimate Disaster. This book argued that a cataclysmic shift of the Earth’s ice cap covering Antarctica caused by a planetary alignment and solar storms, would lead to crustal displacement on May 5, 2000.

In 1998 retired civil engineer James G. Bowles proposed in Atlantis Rising magazine a mechanism by which a polar shift could occur. He named this Rotational-Bending, or the RB-effect. He hypothesized that combined gravitational effects of the Sun and the Moon pulled at the Earth’s crust at an oblique angle. This force steadily wore away at the underpinnings that linked the crust to the inner mantle. This generates a plastic zone that allows the crust to rotate with respect to the lower layers. Centrifugal forces would act on the mass of ice at the poles, causing them to move to the equator.

Books on this subject have been published by William Hutton, including the 1996 book Coming Earth Changes: Causes and Consequences of the Approaching Pole Shift (ISBN 0876043619), which compared geologic records with the psychic readings of Edgar Cayce and predicted catastrophic climate changes before the end of 2001. In 2004 Hutton and co-author Jonathan Eagle published Earth’s Catastrophic Past and Future: A Scientific Analysis of Information Channeled by Edgar Cayce (ISBN 1-58112-517-8), which summarizes possible mechanisms and the timing of a future pole shift.

[Some links deleted]

Writers Rand and Rose Flem-Ath provide some background:

In the summer of 1976, when we first began to explore the idea of Antarctica as the site of Atlantis, the notion that civilization and climate were intimately connected was not part of the cultural template. More than three decades later, the daily impact of global warming reminds us just how easily the fragile web of civilization can be torn when nature rebels.

Radical climatic change is not something new. Stories of catastrophic earthquakes, floods and a lost paradise fill the pages of world mythology.

Today’s obsession with ‘progress’ – a straight line from one accomplishment to another – blinds us to the lost realities of our past. Our research reveals a legacy closer to the ideas of the ancients. They spoke of the earth’s past as a story filled with shocking turmoil and hard-fought survival.

We are now presented with the notion that Antarctica could be the lost continent of Atlantis. How then could the place have survived, since the continent has sported its mile-thick ice for millions of years? Hapgood postulated the build up of ice caused an imbalance of the spinning Earth. Since we now know that Earth’s crust lies on top of a liquid inner core, this imbalance resulted in a sudden 2000-mile shift of the entire crust. Antarctica, previously temperate, moved to its present polar position and froze over. This sort of thing happens every 41,000 years, according to Hapgood. The narrator says this could explain what happened to the people of Atlantis.

The first (not the only) thing I noticed about this remarkable brain wreck, is it does not account for the fact the Antarctic ice has been around for millions of years. Even so, commenter Hancock and host Charles Heston announce it to all with never a blush. Hancock piles on:

I am convinced by the evidence that we are a species with amnesia, that we have forgotten something of great importance from our own past. When we recover it we’ll realize for a start that our civilization isn’t the apex of creation, isn’t the pinnacle toward which everything has been building throughout all of geological time.

Amazingly, I agree with Hancock. I agree that he is convinced. Charles Heston concludes:

We have met the experts and looked at the evidence that seems to contradict our conventional theories about the human race.

All except the part about meeting the experts and looking at the evidence.

That concludes NBC’s Mysterious Origins of Man, and most likely this series of reviews. There’s a lot of stuff in there, and I did not touch all the points. Some of these I may revisit, but that’s going to be a future topic. Thanks for reading.

NBC’s Mysterious Origins of Man

This has got to be about the fifth in my series of posts on the TV documentary NBC’s Mysterious Origins of Man. I previously posted on the postulations of young Earth creationists Carl Baugh and Don Patton. I also made the observation that everybody appearing in the video, including narrator Charlton Heston, discuss these absurdities with an absolutely straight face. Nobody is laughing.

Don Patton gave his rundown on the Burdick Print, an apparent rock carving that Patton described as “definitely in the Cretaceous limestone.” Others have given the artifact a longer journey to its current location:

According to John Morris, the Burdick track (the right-foot slab) was purchased “years ago” by Burdick from a Rev. Beddoe of Arizona, who in turn had purchased the track from the late Pessee Hudson, proprietor of a knick- knack store in Glen Rose. Morris added that “many things were purchased in that store, including some of George Adams carvings.” Morris continued, “tracing the print proved impossible, but it was reported to have come from a tributary south of Glen Rose (1980, p. 117).

As mentioned before, the citation is to a book by young Earth creationist John Morris.

I commented that the Burdick Print lacks features I expect to find in a real footprint made in soft mud. When a foot pulls out of the print some of the loose matter is torn away, leaving a ragged perimeter. This feature is not apparent in the Burdick Print. As if to lend me a helping hand, the video next shows that very thing. This is from a sequence showing a human foot making a print in soft mud and then moving on. You can see the foot lifting off at the top of the picture.

HumanFootpring

Readers are invited to compare a real human footprint with the Burdick artifact.

We next move to another of my favorite items, The Finger. I have seen this before. The following was originally posted in The Skeptic, the newsletter of the North Texas Skeptics in the September 1997 issue:

Modern dinosaurs at MIOS

by John Blanton

In August at the meeting of the Metroplex Institute of Origin Science (MIOS) Dr. Don R. Patton, geologist, spoke on the subject of “Topsy-Turvy Fossils.”

Undergraduate geology texts are deceitful regarding the geological column, according to Patton. He said that the texts implied the existence of an actual column of material containing every sedimentary layer from geological time. In fact, he correctly points out, no such column exists. Geologists acknowledge that any boring into Earth’s crust will not produce a column containing a complete time record. The time record of any single boring would have to be completed by merging it with the record from other borings. This is because no single spot on the world’s surface has continually accumulated sediment and also because very often erosion removes top layers of sediment before new sediment is added to the column. Patton is one of the many creationists who employ this tactic to debunk the geological argument for an old Earth.

The meeting notice quotes from The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins: “If a single, well-verified mammal skull were to turn up in 500 million year-old rocks, our whole modern theory of evolution would be utterly destroyed.” Patton contends that this has happened, and he used the example of the “finger” fossil from the Carl Baugh’s Creation Evidences Museum to illustrate (Figure 1). Local creationists contend this fossil was found in Comanche Peak limestone and that it indicates human existence during the time of the dinosaurs.

 

This item also shows a photo of the famous finger.

finger

The photo is from the Creation Evidences Museum website, which link has since expired. The museum’s current site has a link to the finger artifact, but that link is also broken.

Dr. Dale Peterson displays a CAT scan (computer aided tomography) of the item.

FingerScan

Not being a certified medical practitioner, I only notice this fossil seems to be missing any internal structure that resembles bones of the human finger. A few others agree with me.

The alleged fossilized finger promoted by Baugh and associates is more likely just an interesting shaped rock or concretion. I was allowed to personally examine the “finger” several years ago, and saw nothing in it to suggest it is a fossil of any sort. Nor do I know any mainstream scientist or regards it as a fossilized finger. Contrary to the suggestions in the NBC show, it does not show bones in the CT scans. The dark area in the center of the scans are not well defined and are likely due to differences in the density of rock at the middle of the concretion, or the greater mass of rock the rays passed through at the center than the edge of the rock. Last, a key point that Baugh did not reveal in the show is that the “finger” was not found in situ, but rather in a loose gravel pit some distance from Glen Rose. Therefore, like the Burdick print it cannot be reliably linked to an ancient formation, and is of no antievolutionary value, even if it were a real fossilized finger.

Narrator Charlton Heston seems to have been unaware of the history of “the finger,” because he informs us “the limestone layer that preserved these artifacts is reportedly dated at 135 million years old.” This may not be the first time Heston has been clueless about something regarding science.

Next up, some mysterious metallic spheres found in Klerksdorp, South Africa. I investigate this stuff so you don’t have to.

To Tell The Truth

PeopleMockEvolution

Lifted from a Facebook feed

I can’t write this blog without seeking out people who disagree with me. Trust me. If I only talked to people who think like I do this would be an incredibly dull read. Duller, anyhow. That’s one reason I’m on the mailing list of the Discovery Institute.

The Discovery Institute (DI) is a non-profit public policy think tank based in Seattle, Washington, best known for its advocacy of the pseudoscienceintelligent design” (ID). Its “Teach the Controversy” campaign aims to teach creationist anti-evolution beliefs in United States public high school science courses alongside accepted scientific theories, positing a scientific controversy exists over these subjects.

In Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (2005), the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania found:

The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board‘s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.” […] 

This federal court, along with the majority of scientific organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, say the Institute has manufactured the controversy they want to teach by promoting a false perception that evolution is “a theory in crisis,” through incorrectly claiming that it is the subject of wide controversy and debate within the scientific community. The court ruled that the Discovery Institute pursues “demonstrably religious, cultural, and legal missions,” and the Institute’s manifesto, the Wedge strategy, describes a religious goal: to “reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.” It was the court’s opinion that intelligent design was merely a redressing of creationism and that, as such, it was not a scientific proposition.

[Some links deleted]

Anyhow, I’m on their mailing list. It was no surprise, then, that a few weeks ago I received the following email from Kelly J. Unger of the Discovery Institute.

