The downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in light of Stephen Hawking’s “natural selection assumes natural rejection.”

 

 

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking

 

For most of the world, the downing of MH17 was a very sad day. For many it is an occasion for much reflection on human selfishness and agression, and, hopefully, including our own. But surely not for materialists – logically speaking.

At one of his lectures at the University of Cambridge, where he is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, a Chair once held by Isaac Newton, Stephen Hawking, who suffers from acute motor neuron disease, said his only fear concerned the long-term survival of humanity:

My only fear is this. The terror that stalks my mind is that we have arrived on the scene because of evolution. Because of naturalistic selection, and natural selection assumes natural rejection, which means we have arrived here because of our aggression – chemicals exploding in our reptilian brain. And my hope is that somehow we can keep from eating each other up for another 100 years. At that point science would have devised a scheme to take all of us into different planets of the universe and no one atrocity would destroy all of us at the same time.”

On the “after-life” he said. “The belief that heaven and an afterlife awaits us is a “fairy story for people afraid of death.” There is, for Hawking, nothing beyond the last flicker of the brain waves. What counts he said is making good use of our lives by “seeking the greatest value of our action.”

On the one hand, Hawking says “natural selection assumes natural rejection, which we assumes we have arrived here by our aggression,” and on the other hand, he says “we should seek the greatest value of our action.” Now, if we arrived on this on this planet by aggression – “we” implies every individual human birth then it would be logical that we not only arrived here by aggression but survive by aggression: the survival of the fittest; in value terms the survival of the shittest.

Hawking also said “Science predicts that many different kinds of universe will be spontaneously created out of nothing. It is a matter of chance which we are in.”

(Stephen Hawking: ‘There is no heaven; it’s a fairy story.’ The Guardian, 15 May 2011).

To summarise Hawking: “By chance, nothing created the human species out of nothing, where the distinctive attribute of the genetic blueprint is aggression.” All is aggression – “nature red in tooth and claw. In such a materialistic world, human free will is an illusion. Indeed, terms like “will” and “freedom” refer to nothing in reality. In Hawking’s materialistic view of “natural selection assumes natural rejection,” to seek the greatest value in our action means that each person or group has evolved to reject any values that clash with their own – and to do so aggressively. If Hawking puts his money where his mouth is, which I have no reason to question, then in his world – and so it must be in the world of every practical atheist – not only do the terms “free” and “will” refer to nothing in reality, the same applies to the “good” and “evil.” I could go on and on: “love,” “guilt,” “forgiveness,” “judgement.”

Many of those who think or say that the downing of Flight MH17 was an evil act are materialists. In the language of Hawking, evolution has rejected – and no surprise, aggressively so – MH17 by blowing it up and cutting short the lives of all aboard and automatically causing untold suffering to thousands of friends and relatives. Morals, and morale, for that matter, cannot exist in a a world solely of matter.

The moral of my story is: when someone opens their gob about the morality of MH17, or anything else, ask them if they are materialists. If they are, tell them to shut up; unless you’re a confounded one too.

 

Human-imposed measures of piety: No booze (hic), and celibacy

 

The comma in my title makes all the difference. Without the comma, it could mean “No booze and (No) celibacy.”

“In our own day,  says Kevin Reed, we meet with many humanly-imposed measures of piety. For example, some fundamentalists condemn all use of alcoholic beverages, and they use this doctrine as a measure of spirituality. For centuries, the Roman Catholic church has enjoined celibacy upon the clergy as a requirement for service. At root, the issue is still the same: ‘Do men have the right to institute supplemental measures of piety, beyond those given in scripture?’” (Kevin Reed – “Biblical worship”).

Anyone for a top up – Hic, et nunc

 

 

Larry King on Russia Today : Bill Maher throws his marbles away – in a hurry

Larry King, in his Politicking interview with Bill Mayer, introduces him with these words: “He’s opiniated, outspoken and ready to take a stand on today’s  red-hot issues… Get ready.” Towards the end of the interview, King asked him whether he believed in life after death? Maher replied maybe, but this other thing that God had a son, that’s nonsense.  For Mayer, the program Cosmos has got it right. Just imagine, he said, (not exactly in these words) the whole universe exploded into being 13.5 billion years ago from a being no bigger than a  marble. When I think of it, continues Mayer, I want to say “Gimme the Jesus thing. But I know that the Big Bang is right.” But see the interview for yourself.   Picture 40

 Larry King: “Get ready”

Bill Maher

Bill Maher

Go figure, but what are you going to use to do so? Your marbles?  Mad people lose theirs; sane people throw theirs away – in  a hurry (Hebrew: maher). 

Maher-shalal-hash-baz - מַהֵר שָׁלָל חָשׁ בַּז‎ “He has made haste to plunder” (Isaiah 8:3).

The Jesus thing is not silly, it’s shocking, for two reasons: 1. The Son takes on flesh to be cursed and slaughtered 2. in the place of sinners.

Related: Something from nothing: a beautiful idea.

 

Folly of New York Times’ Coverage of Chris Plaskon Connecticut School Stabbing

bography:

Worlviews matter.

Originally posted on The Domain for Truth:

Folly of NYT Coverage of Chris Plaskon Connecticut School Stabbing

One shocking news from last week was of a junior in high school name Chris Plaskon who stabbed a fellow student name Maren Sanchez.  It happened on Friday morning in a hallway at Jonathan Law High School in the state of Connecticut.  Apparently Plaskon had a crush on the girl and he stabbed her since she did not want to go to prom with him.

I do not want to focus my post on this story as much as a piece over at the New York Times about this unfortunate event.  The article can be accessed by clicking HERE.  Its title is quite indicative of what I’m trying to critique: “Suspect in Stabbing at Connecticut School Is Described as Popular.”

From a Christian worldview one can’t help it at times to see the folly of what the media spew out which reflect their inability to grasp a deeper understanding of what…

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Way Out…Laurel & Hardy

bography:

What a hoot!

Originally posted on DR. RELUCTANT:

I’ve been working on updating the look of my blog today.  I found this clip posted on Dan Phillips’ blog and thought it would be a great way to introduce Dr Reluctant’s new look. I am a lifelong Laurel and Hardy fan, but I’m sure they had no clue they’d be dancing to the Gap Band! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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South African Matric results of 2013: Who says I need more than my pineal gland to pass?

Originally posted on Grammargraph:

In Timeslive, we read:

The government must act urgently to independently verify the credibility of the National Senior Certificate examination results and of all future matric results, DA leader Helen Zille said on Tuesday.

DA’s Zille calls for independent audit of matric results.

“I believe that the Minister of Education, Angie Motshekga, should institute a full-scale independent audit of the 2013 results,” Zille said in a statement. Provincial education departments are solely responsible for appointing markers and marking matric exams, the opposition party said.

Not marked by a central body, Exam papers are not marked by a central national body, the DA said.

“This means the quality of marking cannot be guaranteed and is not adequately or comparatively standardised around the country. “Matric markers are not tested for their competency, their subject knowledge or for their ability to interpret answers which are phrased differently from the exam memorandum,” Zille…

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Dick Cheney and same-sex marriage: Relative moral relativism

There are myriads of triads. One of these consists of the three branches of philosophy, namely, ethics, logic and metaphysics. For our purposes, morality and ethics are the same thing. Now, we all know what “relative” means: your uncle, I mean my aunt; agh I mean snip snip, Bob’s our aunt. Another example: what’s good for THIS goose, is bad for THAT goose. Last one; also about animals: one man’s meat is another man’s poisson (fish).

Al Mohler, in his podcast “The Briefing,”today (20 November 2013) talks about the public spat between Dick’s two daughters, one for and the other against same-sex marriage. Cheney says that he was once against same-sex marriage but changed his mind when one of his daughters took a partner, who were later pronounced woman and wife. Mohler said that Cheney is only one among several politicians who changed their views on same-sex marriage when one or more of their relatives wanted to marry their own sex.

Related post: Objectivity of good and evil: Go yang yourself.

Why is there no adoption in Islam? Zaynab – the occasion if not the cause

At he beginning of the “Stand to Reason” podcast “Islam and Prolife” (13 August 2013), Greg Koukl points out that there is no adoption in Islam. He was informed that this was based on Islamic theology but did not know why there was no adoption in Islam. The reason is Zaynab. Here is James White’s riveting and disturbing account of “The Story of Zaynab” in his “What every Christian needs to know about the Qur’an.” Let us see why he concludes:

Whether or not for political purposes (so that there would be none to take Muhammad’s place, as Zayd would have), the culture-enriching humanity-raising, love-engendering institution of adoption was mortally wounded in Islamic society. And upon what authority? That of the Qur’an.” Is not this episode, asks White, “a clear example of the problem with the orthodox view of the Qur’an’s nature?

I scanned the story from James White’s Kindle edition on my ipad. Any scanning typos are mine.