Battling a Tsunami with an Umbrella

Dear John:

This coming fall, those who believe nature is the product of a blind and unguided process rather than purposeful design want the hearts and minds of your children.
According to the Wall Street Journal , researchers are currently trying to find ways to eradicate the belief young children have in intelligent design. These researchers are gravely concerned because “by elementary-school age, children start to invoke an ultimate God-like designer to explain the complexity of the world around them—even children brought up as atheists”! Wishing to debunk this belief as a myth, the researchers are developing picture books to teach kids that biology is the result of unguided natural selection. Their idea is to “reach children with the right theory before the wrong one is too firmly in place.” In other words, they want to brainwash our kids into a materialist worldview—at taxpayer expense.
At the same time, the religion-bashing and wildly inaccurate TV series Cosmos was recently honored with 12 Emmy nominations. With that kind of recognition, the series (just out on DVD) seems destined to end up as a staple in public school science instruction.
I am not alone in feeling that a tidal wave of Darwinian indoctrination is about to hit our public schools.  Many supporters have shared the same concern with me and are asking what Discovery Institute is going to do about it.  Specifically, how are we going to help parents and concerned educators counter the misinformation that is coming their way? I am so glad they asked . . .
We have an ambitious plan to publish a book that directly challenges the misinformation presented in the Cosmos series. We also plan to release a new documentary titled Privileged Species that will show—contrary to Cosmos—how our universe is a special place exquisitely designed not just for life, but for large multi-cellular beings like ourselves.
[Followed by a request for donations]

First off I need to comment that I find this to be a touching appeal. My heart goes out to those folks at the Discovery Institute. Look at what they’re up against. “Tsunami with an umbrella” does not even come close:

  • Biological evolution is in fact driven solely by natural processes.
  • All the major scientific societies are in agreement that evolution is a natural process.
  • The alternative proposal, put forward by a number of individuals of limited vision, has no scientific basis, and no scientific research backs it up.
  • The sole product of the Intelligent Design movement seems to consist of a protracted propaganda campaign directed not at the scientific community but rather at politicians possessing a religious or political bias and having limited knowledge of how science works.
  • The movement is continually beset by the scandalous actions of some of its advocates, who have engaged in prevarication to advance the cause. This will include the Dover Area School Board in Pennsylvania, who were observed committing perjury in a civil trial, and the producers of the Expelled video, which presents multiple false statements about people who were supposedly victims of bias by the scientific community.
  • Intelligent Design and all other forms of creationism are bits of fiction concocted in the minds of people who have little appreciation for physical reality and for truth itself.

Note to the Discovery Institute: Convincing rational, thinking people that Intelligent Design has any merit is going to be an uphill battle all the way.

The mail I received from Kelly Unger contains a link to an item posted on Evolution News, the Discovery Institute’s blog:

Story Time: Psychologists Show How to “Suppress” Children’s Intuition of Design in Nature

David Klinghoffer April 20, 2014 3:43 PM | Permalink

I don’t know whether this is outrageous, hilarious or simply very telling. Probably all three. The Wall Street Journal salutes the research of Boston University psychologist Deborah Kelemen. She has discovered that it’s possible with Darwinian storytelling to suppress common sense in children of the kind that leads them to recognize artifacts of intelligent design in nature.

The Journal notes that quite apart from religious instruction, kids are primed to see life as reflecting “intentional design.” It’s intuitive. The corrective is to catch them at an early age and train them to see things in a Darwinian light.

David Klinghoffer is a writer who works for the Discovery Institute, and he writes a lot of their arguments for them. I’ve read a lot of his stuff and agree is one of the most effective of the Discovery Institute’s propagandists.

David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute in Seattle and a contributor to Evolution News & Views. He is the author most recently of How Would God Vote?: Why the Bible Commands You to Be a Conservative (Random House, 2008). His previous books are Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point in Western History (Doubleday, 2005), The Discovery of God: Abraham and the Birth of Monotheism(Doubleday, 2003) and the spiritual memoir The Lord Will Gather Me In(Free Press/Simon & Schuster, 1998), a National Jewish Book Award finalist. His forthcoming book is Shattered Tablets: What the Ten Commandments Reveal about American Culture and Its Discontents(Doubleday, 2006). A former literary editor of National Review magazine, Klinghoffer has written articles and reviews for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. He lives on Mercer Island, Washington with his wife and children.

That’s from the Discovery Institute. Wikipedia also has an entry for David Klinghoffer:

Klinghoffer has published a series of articles, editorial columns, and letters to the editor in both Jewish and conservative publications seeking to promote opposition to Darwinian views of evolution, stating that science can include a support for an underlying intelligent design in the development of living things and the universe as a whole, and indeed that some scientists hold to such views. Larry Yudelson has responded, in a piece directed at Klinghoffer, that rabbinical Judaism has accepted evolutionary theory for more than a century, and that Judaism has never rejected science. Yudelson also charges that Klinghoffer is paid to promote his ideas by his employer, the Discovery Institute, which Yudelson identifies as a Christian think tank that is funded by organizations that seek to promote a “Christian-friendly world view.”

[Some links deleted]

One thing I like about Klinghoffer and a number of other Intelligent Design proponents is that they assist in making the case that Intelligent Design is religiously motivated, something that is often denied in proclamations by the Discovery Institute. You will also notice I try to make sure I always capitalize Intelligent Design. This is in line with standard practice in the English language of capitalizing the names of religions.

Klinghoffer’s post on Evolution News links to an item that appeared in The Wall Street Journal:

By elementary-school age, children start to invoke an ultimate God-like designer to explain the complexity of the world around them—even children brought up as atheists. Kids aged 6 to 10 have developed their own coherent “folk biological” theories. They explain biological facts in terms of intention and design, such as the idea that giraffes develop long necks because they are trying to reach the high leaves.

Dr. Kelemen and her colleagues thought that they might be able to get young children to understand the mechanism of natural selection before the alternative intentional-design theory had become too entrenched. They gave 5- to 8-year-olds 10-page picture books that illustrated an example of natural selection. The “pilosas,” for example, are fictional mammals who eat insects. Some of them had thick trunks, and some had thin ones. A sudden change in the climate drove the insects into narrow underground tunnels. The thin-trunked pilosas could still eat the insects, but the ones with thick trunks died. So the next generation all had thin trunks.

Before the children heard the story, the experimenters asked them to explain why a different group of fictional animals had a particular trait. Most of the children gave explanations based on intentional design. But after the children heard the story, they answered similar questions very differently: They had genuinely begun to understand evolution by natural selection. That understanding persisted when the experimenters went back three months later.

One picture book, of course, won’t solve all the problems of science education. But these results do suggest that simple story books like these could be powerful intellectual tools. The secret may be to reach children with the right theory before the wrong one is too firmly in place.

What Klinghoffer has heartburn with is that Kelemen, a researcher at Boston University, is suggesting that students be inoculated at an early age against supernatural explanations for life on this planet. Kelemen’s findings, and those of her colleagues, are that children on their own impose supernatural explanations for things that are not obvious—that are intellectually challenging. Klinghoffer complains that Kelemen’s recommendations amount to proselytizing for a religion, the religion of naturalism (my interpretation). This at government expense.

Not only Klinghoffer, but I as well, have issues with Kelemen’s conclusions. This is based on my personal experience. I was not raised in an atheist household. My parents sometimes took us to church. I never looked to supernatural explanations on my own. The only supernatural explanations I may have carried in my youth came from outside sources—the church, family, peers. It could be that I am some kind of weirdo outside Kelemen’s area of research.

Ultimately what Klinghoffer is complaining about is that teachers of young children are being advised to stand up in front of the class room and tell the truth. What a novel idea.

NBC’s Mysterious Origins of Man

This is one in a continuing series of reviews of NBC’s Mysterious Origins of Man. The video (documentary) came out in February 1996 with Charlton Heston as narrator. The one-hour program featured a number of stories, the first of which I covered in a previous post. It concerned the ideas put forward by Michael Cremo and Richard Thompson in their book Forbidden Archaeology. Their story, much like their book, represented as fact some highly suspect tales.

Heston next traces the origins of the human race as viewed by modern science. Beginning maybe 100,000 years ago in Africa, humans migrated into Europe and Asia 40,000 years ago. The map shows migration onto the American continents 30,000 years ago.

MigrationOfMan

But, says the narrator, it ain’t necessarily so.

The case of geologist Virginia Steen-McIntyre, of all the stories presented in this program, is the most worthy. Unfortunately for the others.

Heston: Yet numerous artifacts have been found across North and South America that are so old they threaten to completely overturn this theory. According to geologist Virginia Steen-McIntyre she was silenced at the height of her career because of her determination to report the facts.

Here we see Steen-McIntyre relate her story.

Virginia Steen-McIntyre from the video

Virginia Steen-McIntyre from the video

Her story revolves around the Hueyatlaco archaeological site in Mexico:

Hueyatlaco is an archeological site in the Valsequillo Basin near the city of Puebla, Mexico. After excavations in the 1960s, the site became notorious due to geochronologists’ analyses that indicated human habitation at Hueyatlaco was dated to ca. 250,000 years before the present.

These controversial findings are orders of magnitude older than the scientific consensus for habitation of the New World (which generally traces widespread human migration to the New World to 13,000 to 16,000 ybp). The findings at Hueyatlaco have mostly been repudiated by the larger scientific community, and have seen only occasional discussion in the literature.

Cynthia Irwin-Williams led the team that first excavated the site in 1962 The dig is often associated with Virginia Steen-McIntyre because of her continuing efforts to publicize her findings and opinions. However, the site was actually discovered by Juan Armenta Camacho and Irwin-Williams. Steen-McIntyre joined the team in 1966 as a graduate student, at the request of project geologist Hal Malde. The excavation was associated with the U.S. Geological Survey.

The region, about 75 miles SE of Mexico City, was known for its abundance of animal fossils, and Irwin-Williams described Hueyatlaco as a “kill site” where animals were hunted and butchered.

Excavations were conducted via standard protocols, including securing the sites to prevent trespass or accidental disturbances. During excavation, investigators discovered numerous stone tools. The tools ranged from relatively primitive implements at a smaller associated site, to more sophisticated items such as scrapers and double-edged blades uncovered at the main excavation site. The diversity of tools made from non-local materials suggested that the region had been used by multiple groups over a considerable period.