The Story of Zaynab bint Jash

There is no other account in the Qur’an that, to me as a Christian reader of the Qur’an, the hadith, and the tafsir literature, is more indicative of the fundamental problem with Muhammad’s claimed prophethood than that of his relationshig with Zaynab bint Jash. When one takes into consideration not only the situation itself but also its results in the lives of countless millions down through the centuries, the importance of following the biblical pattern for the recognition of prophethood is readily seen.

Zaynab bint Jash was by all accounts a strikingly beautiful Woman. She also was a married woman, to a young man named Zayd bin Muhammad, the Prophet’s own adopted son, a freed former slave. He was an early convert to the Islamic faith, and the two men were close. Up to that time, the Arab tribes, like the Jews, Romans, and so many others, had practiced – and honored – the concept of adoption. For  to  marry the divorced wife of his adopted son was a fundamental violation of morality and custom, tantamount to incest. The relationships that arose through adoption were held to be truly valid.

With this background in mind, consider these texts from Surah Al-Ahzub: Allah has not made for any man two hearts within him, nor has he made your wives whom you declare to be like your mothers your mothers, nor has he made those whom you claim to be your sons your sons. This is but what you say with your mouths. And Allah says the truth and He guides to the path. Attribute them to their fathers. That is more equitable in the sight of Allah. And if you know not their fathers, then they are your brothers in religion and your clients.

And there is no sin for you in the mistakes that you make unintentionally but what your hearts purpose [that will be a sin for you]. Allah is forgiving, compassionate. And when you said to him on whom Allah has conferred favor and you have conferred favor “Keep your wife to yourself and fear Allah.” And you hide within yourself that which Allah was to bring to light, and you fear the people Whereas Allah had a better right that you should fear Him. So when Zayd had accomplished of her what he would, we gave her to you in marriage so that [henceforth] there may be no sin for believers in respect of wives of their adopted sons, when the latter have accomplished of them what they would. The commandment of Allah must be fulfilled. There is no reproach for the Prophet in what Allah has made his due. That was Allah’s Way with those who passed away of old, and the Wish of Allah is certain to be fulfilled. (33:37-38). Now, according to Islamic orthodoxy, these words were inscribed on the heavenly tablet in eternity past. They are as eternal as Allah is. And yet here are two sections that both deal with the same awkward situation that arose in history regarding Muhammad,  Zayd, and Zaynab.

The first verses cited give Allah’s command relating to adoption. No longer would Zayd be known as Zayd bin Muhammad: now he would be known as Zayd bin Haritha. Adoption as a stabilizing and gracious societal element would be forever damaged due to this change. Why do this? As the second verses show, there was a major problem among the people - one highlighted by Allah having commanded Muhammad to marry the divorced wife of his adopted son. To let the Muslim sources explain, we start with Al-Tabari’s massive history, which places the story’s backdrop in its all-too-human setting:

The Messenger of God came to the house of Zayd b. Harithah. (Zayd was always called Zayd b. Muhammad). Perhaps the Messenger of God missed him at that moment, so as to ask, “Where is Zayd‘?” He came to his residence to look for him but did not find him. Zaynab bint Jash, Zayd’s wife, rose to meet him. Because she was dressed only in a shift, the Messenger of God turned away from her. She said: “He is not here, Messenger of God. Come in, you who are as dear to me as my father and mother!” The Messenger of God refused to enter. Zaynab had dressed in haste when she was told “the Messenger of God is at the door.” She jumped up in haste and excited the admiration of the Messenger of God, so that he tuned away murmuring something that could scarcely be understood. However, he did say overtly: “Glory be to God the Almighty! Glory be to God, who causes the hearts to turn!”

When Zayd came home, his wife told him that the Messenger of God had come to his house. Zayd said, “Why didn’t you ask him to come in‘?” She replied, “I asked him, but he refused.” “Did you hear him say anything‘?” he asked. She replied, “As he turned away, I heard him say: ‘Glory be to God the Almighty! Glory be to God, who causes hearts to turn! ”’ So Zayd left, and having come to the Messenger of God, he said: “Messenger of God, I have heard that you came to my house. Why didn’t you go in, you who are as dear to me as my father and mother? Messenger of God, perhaps Zaynab has excited your admiration, and so I will separate myself from her.” Zayd could find no possible way to [approach] her after that day. He would come to the Messenger of God and tell him so, but the Messenger of God Would say to him, “Keep your Wife.”

Zayd separated from her and left her, and she became free. While the Messenger of God was talking with `A’ishah, a fainting overcame him. When he was released from it he smiled and said, “Who will go to Zaynab to tell her the good news, saying that God has married her to me.” Then the Messenger of God recited: “And when you said unto him on whom God has conferred favor and you have conferred favor, ‘Keep your wife to yourself” and the entire passage. According to ’A’ishah, who said: “I became very uneasy because of what we heard about her beauty and another thing, the greatest and loftiest of matters – what God had done for her by giving her in marriage. I said she would boast of it over us.”

Martin Lings narrates the same story in this Way:

It happened one day that he went to speak to his Zayd about something and went to his house. Zayd was out, and Zaynab, not expecting any visitors at that time, was lightly clad. But when she was told that the Prophet had come, she was so eager to greet him that she leapt to her feet and ran to the door, to invite him to stay until Zayd returned. “He is not here, O Messenger of God,” she said, “but comes out in, my father and my mother be thy ransom.” As she stood in the doorway, a radiant figure of joyous welcome, the prophet was amazed at her beauty. Deeply moved, he turned aside, and murmured something which she could not grasp. All she heard clearly were his words of wonderment as he walked away: “Glory be to God the Infinite! Glory be to Him who disposeth men’s hearts!” When Zayd returned she told him of the Prophet’s visit and of the glorification she had heard him utter. Zayd immediately Went to him and said: “I have been told thou camest unto my house.

Why didst not enter, thou who art more to me than my father and my mother? Was it that Zaynab hath found favor with thee? If it be so, I will leave her.” “Keep thy wife and fear God,” said the Prophet with some insistence. He had said on another occasion: “Of all things licit the most hateful unto God is divorce.” And when Zayd came again the next day with the same proposal, again the Prophet insisted that he should keep his wife. But the marriage between Zayd and Zaynab had not been a happy one, and Zayd found it no longer tolerable, so by mutual agreement with Zaynab he divorced her. This did not, however, make Zaynab eligible as a wife for the Prophet, for although the Koran had only specified that men were forbidden to marry the wives of sons sprung from their loins, it was a strong social principle not to make a distinction between sons by birth and sons by adoption. Nor was the Prophet himself eligible, for he had already four wives, the most that the Islamic law allows.

Some months passed and then one day when the Prophet was talking with one of his wives the power of Revelation overwhelmed him; and when he came to himself his first words were: “Who will go unto Zaynab and tell her the good tidings that God hath given her to me in marriage, even from Heaven.” Salma was near and she went in haste to Zaynab’s house. When she heard the wonderful tidings, Zaynab magnified God and threw herself down in prostration toward Mecca. Then she took off her anklets and bracelets of silver, and gave them to Salma.

Zayd is one of the few people to be mentioned by name in the Qur’an, and it is in this very context, of Allah rebuking Muhammad for hiding what Allah had revealed, and that in reference to Muhammad marrying Zayd’s divorced wife. To overcome immediate charges of impropriety even of incest a revelation comes down to solve the great and vexing problem of the marriage of divorced wives of adopted sons. Except, of course, it is more than hard to believe this was a great and vexing problem. We would expect the great and vexing problem to be divorce, let alone even the consideration of marrying your former daughter-in-law. But Allah commands his Prophet to break the customs of his day and marry his first cousin. 

Again, in the process, incalculable damage has been done to millions of children and families. In distancing himself from his adopted son, Whether or not for political purposes (so that there would be none to take Muhammad’s place, as Zayd would have), the culture-enriching humanity-raising, love-engendering institution of adoption was mortally wounded in Islamic society. And upon what authority? That of the Qur’an. Is this not a clear example of the problem with the orthodox view of the Qur’an’s nature? Muhammad suddenly goes into some kind of faint and, when he recovers, announces that adoption is undone and Zaynab is his wife. This was inscribed in eternity past upon a tablet in Arabic? lt seems even Aisha, his favorite (but who clearly experienced much jealousy toward his other wives) recognized an issue, for she is recorded to have said. I feel that your Lord hastens in fulfilling your Wishes and desires.” Certainly this must give one pause in weighing the claims of the Qur’an to status as a divine revelation.

Modern lslamic Orthodoxy identifies Muhammad as the ideal man, the model to which all should seek to conform their behavior and lifestyle. Yet here, plainly the Qur’an displays acute embarrassment and must provide an apologetic, a defense of his actions. Many motives are possible, from the seemingly blatant marriage breakup, and the resultant diminishment of the evil of divorce, to the political tensions that were formative of the early generations of Islam and that led to the formation of its two major branches, Sunni and Shia. Whatever the motivation, the attempt to justify Muhammad’s actions and their wide-ranging results is obvious and forceful.