[Headings and some links deleted]

Steen-McIntyre goes on to say she would have been ready to accept an age of 20,000 years for the site, but an independent dating gave it an age of 250,000. She says in the video she did not realize publishing these results would “ruin my whole career.”

I see a lot of similarity here to the Expelled video. This came out in 2008, produced by Premise Media, now defunct. It featured actor and economist Ben Stein as host and narrator and told the stories of six individuals who were expelled because they cast doubt on Darwinism. The theme is that in modern America an honest researcher, reporter, teacher could be denied tenure, lose employment, be ostracized for disagreeing with the scientific consensus.

A number of people have commented on the Hueyatlaco findings and on Virginia Steen-McIntyre, including Mark Owen Webb and Suzanne Clark of Department of Philosophy at Texas Tech University:

The Hueyatlaco Dilemma

Beds containing human artifacts at Valsequillo, Mexico, have been dated at approximately 250,000 years before the present by fission-track dating of volcanic material and uranium dating of a camel pelvis.

The dilemma posed by such dates is clearly stated in the following quotation from the conclusions of the subject article.

“The evidence outlined here consistently indicates that the Hueyatlaco site is about 250,000 yr old.

We who have worked on geological aspects of the Valsequillo area are painfully aware that so great an age poses an archeological dilemma.

If the geological dating is correct, sophisticated stone tools were used at Valsequillo long before analogous tools are though to have been developed in Europe and Asia.

Thus, our colleague, Cynthia Irwin-Williams, has criticized the dating methods we have used, and she wishes us to emphasize that an age of 250,000 yr is essentially impossible.”

(Steen-McIntyre, Virginia, et al; “Geologic Evidence for Age of Deposits at Hueyatlaco Archeological Site, Valsequillo, Mexico,” Quaternary Research, 16:1, 1981.)

Webb and Clark conclude by reminding us that British scientist William Thompson (Lord Calvin) computed the age of the Earth at only 100,000 years based on principles of thermodynamics. He was obviously off by a few factors of ten, because he did not take into account the heat generated by radioactive elements in the Earth. This was some years before radioactivity was discovered. Webb and Clark Apparently some would like to compare the modern scientific consensus with the findings of Lord Calvin, consistent with known science but wrong nonetheless.

The Early Sites Research Society in its very first issue has an item by Neil Steede:

Many of our readers have been interested in the study of the site, Hueyatlaco, located in Puebla, Mexico. That particular site has found remains of human habitation at about between 250,000 to 350,000 years ago. Many things are happening with this site, which have not been reported in other magazines such as “the Ancient American.”

We would like to report some of these events to our readers at this time. Hueyatlaco was excavated at first by an archaeologist by the name of Cynthia Williams.

Archaeologist Williams found that she had a very early occupational site. She found some crude stone tools and also found many animal bones from which meat had been butchered.

The animal bones consisted of such things as the wooly rhinoceros and other pre-glacial fauna. She realized, having such an early site, that she must get laboratory dating done on the site, and requested that to be done by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The U.S. Geological Survey sent down a three member team who dated the site and found the range of very ancient dates mentioned above. Much of their controversy has been reported by Geologist Virginia Steen-McIntyre.

We consider Virginia to be a very good friend of ours, and have helped channel some of the financing that she needed to complete her work more recently.

We will not attempt here to cover ground which she has already covered in her articles. What we do wish to relate to our readers in this article are the steps that we took in parts of the investigation of this enigma.

Shortly after the excavation of the Hueyatlaco site, and shortly after the dating of the site was made public, the Mexican Government came to be directly involved. The head of the Archaeological Department of the Mexican Government was very upset at these very ancient dates at this site.

It is also believed by us that he did not like the fact that Americans were finding this site, nor did he like that the Americans involved were women. Whatever his motive, he had the Mexican army go and close the site down, and confiscate all of the artifacts and related materials.

I side strongly with the scientific consensus on this issue. It’s a matter of parsimony. Is it easier to believe thousands of research findings that are in near agreement or in a few anomalous findings that could possibly erroneous or even faked?

If you think Mysterious Origins of May will eventually touch on the Lost City of Atlantis, then you are else perceptive, or you have seen this video before. I will cover the story of Atlantis and others in future posts.

UPDATE

I was called down on a misstatement in this post last year by author Mark Owen Webb, and I corrected it by posting a comment. This item has gotten additional attention recently, and on reviewing it I decide a comment was not sufficient. See the above. I have crossed out the offending text and added (underlined) less vacuous wording.

A reader calling himself “Austin” has submitted a comment. It’s not shown below, because it was submitted to a different post not related to this topic. I have asked Austin to resubmit his comment to this post. Austin’s comment reads:

Your analysis of
Tag Archives: Virginia Steen-McIntyre
NBC’s Mysterious Origins of Man
August 21, 2014
is vastly slanted, you say she would have accepted a dating of 20,000 years for the site. She in fact said she would have been happy if it turned out to be a 20,000 year old site because it would have been in the realm of what was expected, although old, and would have enhanced her career. She stands by her dating of 250,000 years old for the site even though it cost her career dearly!!
SKeptic, why don’t YOU report the facts???

NBC’s Mysterious Origins of Man

RiseOfMan

Yesterday I reposted something I wrote 18 years ago—a review of a documentary from 1996 featuring Charlton Heston. I’m going to follow up with analyses of the various segments of that program. I have watched this a number of times—I made a video tape back when it first came out, and I have dubbed the tape to DVD. Still, I will draw much of my comment from Internet postings.

The Mysterious Origins of Man was a television special that originally aired on NBC on February 25, 1996. Hosted by Charlton Heston, the program argued that mankind has lived on the Earth for tens of millions of years, and that mainstream scientists have suppressed the fossil evidence for this. Some material included was based on the controversial Forbidden Archeology, a book written by Hindu creationists Michael Cremo and Richard L. Thompson about anomalous archeological finds reported mainly in early scientific journals. It also included interviews with the following people: creationist Carl Baugh on the Paluxy tracks; Richard Milton, author of Shattering the Myths of Darwinism, on Lucy; Neil Steede on Incan ruins; and Graham Hancock, author of Fingerprints of the Gods, on Atlantis. It was produced by B. C. Video Inc.

[Some links deleted]

Heston begins the first narrative by citing the theory of biological evolution. The transcription is my own, so there may be some typos:

  • Before the 19th century Western man looked to the Bible for an explanation to his origins.

He goes on to give an accurate explanation of biological evolution and traces the origin of man up to the emergence of our modern species “over 100,000 years ago.” When they dig, archaeologists find human artifacts. They find modern artifacts (shows some pottery) near the surface. More primitive artifacts (shows a stone spear point) are found deeper, representing a more ancient origin.

However, he points out, people have found human artifacts that defy preconceptions. “Archaeologists call them anomalous artifacts.” He then introduces Michael A. Cremo and Richard L. Thompson and their book:

Forbidden Archeology: The Hidden History of the Human Race is a 1993 book by Michael A. Cremo and Richard L. Thompson, written in association with the Bhaktivedanta Institute of ISKCON. Cremo states that the book has “over 900 pages of well-documented evidence suggesting that modern man did not evolve from ape man, but instead has co-existed with apes for millions of years!”, and that the scientific establishment has suppressed the fossil evidence of extreme human antiquity. Cremo identifies as a “Vedic archeologist”, since he believes his findings support the story of humanity described in the Vedas. Cremo’s work has garnered interest from Hindu creationists, paranormalists and theosophists. He says a knowledge filter (confirmation bias) is the cause of this suppression.

Forbidden Archeology has attracted attention from some mainstream scholars as well as Hindu creationists and paranormalists. Scholars of mainstream archeology and paleoanthropology have described the work as pseudoscience.

[Some links deleted]

We meet Credo and Thompson, who explain why modern society is not aware of the true history of humanity.

  • Thompson: The basic body of evidence that we’ve uncovered in this book suggests that human beings of modern anatomical type have been existing for many millions of years in the past.
  • Credo: I think we’re talking about a massive cover up. As I’ve said, over the past 150 years these archaeologists and anthropologists have covered up as much as much evidence as they’ve dug up, literally.
  • Thompson: Basically what you find is what we call a knowledge filter. This is a fundamental feature of science. It’s also a fundamental feature of human nature. People tend to filter out things that don’t fit. That don’t make sense in terms of  their paradigm or their way of thinking. So in science you find that evidence that doesn’t fit the accepted paradigm tends to be eliminated. It’s not taught. It’s not discussed. And people who are educated in scientific teaching generally don’t even learn about this.

Heston presents the studies by J.D. Whitney:

Discoveries of various artifacts in California’s Gold Country caused a stir as there were rare human fossils also discovered along with the gold. The state geologist [o]f California, J.D Whitney reported these significant artifacts to the scientific community in the 19th century.

The artifacts found on the surface were hard to date but those discovered from deep mine shafts were easier to place a date to. They were Pilocene in age as stated by Whitney but modern geologists think that they are from the Eocene age. Deep shafts were dug in Table Mountain in Toulumne County. Whitney also examined Dr. Perez Snell’s personal collection of artifacts from Table Mountain.

His collection consisted of spearheads and other implements. The exact positions of most of the discoveries were not known. One of the owners of the Valentine mine was Albert G. Walton who found a mortar, 15 inches in diameter, 180 feet beneath in the gold bearing gravels. A fossilized human skull piece was also discovered. However in 1902, Willain J. Sinclair disagreed with Walton’s claims because he was not able to find the Valentine shaft. He also said that Valentine shaft may not be the mortar’s original position as many of the drift tunnels in neighboring mines are connected to the Valentine shaft and the mortar might have found its way there.

The documentary only mentions the claims by Whitney and does not touch on the various dissenting views of modern scientists.