A sense of power can do a number on your brain shutting out your heart. Solution: Sikh and you shall find

A new study, Power Changes How the Brain Responds to Others,” was inspired by the observation that “Power dynamics are a ubiquitous feature of human social life, yet little is known about how power is implemented in the brain.” Here is a review of the study followed by my impressions:

When Power Goes To Your Head, It May Shut Out Your Heart:

Even the smallest dose of power can change a person. You’ve probably seen it. Someone gets a promotion or a bit of fame and then, suddenly, they’re a little less friendly to the people beneath them. So here’s a question that may seem too simple: Why? If you ask a psychologist, he or she may tell you that the powerful are simply too busy. They don’t have the time to fully attend to their less powerful counterparts. But if you ask Sukhvinder Obhi, a neuroscientist at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada, he might give you another explanation: Power fundamentally changes how the brain operates.

Sukhvinder Obhi

Sukhvinder Obhi

Obhi and his colleagues, Jeremy Hogeveen and Michael Inzlicht, have a new study showing evidence to support that claim. Obhi and his fellow researchers randomly put participants in the mindset of feeling either powerful or powerless. They asked the powerless group to write a diary entry about a time they depended on others for help. The powerful group wrote entries about times they were calling the shots. Then, everybody watched a simple video. In it, an anonymous hand squeezes a rubber ball a handful of times — sort of monotonously. While the video ran, Obhi’s team tracked the participants’ brains, looking at a special region called the mirror system.

Where Empathy Begins

The mirror system is important because it contains neurons that become active both when you squeeze a rubber ball and when you watch someone else squeeze a rubber ball. It is the same thing with picking up a cup of coffee, hitting a baseball, or flying a kite. Whether you do it or someone else does, your mirror system activates. In this small way, the mirror system places you inside a stranger’s head. Furthermore, because our actions are linked to deeper thoughts — like beliefs and intentions — you may also begin to empathize with what motivates another person’s actions.

“When I watch somebody picking up a cup of coffee, the mirror system activates the representations in my brain that would be active if I was picking up a cup of coffee,” Obhi explains. “And because those representations are connected in my brain to the intentions that would normally activate them, you can get activation of the intention. So you can figure out, ‘Hey, this person wants to drink coffee.’ “

Obhi’s team wanted to see if bestowing a person with a feeling of power or powerlessness would change how the mirror system responds to someone else performing a simple action.

Feeling Power Over Others

It turns out, feeling powerless boosted the mirror system — people empathized highly. But, Obhi says, “when people were feeling powerful, the signal wasn’t very high at all.”

So when people felt power, they really did have more trouble getting inside another person’s head.”What we’re finding is power diminishes all varieties of empathy,” says Dacher Keltner, a social psychologist at University of California, Berkeley, not involved in the new study. He says these results fit a trend within psychological research. “Whether you’re with a team at work [or] your family dinner, all of that hinges on how we adapt our behaviors to the behaviors of other people,” he says. “And power takes a bite out of that ability, which is too bad.”

The good news, Keltner says, is an emerging field of research that suggests powerful people who begin to forget their subordinates can be coached back to their compassionate selves.

End of review.

Impressions (on my cortex)

The lack of concern for others is one of the main signs of corrupt human nature. Power and humility seldom embrace. This is one of the major themes of the Bible:

Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good;

and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God?

The article says that coaching can help people be compassionate. The problem, though, is not innocent ignorance that can improve with enlightenment through coaching but a dark rejection of people you believe cannot help you increase or hold on to your power. So can power do a number on your brain. Sure; without God’s restraining hand, it’ll numb your brain, getting number and number. Actually – in what follows all I’m doing is digging into the sedimentations of language unearthing new possibilities – Sukhvinder (Obhi’s first name) is a Sikh name meaning “God who gives happiness.” All I want to say to Sukhvinder, in Dutch, is “zoekt and you will vinden” (Sikh and you will find).

Sukhvinder Obhi has a 39-pager on Kindle, ($10) “Neuroscience, free-will and responsibility: What do we really know?” That’s sure to set any Calvinist’s – I just love anything to do with noggins – endoctrines flowing. But 10 biggish ones?

Obhi Freedom and Responsibility

Obhi Freedom and Responsibility

Related post: Intelligence counts: Humanist and Christian practice

I’m only interested in the truth. Boring!

This is a real-life dialogue from, incidentally, a Messianic Jewish site:

Dan: I am interested only in truth, whatever the truth may be.

YR (yours rudely) – Interested only in the truth? Boring.

Dan – Interesting remark. How might “truth,” if we as humans were capable of understanding it in full, possibly be boring?