Thompson, and also Cremo, are right in one of their assertions. When somebody brings out something that flies in the face of a vast body of knowledge, then people—scientists included—give it a hard second look, whereas findings that agree with common knowledge do not suffer a great burden of proof. Comments by Cremo and excerpts from his book are available on-line.

Cremo’s and Thompson’s assertions suffer from a great similarity to some well-documented missteps in this field. Many of these are documented in a page in Wikipedia about out-of-place artifacts. Here is a excerpt:

  • Coso artifact: Thought to be prehistoric; actually a 1920s spark plug.
  • Malachite Man: Thought to be from the early Cretaceous; actually a post-Columbian burial.
  • Wolfsegg Iron: Thought to be from the Tertiary epoch; actually from an early mining operation. Inaccurately described as a perfect cube.

I previously attended presentations by young Earth creationist Don Patton, and Malachite Man was one of his topics. The Talk Origins archives have a brief account of the Malachite Man controversy, which I will post here in its entirety:

Claim CC111:

Ten modern human skeletons have been excavated from fifty-eight feet deep in the Lower Cretaceous Dakota Sandstone, which is dated as 140 million years old and is known for the same dinosaurs as in Dinosaur National Monument.

Source:

Patton, Don, n.d. Official world site Malachite Man. http://www.bible.ca/tracks/malachite-man.htm

Response:

  1. The skeletons are the same bones as the discredited Moab man bones, apparently with skeletons from eight nearby Indian burials added (Kuban 1998).
  2. All details given in the account are apparently false. The bones were found fifteen feet deep in soft, unconsolidated sand. They were clearly intrusive (i.e., buried there long after the sediments were laid down). The Dakota Formation is approximately 90-115 million years old, straddling the Early and Late Cretaceous. Dinosaur National Monument is in the Morrison Formation, which is Jurassic (Kuban 1998).
  3. The people making claims about Malachite Man have not been cooperative in supplying information that might be used to verify their claim. This would be surprising if they thought their claims could actually be verified.

Links:

Kuban, Glen J. 1998. The life and death of Malachite Man. http://members.aol.com/gkuban/moab.htm

References:

  1. Kuban, Glen J. 1998. (see above)

In his presentation I attended Don Patton told how the skeletons were found in the sandstone. I was suspicious of the way Patton unfolded his narrative, so I drilled down a little. Were the bones found in native sandstone, or were they found in loose sand. He truthfully would not commit to their being found embedded in sandstone. I cannot tell if this video was made before or after our conversation, but it may that Patton still holds to his original claim.

The unfortunate fact that Cremo and Thompson appear to be just faces of the Don Patton coin gets the NBC documentary off to a bad beginning. If it’s going to start off like this, where is it going to lead. Unfortunately the story is not all uphill from this, as I will show in subsequent posts.

You haven’t watched the video? You can get a copy of the DVD from me, or you can watch it on YouTube. My copy is at higher resolution.

The American President

ObamaRe-elected

Every now an then I’m reminded of why I voted for this man. Twice. Here’s the most recent. The President was headed out of town last week, and he spoke to reporters on the White House lawn. Here is the text from his talk provided by The White House:

Statement by the President on Iraq

South Lawn

10:30 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Over the past two days, American pilots and crews have served with courage and skill in the skies over Iraq.

First, American forces have conducted targeted airstrikes against terrorist forces outside the city of Erbil to prevent them from advancing on the city and to protect our American diplomats and military personnel. So far, these strikes have successfully destroyed arms and equipment that ISIL terrorists could have used against Erbil. Meanwhile, Kurdish forces on the ground continue to defend the city, and the United States and the Iraqi government have stepped up our military assistance to Kurdish forces as they wage their fight.

Second, our humanitarian effort continues to help the men, women and children stranded on Mount Sinjar. American forces have so far conducted two successful airdrops — delivering thousands of meals and gallons of water to these desperate men, women and children. And American aircraft are positioned to strike ISIL terrorists around the mountain to help forces in Iraq break the siege and rescue those who are trapped there.

Now, even as we deal with these immediate situations, we continue to pursue a broader strategy in Iraq. We will protect our American citizens in Iraq, whether they’re diplomats, civilians or military. If these terrorists threaten our facilities or our personnel, we will take action to protect our people.

We will continue to provide military assistance and advice to the Iraqi government and Kurdish forces as they battle these terrorists, so that the terrorists cannot establish a permanent safe haven.

We will continue to work with the international community to deal with the growing humanitarian crisis in Iraq. Even as our attention is focused on preventing an act of genocide and helping the men and women and children on the mountain, countless Iraqis have been driven or fled from their homes, including many Christians.

This morning, I spoke with Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom and President Hollande of France. I’m pleased that both leaders expressed their strong support for our actions and have agreed to join us in providing humanitarian assistance to Iraqi civilians who are suffering so much. Once again, America is proud to act alongside our closest friends and allies.

More broadly, the United Nations in Iraq is working urgently to help respond to the needs of those Iraqis fleeing from areas under threat. The U.N. Security Council has called on the international community to do everything it can to provide food, water and shelter. And in my calls with allies and partners around the world, I’ll continue to urge them to join us in this humanitarian effort.

Finally, we continue to call on Iraqis to come together and form the inclusive government that Iraq needs right now. Vice President Biden has been speaking to Iraqi leaders, and our team in Baghdad is in close touch with the Iraqi government. All Iraqi communities are ultimately threatened by these barbaric terrorists and all Iraqi communities need to unite to defend their country.

Just as we are focused on the situation in the north affecting Kurds and Iraqi minorities, Sunnis and Shia in different parts of Iraq have suffered mightily at the hands of ISIL. Once an inclusive government is in place, I’m confident it will be easier to mobilize all Iraqis against ISIL, and to mobilize greater support from our friends and allies. Ultimately, only Iraqis can ensure the security and stability of Iraq. The United States can’t do it for them, but we can and will be partners in that effort.

One final thing — as we go forward, we’ll continue to consult with Congress and coordinate closely with our allies and partners. And as Americans, we will continue to show gratitude to our men and women in uniform who are conducting our operations there. When called, they were ready — as they always are. When given their mission, they’ve performed with distinction — as they always do. And when we see them serving with such honor and compassion, defending our fellow citizens and saving the lives of people they’ve never met, it makes us proud to be Americans — as we always will be.

So with that, let me take a couple questions.

Q Mr. President, for how long a period of time do you see these airstrikes continuing for? And is your goal there to contain ISIS or to destroy it?

THE PRESIDENT: I’m not going to give a particular timetable, because as I’ve said from the start, wherever and whenever U.S. personnel and facilities are threatened, it’s my obligation, my responsibility as Commander-in-Chief, to make sure that they are protected. And we’re not moving our embassy anytime soon. We’re not moving our consulate anytime soon. And that means that, given the challenging security environment, we’re going to maintain vigilance and ensure that our people are safe.

Our initial goal is to not only make sure Americans are protected, but also to deal with this humanitarian situation in Sinjar. We feel confident that we can prevent ISIL from going up a mountain and slaughtering the people who are there. But the next step, which is going to be complicated logistically, is how do we give safe passage for people down from the mountain, and where can we ultimately relocate them so that they are safe. That’s the kind of coordination that we need to do internationally.

I was very pleased to get the cooperation of both Prime Minister Cameron and President Hollande in addressing some of the immediate needs in terms of airdrops and some of the assets and logistical support that they’re providing. But there’s a broader set of questions that our experts now are engaged in with the United Nations and our allies and partners, and that is how do we potentially create a safe corridor or some other mechanism so that these people can move. That may take some time — because there are varying estimates of how many people are up there, but they’re in the thousands, and moving them is not simple in this kind of security environment.

Just to give people a sense, though, of a timetable — that the most important timetable that I’m focused on right now is the Iraqi government getting formed and finalized. Because in the absence of an Iraqi government, it is very hard to get a unified effort by Iraqis against ISIL. We can conduct airstrikes, but ultimately there’s not going to be an American military solution to this problem. There’s going to have to be an Iraqi solution that America and other countries and allies support. And that can’t happen effectively until you have a legitimate Iraqi government.

So right now we have a president, we have a speaker. What we don’t yet have is a prime minister and a cabinet that is formed that can go ahead and move forward, and then start reaching out to all the various groups and factions inside of Iraq, and can give confidence to populations in the Sunni areas that ISIL is not the only game in town. It also then allows us to take those Iraqi security forces that are able and functional, and they understand who they’re reporting to and what they’re fighting for, and what the chain of command is. And it provides a structure in which better cooperation is taking place between the Kurdish region and Baghdad.

So we’re going to be pushing very hard to encourage Iraqis to get their government together. Until we do that, it is going to be hard to get the unity of effort that allows us to not just play defense, but also engage in some offense.

Q Mr. President, the United States has fought long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with uncertain outcomes. How do you assure the American people that we’re not getting dragged into another war in Iraq? Have you underestimated the power of ISIS? And finally, you said that you involved international partners in humanitarian efforts. Is there any thought to talking to international partners as far as military actions to prevent the spread of ISIS?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, a couple of things I would say. Number one, I’ve been very clear that we’re not going to have U.S. combat troops in Iraq again. And we are going to maintain that, because we should have learned a lesson from our long and immensely costly incursion in Iraq. And that is that our military is so effective that we can keep a lid on problems wherever we are, if we put enough personnel and resources into it. But it can only last if the people in these countries themselves are able to arrive at the kinds of political accommodations and compromise that any civilized society requires.

And so it would be, I think, a big mistake for us to think that we can, on the cheap, simply go in, tamp everything down again, restart without some fundamental shift in attitudes among the various Iraqi factions. That’s why it is so important to have an Iraqi government on the ground that is taking responsibility that we can help, that we can partner with, that has the capacity to get alliances in the region. And once that’s in place, then I think we end up being one of many countries that can work together to deal with the broader crisis that ISIL poses.

What were your other questions? Did we underestimate ISIL? I think that there is no doubt that their advance, their movement over the last several months has been more rapid than the intelligence estimates and I think the expectations of policymakers both in and outside of Iraq. And part of that is I think not a full appreciation of the degree to which the Iraqi security forces, when they’re far away from Baghdad, did not have the incentive or the capacity to hold ground against an aggressive adversary. And so that’s one more reason why Iraqi government formation is so important — because there has to be a rebuilding and an understanding of who it is that the Iraqi security forces are reporting to, what they are fighting for. And there has to be some investment by Sunnis in pushing back against ISIL.

I think we’re already seeing — and we will see even further — the degree to which those territories under ISIL control alienated populations, because of the barbarity and brutality with which they operate. But in order to ensure that Sunni populations reject outright these kinds of incursions, they’ve got to feel like they’re invested in a broader national government. And right now, they don’t feel that.

So the upshot is that what we’ve seen over the last several months indicates the weaknesses in an Iraqi government. But what we’ve also seen I think is a wake-up call for a lot of Iraqis inside of Baghdad recognizing that we’re going to have to rethink how we do business if we’re going to hold our country together. And, hopefully, that change in attitude supplemented by improved security efforts in which we can assist and help, that can make a difference.

Q You just expressed confidence that the Iraqi government can eventually prevent a safe haven. But you’ve also just described the complications with the Iraqi government and the sophistication of ISIL. So is it possible that what you’ve described and your ambitions there could take years, not months?

THE PRESIDENT: I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks, if that’s what you mean. I think this is going to take some time. The Iraqi security forces, in order to mount an offensive and be able to operate effectively with the support of populations in Sunni areas, are going to have to revamp, get resupplied — have a clearer strategy. That’s all going to be dependent on a government that the Iraqi people and the Iraqi military have confidence in. We can help in all those efforts.

I think part of what we’re able to do right now is to preserve a space for them to do the hard work that’s necessary. If they do that, the one thing that I also think has changed is that many of the Sunni countries in the region who have been generally suspicious or wary of the Iraqi government are more likely to join in, in the fight against ISIS, and that can be extremely helpful. But this is going to be a long-term project.

Part of what we’ve seen is that a minority Sunni population in Iraq, as well as a majority Sunni population in Syria, has felt dissatisfied and detached and alienated from their respective governments. And that has been a ripe territory for these jihadists and extremists to operate. And rebuilding governance in those areas, and legitimacy for stable, moderate governing in those areas is going to take time.

Now, there are some immediate concerns that we have to worry about. We have to make sure that ISIL is not engaging in the actions that could cripple a country permanently. There’s key infrastructure inside of Iraq that we have to be concerned about. My team has been vigilant, even before ISIL went into Mosul, about foreign fighters and jihadists gathering in Syria, and now in Iraq, who might potentially launch attacks outside the region against Western targets and U.S. targets. So there’s going to be a counterterrorism element that we are already preparing for and have been working diligently on for a long time now.

There is going to be a military element in protecting our people, but the long-term campaign of changing that environment so that the millions of Sunnis who live in these areas feel connected to and well-served by a national government, that’s a long-term process. And that’s something that the United States cannot do, only the Iraqi people themselves can do. We can help, we can advise, but we can’t do it for them. And the U.S. military cannot do it for them.

And so this goes back to the earlier question about U.S. military involvement. The nature of this problem is not one that a U.S. military can solve. We can assist and our military obviously can play an extraordinarily important role in bolstering efforts of an Iraqi partner as they make the right steps to keep their country together, but we can’t do it for them.

Last question.

Q America has spent $800 billion in Iraq. Do you anticipate having to ask Congress for additional funds to support this mission?

THE PRESIDENT: Currently, we are operating within the budget constraints that we already have. And we’ll have to evaluate what happens over time. We already have a lot of assets in the region. We anticipate, when we make our preliminary budgets, that there may be things that come up requiring us to engage. And right now, at least, I think we are okay.

If and when we need additional dollars to make sure that American personnel and American facilities are protected, then we will certainly make that request. But right now, that’s not our primary concern.

And there you have it. The highest paid elected official in the United States government doing what he is paid to do. A diplomatic and military ally, Iraq, is in crisis mode. The country has been invaded by ISIS, a band of foreign fighters, losing some of its northern and western regions to their control. The invaders are terrorizing the local population. Civilians are being murdered. An entire community has fled to a remote mountain region to escape death. The United States government is coming to the aid of Iraq and to the aid of its citizens. And the President is explaining all of this to the American citizens by way of talking to press reporters. It’s a prepared speech, and he delivers it well. He is trained and well-practiced in the art.

But then the President invites questions from reporters. There is no opportunity for a prepared speech here. What is the plan? How long are we going to continue to attack ISIS forces? Will we eventually check or destroy ISIS?

And here is the remarkable part. An answer. A real answer. Straight from the shoulder. A touch of political sweetening, but direct and loaded with facts. No, it’s not going to be all peaches and cream. And he goes on to explain the political and military situation in a manner that leaves us thinking he has studied the issue in depth and has been talking to people who have the facts first hand.

For me as a voter I have found it to be refreshing after eight years of often vague and ill-thought remarks on serious matters. “Evil doers?” Was that the best that described this country’s enemies for two presidential terms? The language cried out for relief.

And finally this from the same exchange. The President calls for the absolute last question before he heads out of town. As proof that there is a God in Heaven, a reporter, so far unidentified, asks the question.

Last question.

Q Mr. President, do you have any second thoughts about pulling all ground troops out of Iraq? And does it give you pause as the U.S. — is it doing the same thing in Afghanistan?

THE PRESIDENT: What I just find interesting is the degree to which this issue keeps on coming up, as if this was my decision. Under the previous administration, we had turned over the country to a sovereign, democratically elected Iraqi government. In order for us to maintain troops in Iraq, we needed the invitation of the Iraqi government and we needed assurances that our personnel would be immune from prosecution if, for example, they were protecting themselves and ended up getting in a firefight with Iraqis, that they wouldn’t be hauled before an Iraqi judicial system.

And the Iraqi government, based on its political considerations, in part because Iraqis were tired of a U.S. occupation, declined to provide us those assurances. And on that basis, we left. We had offered to leave additional troops. So when you hear people say, do you regret, Mr. President, not leaving more troops, that presupposes that I would have overridden this sovereign government that we had turned the keys back over to and said, you know what, you’re democratic, you’re sovereign, except if I decide that it’s good for you to keep 10,000 or 15,000 or 25,000 Marines in your country, you don’t have a choice — which would have kind of run contrary to the entire argument we were making about turning over the country back to Iraqis, an argument not just made by me, but made by the previous administration.

So let’s just be clear: The reason that we did not have a follow-on force in Iraq was because the Iraqis were — a majority of Iraqis did not want U.S. troops there, and politically they could not pass the kind of laws that would be required to protect our troops in Iraq.

Having said all that, if in fact the Iraqi government behaved the way it did over the last five, six years, where it failed to pass legislation that would reincorporate Sunnis and give them a sense of ownership; if it had targeted certain Sunni leaders and jailed them; if it had alienated some of the Sunni tribes that we had brought back in during the so-called Awakening that helped us turn the tide in 2006 — if they had done all those things and we had had troops there, the country wouldn’t be holding together either. The only difference would be we’d have a bunch of troops on the ground that would be vulnerable. And however many troops we had, we would have to now be reinforcing, I’d have to be protecting them, and we’d have a much bigger job. And probably, we would end up having to go up again in terms of the number of grounds troops to make sure that those forces were not vulnerable.

So that entire analysis is bogus and is wrong. But it gets frequently peddled around here by folks who oftentimes are trying to defend previous policies that they themselves made.

Going forward with respect to Afghanistan, we are leaving the follow-on force there. I think the lesson for Afghanistan is not the fact that we’ve got a follow-on force that will be capable of training and supporting Afghan security efforts. I think the real lesson in Afghanistan is that if factions in a country after a long period of civil war do not find a way to come up with a political accommodation; if they take maximalist positions and their attitude is, I want 100 percent of what I want and the other side gets nothing, then the center doesn’t hold.

And the good news is, is that in part thanks to the excellent work of John Kerry and others, we now are seeing the two candidates in the recent presidential election start coming together and agreeing not only to move forward on the audit to be able to finally certify a winner in the election, but also the kinds of political accommodations that are going to be required to keep democracy moving.

So that’s a real lesson I think for Afghanistan coming out of Iraq is, if you want this thing to work, then whether it’s different ethnicities, different religions, different regions, they’ve got to accommodate each other, otherwise you start tipping back into old patterns of violence. And it doesn’t matter how many U.S. troops are there — if that happens, you end up having a mess.

Thanks a lot, guys.

END 10:54 A.M. EDT

I do not know whether this was a politically loaded reporter aiming to put the President on the spot or whether the reporter was a plant put there by the White House to allow the President to emphasize a salient fact. Actually several:

  • Our military invaded Iraq in 2003 supposedly to force compliance with Iraq’s requirement to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction. These WMDs, as they have come to be called, never existed, but the administration at the time, from all appearances, conjured up evidence for them in order to get the electorate and our military allies on board with the operation.
  • The organization of the invasion was horribly bungled due to idealistic planning and the apparent need to get it moving before our partners and the electorate got cold feet.
  • The invasion was militarily successful, but the occupation was a disaster, with most of the mistakes possible to make eventually being made.
  • The Unites States Treasury emptied to the tune of $800 billion, all on the credit card. Administration officials voiced the warrant-less belief the Iraqis would foot the bill for their deliverance from a dictatorship.
  • 3777 coalition forces dead by hostile fire, a total of 4799 allied dead.
  • 110,937 – 121,227 civilian deaths from violence up to December 2012

And what did we get for all of this? I’m waiting for somebody to tell me.