YR – How can truth be boring? Well if ain’t boring, it ain’t getting through.

James 1
16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

Reza Aslan’s “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth”

Aslan is the main character in C.S. Lewis’s seven-book series The Chronicles of Narnia. Aslan is the great Lion” in The_Lion,_the_Witch_and_the_Wardrobe,” who is the only character to appear in the whole series. Aslan is Turkish, Arabic and Farsi (and possibly some other languages) for “lion”. Lewis often capitalises the word lion when referring to Aslan, because it represents Jesus, the “Lion of Judah. “I found the name [Aslan]…it is the Turkish for Lion. … And of course I meant the Lion of Judah.” (Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, vol iii, p 160).

As Jesus was Jewish, why not use the Hebrew “Ari” (lion) for the Lion of Judah instead of the Turkish/Arabic Aslan? But that’s not Lewis.

There’s another Aslan – not a lion from Judah, or even a lion – from the United States, Reza Aslan, who has recently written the New York Times bestseller, “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.” Aslan appears in a video that has had more than 4 million views; as the catchy saying goes, “it’s gone viral.“ Is This The Most Embarrassing Interview Fox News Has Ever Done?

aslan zealot

Here is Andrew Kaczynski‘s “Buzzfeed” blurb on the interview: “Reza Aslan, a religious scholar with a Ph.D. in the sociology of religions from the University of California and author of the new book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, went on FoxNews.com’s online show Spirited Debate to promote his book only to be prodded about why a Muslim would write a historical book about Jesus.

I have transcribed an excerpt for discussion. I underline selected words. My impressions in brackets appear in italics.

Interviewer

“You’re a Muslim. So, why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity.”

(So; in other words, “why on earth!”)

Aslan

“I am scholar of religions with four degrees including one in the New Testament and fluency in biblical Greek who has even studying the origin of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim…I am an expert with degrees in the history of religions.

(who also just happens to be a Muslim. Owing to our presuppositions, there’s no such thing as total objectivity. That applies to academia – from physics to philosophy and religion. When it comes to religions that contradict one another in major areas – for example, the christian doctrine of the resurrection of Christ, which Muslims reject – presuppositions come into play as they do in other fields. So, if you’re a Muslim writing on Christianity, you’re going to write from your Islamic presuppositions. Likewise if you’ happen to be a Christian writing on Islam. Having said that, it is possible to maintain a certain objectivity in the realm of the historical record/textual criticism. Unfortunately, most people don’t know or care much about history).

Interviewer

“It still begs the question why you would be interested in the founder of Christianity.”

(Here is a definition of “Begging the question: “It is a form of logical fallacy in which a statement or claim is assumed to be true without evidence other than the statement or claim itself. When one begs the question, the initial assumption of a statement is treated as already proven without any logic to show why the statement is true in the first place.” Hang on interviewer, Aslan has indeed shown why he is interested in the founder of Christianity, to wit,“I am scholar of religions with four degrees including one in the New Testament and fluency in biblical Greek who has been studying the origin of Christianity for two decades…”)

Aslan, a soupçon of irritation in his voice, reiterates as if explaining to someone in darkest America how to use a fax machine: “See press button”):

“Because it is my job as an academic. I am (then Aslan slows down – she who has ears to listen, listen) a prof-ess-or of re-li-gions, including the New Testament. That is what I do for a living, actually. (Capiche? ). So, continues Aslan, it would be like asking a Christian why they would write a book about Islam. I’m not sure about that.

( I’m not sure about that. Aslan, you say you’re not sure why a Christian would write a book about Islam. I hope you don’t mean “why on earth would a Christian want to write a book on Islam,” as James White just did, whose book “What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an” is great. You say, Aslan, you’re not sure why a Christian would write a book about Islam. May I suggest how a Christian might answer:

I am a scholar of religions with degrees including one in the New Testament and fluency in biblical Greek and biblical Hebrew and biblical Aramaic, who has been studying the origin of Christianity for four decades. I also happen to be an expert with degrees in the history of religions. So why did I write this book on Islam? In brief, I wrote it because it is my job as an academic. And because I wanted – very important – to show that Islam is flawed. Don’t tell me that Aslan has no intention to persuade his readers that Christianity is flawed.

white koran

Aslan says in the interview that he is a Muslim and that he believes in the crucifixion of Jesus. The Qur’an states “And [for] their saying, “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah .” And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain” (Surah 4:157). While Aslan believes in the death of Jesus on the cross, which the Qur’an rejects, he disbelieves in the Virgin birth of Jesus, which the Qu’ran affirms. Aslan rejects Christian miracles of which the Virgin birth and the resurrection of Jesus are two of the most important ones. They are foolishness to those who are perishing. Aslan, the lion, with a small “l” has bitten off more than he can chew – of the Qur’an. Before he converted to “Islam” he was a Christian. That makes him double apostate. Oh well, it’s still nice to know that Aslan believes that the Lion of Judah was indeed crucified. But, alas, so do the jinn.

While there is life there is hope for Aslan; as the rabbis say: “The basis of our relationship with Hashem (the Name – God) means that the fact that we are alive means that God has hope for us. He put us here for a reason; he didn’t put us here to destroy us. so, if after we have sinned we are still alive then there is still hope for us…and we’re not lost.” (Sin in Adam and his Descendants and how to reconcile to God: Jewish “Orthodox” and Jewish “Reconstructionist” views). Yes, Yeshua haMashiach can break down any barrier.

 

Related post:

Psalm 22: Like a lion: Nothing about the lion of Judah

How much shopping can you fit on your scooter?

Here is my scooter. As the first three pictures show, there is a compartment on the back and one under the seat. I went to the food market with my knapsack.

DSC02711

DSC02712

DSC02713

Here is my medium-size knapsack

DSC02714

Here in the next two pictures is the food I bought

DSC02715

DSC02717

Here is the cash slip listing what I bought. Ten South African rands are quivalent to one American dollar.

shopping new new

Buy a scooter with a box at the back and a bucket under your seat. How do South African prices compare with your  state/country?

“Humans need something more than themselves” – John Gray: Dog

Why does the human animal need contact with something other than itself?, asks political philosopher, John N Gray.

john gray

He writes in the BBC News Magazine:

Montaigne didn’t want his animal companions to be mirrors of himself, he wanted them to be a window from which he could look out from himself and from the human world..,He understood that the good life means different things for animals with different natures. What he questioned was the idea that one kind of life, the kind humans alone can live, is always best.”

Dogs seem to be capable of showing human-like emotions of shame, but though they are more domesticated they still remain different from us. And I think it’s their differences from us, as much as their similarities, that makes them such good companions…Whatever you feel about cats and dogs, it seems clear that the human animal needs contact with something other than itself. For religious people this need may be satisfied by God, even if the God with whom they commune seems too often all-too-human..It’s also obvious thatsearching for a way of looking at the world that’s not simply human expresses a powerful human impulse.”

What birds and animals offer us is not confirmation of our sense of having an exalted place in some sort of cosmic hierarchy, it’s admission into a larger scheme of things, where our minds are no longer turned in on themselves. Unless it has contact with something other than itself, the human animal soon becomes stale and mad. By giving us the freedom to see the world afresh, birds and animals renew our humanity.”

There’s the joke of the dyslexic atheist who woke up one morning and realised that there was a dog. However, as John Gray tells it above, it may not be necessary to be dyslexic – or even a philosopher to realise that there IS a dog; but it (the dyslexic and the philosopher) does yelp. As Paul Newman said in 1956: Somedoggy up there likes me.

dog

Jean Paul Sartre’s “existence precedes essence” and Al Mohler’s Sex education in kindergarten

In the philosophy of Socrates and Plato we find the distinction between the “form” of the thing and its material composition. Another term for “form” is “essence,” which generally defines the “function” of an entity. In Plato, “forms” are realities that pre-exist entities. The term “entity” comes from the Latin ens “being.” Entities, or beings, consist of two “macrobutes” (two overarching attributes): essence and existence. For example, the essence of chair is “sitting on-ness.” The essence of the chair precedes (logically and chronologically) the chair itself.

Look, there’s Plato sittting in his chair thinking about his thinking. In most traditional philosophy, including Christian philosophy, the essence of Plato precedes his existence. This essence is his human “nature.” He comes into existence with his pre-formed human nature, his essence.

Jean Paul Sartre says, “non,” it doesn’t work this way; it mustn’t work this way, because in such a scheme human freedom is lost owing to the fact that human “nature” implies a fixety, a determinism in which man is reduced to a robot. Rationality, for Sartre, can only operate when man is totally free to think and feel what he wants, independent of any pre-existent restraints such as rules of morality, which many philosophies claim are part of the essence (nature) of man.

Here is a good description of Sartre’s “existence precedes essence.”