In the end, we left in place a despotic government headed up by Nuori al-Maliki, which government seemed to excel in promoting disunity in the country. Al-Maliki and his government refused to renew or extend the Status of Forces Agreement between Iraq and the United States. In the mean time, our government agreed to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.

In the mean time, this president, who got elected partly on his opposition to our involvement in the Iraq war, is sending humanitarian aid to refugees from ISIS and is also applying deadly military force to selected ISIS units. A few weeks back when the administration began to take action in response to ISIS in Iraq I was sure I heard a United States admiral use the term “mission gallop” to describe the military ramp-up.

An aside here. You can call me a bleeding heart liberal if you want, but my fondest hope is that we can catch large contingents of ISIS exposed on the highway somewhere in Iraq and whittle their numbers down by 10,000. But that’s just me. It could be that saner heads than mine will prevail.

Wait! There are even cooler heads:

JUST A LIE BEFORE HE GOES

Taking a few questions following a statement on the dire situation in Iraq that President Obama gave on the White House lawn as he departed for his Martha’s Vineyard vacation (White House transcript here, White House video here), President Obama availed himself of the any port in a storm tactic that has helped him so much along his way. The reporter asking the last question Obama deigned to field wondered whether he had any second thoughts about pulling all of our troops out of Iraq. You may recall that only yesterday the withdrawal of all American forces from Iraq was Obama’s boast. ‘Twas a famous victory. Indeed, it was one of the predicates of Obama’s reelection campaign. That was then, however, and this is now[.]

People of a political persuasion cannot get over that President Obama got elected in the first place promising to pull our troops out of Iraq. They like to ignore the agreement for a draw down by the end of 2011 that was already in place when he took office. They like to ignore that the President lobbied the Iraqi government to allow a combat force to remain. They contend Obama should have pushed harder on the issue. They do not mention how.

What do they propose to do? Invade all over again? Spend another $800 billion (and put it on the tab)? Forfeit another few thousand soldiers’ lives?

These people also ignore that the electorate wants U.S. troops out of Iraq. One of the most unpopular things the President is doing right now is ratcheting up our military involvement. Again, with no mandate or approval from Congress. This Congress that is loathe to secure funding for such operations and has a tendency to shut down the government when the well runs dry.

My take? President Obama is going to follow the course of every president before him. He’s going to escalate military involvement as the crisis unfolds. We are going to spend another few hundred million dollars launching fighter aircraft and dropping smart bombs on stupid people. I am guessing before the years is out an American soldier is going to shoot an ISIS combatant. Or two. Or more. And somebody is going to die. It may be a pilot. It may be a soldier. Or more. There will be bodies carried off a plane at Dover Air Force Base. And we are going to watch it on television. And we are going to blame Obama.

A New Kind Of Christian

Maybe not.

 

From Facebook

From Facebook

While I do not subscribe to the implication in the foregoing meme that Christianity is inherently anti-social, my own observation is that Christianity is not an inoculation against shameful conduct. I am reminded of this on the order of once a week.

Last week, leaders of the church planting network Acts 29 removed [pastor Mark] Driscoll and his churches from the group he helped found and asked that he “step down from ministry for an extended time and seek help.”

Driscoll has been an influential but edgy pastor within conservative evangelical circles for several years. His Mars Hill Church attracts some 14,000 people at 15 locations across five states. He has been provocative, occasionally profane and has faced allegations of plagiarism and inflating book sales.

I have to admit. As keen as I presume to be on these matters, Mark Driscoll has been completely off my radar until now:

Mark A. Driscoll (born October 11, 1970) is an evangelical Christian pastor and author, and current preaching pastor of Mars Hill Church, a megachurch in Seattle, Washington. In 1996, Driscoll co-founded Mars Hill Church, which as of 2014 has grown to 14,000 members in five states and fifteen locations. He also founded The Resurgence, a theological cooperative, and co-founded several other parachurch organizations: Churches Helping Churches, the church planting Acts 29 Network, and The Gospel Coalition. He has written for the “Faith and Values” section of the Seattle TimesOnFaith, and the Fox News website. Driscoll has also authored a number of popular Christian books. Described as “hip yet hard-line”, he is known for promoting “culturally relevant” yet theologically conservative Christianity. He favors “vintage” aesthetics and a “down to earth”, yet at times “aggressive” preaching style.

In 2011, Preaching magazine named Driscoll one of the 25 most influential [English-speaking] pastors of the past 25 years. His influence is polarizing; he is described in a profile by Salon as being the center of a cult of personality, and using controversy to increase his visibility. The New York Times Magazine called him “one of the most admired—and reviled—figures among evangelicals nationwide.” Controversy has often surrounded his complementarian view of gender roles, Calvinist theology, perceived misogyny, plagiarism accusations and culture of fear that allegedly supports his ministerial authority.

[Some links deleted]

I note here that Mark Driscoll has taken lessons from the Bible, particularly with regard to “research:”

Let no one else’s work evade your eyes,
Remember why the good Lord made your eyes,
So don’t shade your eyes,
But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize –

The Patheos.com blog hosts a post by Warren Throckmorton that provides some analysis of Driscoll’s phrase lifting. In two of his books, The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out and Confessions of a Reformission Rev: Hard Lessons from an Emerging Missional Church, Driscoll outlines his approach to ministry. Throckmorton comments on Driscoll’s lack of originality:

Driscoll’s formula has been cited by other church planters and authors since then. However, according to a former close colleague, Ron Wheeler, Driscoll lifted those concepts from work Wheeler did while developing the first Acts29 Network church plant in Mt. Vernon, WA — The Gathering. Wheeler was in the room when the Acts29 Network was organized and spent much time with Driscoll in the early days of Mars Hill Church. From Wheeler, I obtained the following page taken from an   in-house church document. See especially the bottom of the page where the relationship between church, culture and the Gospel are outlined.

In addition to preaching the good news (gospel) Driscoll has talents of business promotion that are to be appreciated:

According to an online story posted March 5 and a follow-up story on Christianitytoday.com, Mars Hill contracted with ResultSource Inc. (RSI) to create a campaign to get Real Marriage onto the New York Times bestseller list. Mars Hill, not the publisher, reportedly paid $210,000 in the deal, which the L.A. Times reported on March 6 as an example of how authors can game bestsellers lists.

The book appeared at #1 on the Times Advice, How-To list for Jan. 22, 2012. It did not appear on the list at all for the week before or the week after. It also did not appear on anyPublishers Weekly bestseller lists.

It is not only his business practices that disturb fellow Christians. I was trying to find out what some of the other fuss was about and came across this:

We live in a completely pussified nation.

We could get every man, real man as opposed to pussified James Dobson knock-off crying Promise Keeping homoerotic worship loving mama’s boy sensitive emasculated neutered exact male replica evangellyfish, and have a conference in a phone booth. It all began with Adam, the first of the pussified nation, who kept his mouth shut and watched everything fall headlong down the slippery slide of hell/feminism when he shut his mouth and listened to his wife who thought Satan was a good theologian when he should have lead her and exercised his delegated authority as king of the planet. As a result, he was cursed for listening to his wife and every man since has been his pussified sit quietly by and watch a nation of men be raised by bitter penis envying burned feministed single mothers who make sure that Johnny grows up to be a very nice woman who sits down to pee.

This was posted by “William Wallace II,” apparently a pseudonym for Mark Driscoll. Of course, William Wallace was one of the 13th century leaders for Scottish independence, also featured in the motion picture Braveheart with staunch Catholic Mel Gibson in the title role. If you are seeing a connection between the Wallace pseudonym and Mark Driscoll’s Calvinist leanings, then you are getting dangerously close to the truth.

Conservative Christians are not noted for promoting sexual equality, but Driscoll’s remarks proved over the top even for this church teetering on the brink of cult hood. How far down the road was Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church from Jonestown we may never learn.

Bad News Bares

Stacks of Old Books

I get a lot of story ideas from the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) I give them some money. You should, too.

This one goes way back. I had been thinking how bad it is now. I forgot how bad it was just a few years ago. A few days ago the TFN posted a reminder. In 2002 the Texas Education Agency reviewed new social studies books offered by publishers. The very conservative Texas Board of Education back then took issue with particular content, and publishers backed down. Here is the list of complaints from 2002:

  • Publishers of world geography textbooks agreed to revise references to the formation of fossil fuels, glaciers and landscape features occurring “millions of years ago” to read instead “in the distant past” and “over time.” The revised passages then would not conflict with the beliefs of creationists that Earth is less than 10,000 years old.
  • A publisher agreed to remove links to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website after a critic complained that a textbook passage on the environment contained “too much trash” and “promotes activism and sends students to EPA websites.”
  • A publisher agreed to change “many scientists” to “some scientists” in a discussion of scientists who accept the overwhelming evidence about the greenhouse effect and climate change.
  • A publisher agreed to delete a sentence reading “Acid rain that is produced in the United States and carried north by wind is a major environmental problem for Canada.” A critic had objected to the negative impact of acid rain being discussed as a fact and to the implication that America was responsible.
  • Publishers altered common descriptions of the Constitution as a “living document” (in some cases deleting the term) because right-wing critics claimed that the term was hostile to a strict interpretation of the Constitution.
  • A publisher agreed to delete “In the United States, everyone has a right to free public education” from a textbook after a critic argued that the sentence suggested education is an entitlement.
  • A publisher agreed to delete a Critical Thinking question asking students whether they think civil rights activists were justified in breaking the law in their struggle for equality. In fact, many civil rights activists, such as Martin Luther King Jr., engaged in civil disobedience and were arrested for violating laws regarding segregation and public protests. But a critic argued that the question encouraged students to break the law.
  • A publisher agreed to delete a sentence reading “Christians would later accept slavery in other contexts.” This came after a critic argued that textbook discussions of slavery in the United States were too negative and anti-Christian.
  • After a critic called the sentence “more propaganda” for Islam, a publisher agreed to delete a sentence that read: ““[M]any other teachings in the Quran, such as the importance of honesty, honor, giving to others and having love and respect for their families, govern their daily lives.”
  • A publisher altered a passage that discussed how Osama bin Laden’s instructions to kill Americans were not supported by the Quran, which tells soldiers to treat civilians with kindness and justice. A critic insisted that the passage was an example of textbooks “going to great length to put a positive light on Muslim teachings.” The publisher changed the passage so that it said simply that not all Muslims agreed with bin Laden’s beliefs.

A little diagnosis.

  • Board of Education members, people charged with the education of students in Texas public schools, did not want to offend creationists by mentioning the Earth is more than 10,000 years old? Are you thinking what I am thinking? That some board members, people charged with the education of students in Texas public schools think the Earth is only about 10,000 years old? Are we in trouble or what?
  • Students in Texas public schools are not to be encouraged to go to EPA websites? This is the Environmental Protection Agency. This is the agency of the United States government that was set up to ensure people in this country have clean air to breathe and safe water to drink. This is an agency that protects people’s health, and students should not be drawing from its resources?
  • The Board of Education, charged with providing free education to all citizens and permanent residents does not want students to know that they can get free education if they want it?
  • For decades in this country many Christians had a memory lapse and forgot that slavery was against Christian principles, so they engaged in the practice or at least tolerated it. And this fact is anti-Christian? And the problem is with the book and not the people who practiced and tolerated slavery? And that’s what we want our students to learn about slavery?
  • Students should not consider the actions of civil rights activists that violated existing laws? Forgetting for a moment that this country was founded by breaking the laws of the British Empire.

A back issue of The New York Times carried some comment on the unholy mess:

“Out of Many,” the work of four respected historians, is one of the biggest sellers among American history college textbooks in the United States, but it is not likely to be available to Texas high school students taking advanced placement history. Conservative groups in Texas objected to two paragraphs in the nearly 1,000-page text that explained that prostitution was rampant in cattle towns during the late 19th century, before the West was fully settled.

“It makes it sound that every woman west of the Mississippi was a prostitute,” said Grace Shore, the Republican chairwoman of the Texas State Board of Education. “The book says that there were 50,000 prostitutes west of the Mississippi. I doubt it, but even if there were, is that something that should be emphasized? Is that an important historical fact?”

The publisher, Pearson Prentice Hall, has quietly withdrawn the book from consideration by the board. Wendy Spiegel , a vice president for communications at the company, said it had another textbook that better fit the state’s curriculum.

To make things clear, this is advanced placement. This is college level material. Students take this course in high school so they won’t have to take it in college. Advanced placement is supposed to be adult material. It should also be truthful. It would seem that to some in this state bad news is too much to bear.

Also in 2002 the Texas Public Policy Foundation took an interest in the texts under review:

The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit, non-partisan research institute.

The Foundation’s mission is to promote and defend liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise in Texas and the nation by educating and affecting policymakers and the Texas public policy debate with academically sound research and outreach.

I found this on their site concerning the review:

The Texas Public Policy Foundation undertook a comprehensive review of the middle school social studies textbooks under consideration for approval by the State Board of Education.

The reports and findings (PDF) are available for download (8.5 MB) in a zip-format file.

Unfortunately the link to file is broken. I phoned their office in Austin and inquired about the missing link. The woman I talked to later phoned me back and told me somebody was looking into the problem, and I should have the link sometime next week. I will post an update when I get the new material.

Also in 2002, Education Week posted a review of Texas Board of Education shenanigans:

Texas schoolchildren will learn about African involvement in slavery, the contributions Hispanics made throughout state history, and a religiously correct time frame of glacial movement when newly adopted history and social studies textbooks hit classrooms next school year.

They will not, however, encounter some original textbook passages that emphasized positive aspects of Islam and Communism, or those that presented the problems of global warming and acid rain as undisputed fact.

I will not repost the entire item, but the foregoing excerpt should give you the flavor.

New social studies texts are now being reviewed for inclusion in the curriculum starting next year. I didn’t participate in the session reviewing social studies texts this summer, but others, especially the TFN have given us an update. Here is their look back at the 2002 process:

The State Board of Education in Texas last adopted textbooks for courses in history,
geography, government and economics 12 years ago. Political activists, pressure
groups and state board members lodged numerous ideological objections to textbook
content at the time.

Various Board members and outside organizations are keen on shaping the public school curriculum to their world view. The TFN has provided a brief run down on the players:

For more than two decades the State Board of Education has been a key battleground in the religious right’s culture wars. Following are some of the key state board members and pressure groups that have been involved in efforts to censor textbooks on issues such as the teaching of evolution, the relationship between religion and government and sex education.

SBOE Members
Don McLeroy
Cynthia Dunbar
Ken Mercer
David Bradley
Other SBOE Members

Organizations
Discovery Institute
Texans for Better Science Education
Texas Public Policy Foundation
Texas Eagle Forum
Americans for Prosperity/Citizens for a Sound Economy
Educational Research Analysts
Texans for Life Coalition
Daughters of the American Revolution
Tea Party

You will notice the Texas Public Policy Foundation is one of the organizations that got mention. It will be interesting to see the lost document from 2002 when it becomes available. Also note that Ken Mercer from San Antonio is my representative on the board. I was finally able to observe him at the public hearings last year, and I am here to tell you he is a real wizard.

I do not have a great deal of information on this year’s review process. My task this year was to assist in reviewing math books, and what I have found is there not much controversy over the square root of pi. I expected to see our own David Barton weigh in. Surely one of our more rascally board members was bound to set him to reviewing history books:

In 2012, Barton’s New York Times best-seller The Jefferson Lies was voted “the least credible history book in print” by the users of the History News Network website. A group of ten conservative Christian professors reviewed the work and formed a negative view of its claims, reporting that Barton has misstated facts about Jefferson.[58][61] In August 2012, Christian publisher Thomas Nelson withdrew the book from publication and stopped production, announcing that they had “lost confidence in the book’s details” and “learned that there were some historical details included in the book that were not adequately supported.” Glenn Beck announced that his Mercury Ink imprint would issue a new edition of the book, for issuing once the 17,000 remaining copies that Barton bought of the Thomas Nelson edition had been sold.

[Some links deleted]

It’s those like Barton who keep Texas from being dull.

The Good Book

CRW_5405

This came up on a “liberal” news source just recently:

Monoclonal antibody

Monoclonal antibodies (mAb or moAb) are monospecific antibodies that are the same because they are made by identical immune cells that are all clones of a unique parent cell, in contrast to polyclonal antibodies which are made from several different immune cells. Monoclonal antibodies have monovalent affinity, in that they bind to the same epitope.

Given almost any substance, it is possible to produce monoclonal antibodies that specifically bind to that substance; they can then serve to detect or purify that substance. This has become an important tool in biochemistry, molecular biology and medicine. When used as medications, the non-proprietary drug name ends in -mab (see “Nomenclature of monoclonal antibodies“), and many immunotherapy specialists use the word mab anacronymically.

What happened earlier this year was that there was a new, and also the most severe, outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.

An epidemic of the Ebola virus disease is ongoing in several West African countries. The outbreak first began in Guinea in March 2014. Since its initial outbreak, the virus has spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. The outbreak is the most severe of its kind in recorded history in regard to both the number of human cases and fatalities. A total of 1711 suspected cases with 932 deaths have been reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) as of 4 August 2014, of which 1070 cases and 603 deaths have been laboratory confirmed to be Ebola.

[Some links deleted]

One American traveling in the region became infected and died. Two Americans working to treat patients and to contain the epidemic became infected. These may have gotten a reprieve:

An experimental serum given to Christian aid workers infected with the deadly Ebola virus was manufactured by a San Diego pharmaceutical firm using plants, the company and U.S. health authorities disclosed Monday.

As Dr. Kent Brantly fights for his life in a special containment unit at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, and missionary Nancy Writebol prepares to be evacuated from Liberia on Tuesday, details began to emerge about a mysterious treatment they were given shortly after they became infected.

On “liberal left leaning” CNN this morning a scientist explained the concept behind monoclonal antibodies. I don’t have that interview, but I do have this from Wikipedia:

Monoclonal antibodies are typically made by fusing myeloma cells with the spleen cells from a mouse that has been immunized with the desired antigen. However, recent advances have allowed the use of rabbit B-cells to form a rabbit hybridoma. Polyethylene glycol is used to fuse adjacent plasma membranes, but the success rate is low so a selective medium in which only fused cells can grow is used. This is possible because myeloma cells have lost the ability to synthesize hypoxanthine-guanine-phosphoribosyl transferase (HGPRT), an enzyme necessary for the salvage synthesis of nucleic acids. The absence of HGPRT is not a problem for these cells unless the de novo purine synthesis pathway is also disrupted. By exposing cells to aminopterin (a folic acid analogue, which inhibits dihydrofolate reductase, DHFR), they are unable to use the de novo pathway and become fully auxotrophic for nucleic acids requiring supplementation to survive.

[Some links deleted]

The antibodies bind to features on the virus that facilitate the virus’ entry into a living cell. This blocks the virus from entering the cell. A virus cannot reproduce itself. It uses the cell’s replication mechanism to make new copies of itself.

The particular mAB used to treat the American patients was, in fact, produced inside a tobacco plant. The plant was immersed in water loaded with the virus, causing the virus to infect the plant. The plant then produced the antibodies, which were extracted from the tobacco leaves.

If you’re like me, you are by now saying, “This is really neat stuff.” Also, if you’re like me by now you’re saying, “How come none of this is mentioned in the Bible?” Creationists (and many devout Christians) tell me I should look for answers in the Bible. I have seen statements in the past that the Bible is the only book we need. I have heard that all usable knowledge comes from the Bible. Creationist Ken Ham comes close to this:

And I do believe there can’t be other intelligent beings in outer space because of the meaning of the gospel. You see, the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe. This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation. One day, the whole universe will be judged by fire, and there will be a new heavens and earth. God’s Son stepped into history to be Jesus Christ, the “Godman,” to be our relative, and to be the perfect sacrifice for sin—the Savior of mankind.

Apparently that only works so far. I notice a number of things not included in the Bible:

  • The Earth goes around the Sun.
  • The Moon goes around the Earth.
  • The Earth is round.
  • Other continents exist on the opposite side of the Earth, and they host advanced civilizations.
  • Water is composed of oxygen and hyrdogen.
  • The square root of 2 is an irrational number.

I have a copy of the Bible, and I keep it on a book shelf in my computer room, between a book on numerical recipes and one on network programming. If I need some basic stuff, I look to the left. If I need something advanced I look to the right. The other book is there for contrast.

The Free Ride

Full disclosure. I am on Facebook.

Now I’ve said it. Nothing for me to do but get past it. But, there is a bright side. I have some Facebook friends who are quite conservative, although fewer all the time. Every now and then I post something outrageous, and I lose a conservative friend. Those conservative friends I still have I cherish. They are for me a constant feed of interesting stuff from another side of the Universe.

Confession time again. Sometimes the well dries up, and I have to troll the feeds of former Friends. That’s where I found this:

PhilRobertsonCrucified

This is (apparently) from Media Research Center:

The Media Research Center (MRC) is a politically conservative content analysis organization based in Reston, Virginia, founded in 1987 by activist L. Brent Bozell III. Its stated mission is to “prove—through sound scientific research—that liberal bias in the media does exist and undermines traditional American values” and to neutralize the perceived liberal bias of the mainstream media.

[Some links deleted]

In case the image is confusing, let me spell out the message:

The media are crucifying Phil Robertson for his views because he is a conservative Christian. If Phil Were a Muslim, the media would “respect” his worldview and religious beliefs.

Then is added:

“LIKE if you KNOW it’s true

Whoa! That’s a lot. But first some congratulations are in order.

An enterprise calling itself “Media Research Center” is aware that the word “media” is a plural noun, and they use the plural form of the verb to go with it. That’s a lot that I do not catch at “liberal” outlets such as CNN. You guys can come to the front of Clara Atkins’ English class.

Now to the meat of the matter.

The (liberal) media are crucifying Phil Robertson? A bit of hyperbole there. Strictly speaking, “crucify” means to nail somebody up on a cross. All the (liberal) media did was to call him names. I hope, dear Christians, when you finally come for me you merely call me names and forgo the actual practice of crucifixion.

That said, let’s take a look at Mr. Robertson’s supposed transgressions and in what manner he got “crucified.” First, the “transgression:”

Out here in these woods, without any cameras around, Phil is free to say what he wants. Maybe a little too free. He’s got lots of thoughts on modern immorality, and there’s no stopping them from rushing out. Like this one:

“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

Perhaps we’ll be needing that seat belt after all.

What Phil is saying, in his own polite northern Louisiana way, it that anal sex (between men) is no way as good a vaginal sex (man and a woman). And anal sex is a sin. That’s the word that did it. Possibly if Mr. Anderson had just left it as “I would prefer screwing a woman over screwing a man any day of the week,” everything would have blown over.

Phil was saying that homosexuality is a sin. That offended some people. He was telling them that their life style, their sexual practices, based on their inherent biology, is a sin. An offense against humanity (my interpretation). When a person is going through life doing what comes naturally, and somebody of great notoriety tells them they are an offense against humanity, they are apt to get upset.

We all know where this leads. Insult is answered with insult. People called Phil a bigot. Which is the verbal equivalent of nailing him up on a cross and waiting for the buzzards to pick at his innards. What a horrible way to go.

Wait, there’s more:

Phil On Growing Up in Pre-Civil-Rights-Era Louisiana
“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

Now Phil Robertson is not just a bigot. He’s a fool or else an idiot. He grew up in Louisiana and never noticed that people were being denied the right to vote? He never noticed that people working to bring equality were being murdered, sometimes with the complicity of local officials? How many different ways are there to spell “loser?”

Then came the fallout. Here’s an excerpt:

Phil Robertson: Killed Duck Dynasty’s Golden Goose?

By · August 2, 2014

Perhaps Phil thought he could be just as comfortable speaking his mind with a GQ writer as he was in front of the cameras for his own show, forgetting that there was no editing team, forgetting that GQ readers are, by and large, not his tribe. It is highly unlikely that those offended were die hard members of his fan base. But the hammer came down nonetheless.

 After a highly-publicized bit of blowback, Robertson was suspended from his own show. Then his fans rallied the troops, and he was asked back after only nine days suspension. It looked like the gravy train was back on track for Robertson and family. After that outpouring of fan support, things were likely better than ever. Or so most thought.

The numbers tell a different tale. Last year, the folks at Nielsen said that Duck Dynasty had about 12 million viewers. Now, seven months after the GQ kerfluffle, they have only about one-third of that audience. Even the season premiere was way down.

Where did everyone go? One theory is that it is no longer popular in mixed company to say you watch Duck Dynasty. Sure, the guys sporting ZZ Top beards and wearing camo to walk around the mall aren’t going anywhere. But folks who may have been watching the show at its peak, but don’t want their friends to think they are homophobes, they’re long gone.

The media crucified Phil Robertson? It would appear the viewing public crucified Phil Robertson. Also American capitalism was at work. Companies get rid of stuff that’s costing them money.

Hey, I see Duck Dynasty t-shirts on the racks at truck stops when I’m traveling, and I sure would like to have one. But where would I wear it? I mean, I would be bound to lose every way it went. “You support that idiot Phil Anderson?” That from one side. “Hey, Dude, good to see you’re standing up for Phil Anderson.” Even worse from the other side.

Time out for a short story. Maybe 20 years ago I saw this neat t-shirt in a mall, and I bought it. It says on it, among other things, “Jesus.” I thought it was cool, and I wore it to work one day. Big mistake. My boss was very powerful in the company and very Christian. He held Christian conferences during lunch breaks. He told me how much he like my t-shirt. Did I tell him it was a joke? Absolutely not. I still have the shirt, but it stays mostly in the shirt drawer, and I have never worn it to work since.

That’s what may be hitting Duck Dynasty merchandise these days. It would be cool to have but some people might not appreciate the joke.

“If Phil Were a Muslim, the media would ‘respect’ his worldview and religious beliefs.”

Really?

It embarrasses me to say, but I watch a lot of CNN, supposedly one of the (liberal) media bespoken in the image. And it seems to me that a lot of the news anchors are Christian and endorse Christian values. OK, there can be some Jews. And maybe there is even a Muslim or two. And, God forbid, some atheists. These people were getting down on Phil Robertson because of his “Christian” values?

Really?

What Christian values did Phil Robertson display in his GQ remarks, and subsequently? I went searching for a deeper probe into Robertson’s form of Christianity:

“Take the ten commandments out of the court house?” Robertson asked. “Turn that government that is $17 trillion in the hole, and still spending like there is no tomorrow? What in the world is wrong? The rehabs are full, the prisons are full, the mental wards are full. Too many people are heartless, senseless, faithless and they are ruthless – there is nothing they won’t do. That is why America is has turned into a dangerous place and the neglect of what I have in my hand (holding up a bible) is the direct cause of it.”

This may be it. While he speaks of a “government that is $17 trillion in the hole,” which is a laudable issue for discussion, he somehow connects the idea with “Take the ten commandments out of the court house.” Robertson would be one of those who think a set of tribal rules from 3000 years ago is pertinent to a modern government. He does not seem to notice there is no connection between Christianity in America today and our current state of affairs. Maybe we need a closer look:

The country is “$17 trillion” in debt today in large part of:

  • Insufficient taxes levied to pay the government’s bills
  • A costly war that had largely religious overtones and was financed by borrowing

People heartless, senseless, ruthless, and maybe faithless? Faithless, I can count, but where are the others due to lack of faith (Christianity)? I look around at Christians I know, and I see a lot of heartlessness, senselessness and ruthlessness. Whenever did Christianity inoculate us against these scourges?

If decline in religiosity (Christian) is the root of all these evils, then how do we account for past slavery in this country and also the criminality, the heartlessness, the senselessness and the ruthlessness that existed in those times before the supposed decline in religiosity (Christian) in this country? People in mental institutions? Phil Robertson is going to have to answer that part. I’m puzzled by it.

If Phil Robertson were a Muslim and said all of those things that he said, the media would give him a free ride? Where does Media Research Center get this stuff?

Since 1987, the Media Research Center has been the nation’s premier media watchdog. We don’t endorse politicians and we don’t lobby for legislation. MRC’s sole mission is to expose and neutralize the propaganda arm of the Left: the national news media. This makes the MRC’s work unique within the conservative movement.

The Media Research Center’s unwavering commitment to neutralizing left-wing bias in the news media and popular culture has influenced how millions of Americans perceive so-called objective reporting.

That’s it. Media Research Center is looking out for conservative values. What they fail to notice is that Muslims are a bunch of conservative guys. You want conservative values? I’ll give you conservative values:

  • Faith in God (yes the same God)
  • Chastity for women
  • Sanctity of the family
  • Severe punishment for crimes
  • Homosexuality as a sin

Phil Robertson, please move over. A Muslim duck hunter could be coming you way.