Jean Paul Sartre

Jean Paul Sartre

“In Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Existentialism and Human Emotions,” the author discusses the philosophical concept that existence precedes essence, a theory which involves elements of responsibility and freedom in regards to human choice. The idea that existence precedes essence means that a human being, as well as human reality, exists prior to any concepts of values or morals. A person is born a blank slate; humanity has no universal, predetermined principles or ethics common to all of mankind. Since no preformed essence or definition exists of what is means to “be human,” a person must form his/her own conception of existence by asserting control of and responsibility for his/her actions and choices. Consequently, a human being gains his/her essence through individual choices and actions. It is solely through the process of living that one defines one’s self.”

Which brings me to Al Mohler‘s “Sex education in kindergarten” (The Briefing, 28 Feb 2013).

Al Mohler

Al Mohler

Mohler discusses new US laws that cater for transgender children. In brief(s), if a boy feels that his essence is a girl, then he should be allowed to frequent the girls’ bathroom, and if a girl feels her essence is a boy, then she may use the boys’ bathroom. And if that arrangement becomes impractical (unmanageable? – peek-a-boo), then perhaps there should be transgender bathrooms.

What, though, if they change their minds later and choose to revert to their former state (essence?). And backwards and forwards: today, Arthur; tomorrow, Martha; next week, Arthur; next month Martha; in Sartrian terms, creating and recreating their essence, limited, alas, to only four options: girl, boy, birl, goy.

Setting – Kindergarten

Teacher – Martha, you said you wanted to be a boy, so why are you back in the girls’ bathroom?

Martha – Don’t call me Martha; my name – you promised! – is Arthur.

The blond and the black: Jews of (South) Africa

In Followers of Yeshua keeping Torah: What’s the pork? I wrote on the RoshPinaProject (RPP) article “Pigs become kosher when death and evil are defeated – but should Messianic Jews eat pork?”

One of the comments in he RPP article stated that I was not Jewish. Whenever anyone tells me that, I smile, because if I’m not Jewish neither is Golda Meir or the Lemba (I explain shortly). Here is the relevant conversation on RPP.

Golda Meir

Golda Meir (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[The square brackets are my appended clarifications/inferences].

Dan, a Jewish follower of Yeshua [who can't be blond]

Let me ask you [Dan is responding to someone else's comment], if you were in my place would you participate with the Mormons in their Christmas celebration, something that they asked us to do. Would you sit in their sanctuary and listen for half the night to all kind of Christmas carols and songs, knowing that they will participate in your Pesach seder? How would you feel if you have to come every Shabbat and just above where they let you keep your Torah ark there is a picture of the blond blue eyed Jesus hanging? Would you have stayed there for 2 years?”

[Me – Bography, Bog, Raphael, Refooel, chipping in]

A (picture of) blond blue-eyed Jesus – and next to Torah! Dan, there are Jews with blond hair and blue eyes recognised (halloi, Refooel) by frum rabbis. When I was much younger, I was blond; my blue eyes, though, haven’t turned colour yet. Or was it the idea of a picture (of Jesus) that was your problem?”

[Dan replies]

Sorry Bog [my user name is Bography], South Africans are not Jews….LOL! [Lots Of Love]

End of RPP conversation [RIP]

I must protest, ’cause there are indeed some Jewish Africans. Here is moi [time past] with members of the Lemba congregation; and they ARE Jewish: they have the genes to prove it. (The origins of the Lemba ‘Black Jews’ of southern Africa: evidence from p12F2 and other Y-chromosome markers).

lemba use new

As for me, I haven’t had my DNA checked for Jewish genes, but I’m not worried, the Rabbinate in Jerusalem and my two Israeli brothers know that I’m a Yid. And hey, whose fault is it I look like a Khazar – before they converted to Judaism. (The invention of Shlomo Sand – a thousand “Jews” make one Palestinian).

 

When “awesome” loses its power, compound it.

In The yuckiest word in the English language, I said that one word I absolutely hate to pieces is “awesome.” As a few Jews and Christians know, “awesome” used to mean “inspiring deep reverence and healthy fear.”

I have noticed recently, though, among the lexically challenged that “awesome” is no longer explicit enough and is beginning to pall. There is a new compound out there, with WordPress.com leading the way. Why click merely “like,” when you can boggle with “super-awesome.”

LOL

I mean LOVL (Very)

James White’s eternal doctorate: And what’s yours worth?

James White’s blog aomin.org is my favourite, especially his podcast “The Dividing Line.” Alas, owing to the haaaalidays, there have been no podcasts, and so I’ve been feeling rather forlorn.

What I want to talk about here is White’s Doctorate obtained from the unaccredited “Columbia Evangelical Seminary.” (See “Of Doctorates and eternity”

Before I talk about the besmirching of White’s degree, let me say something about degrees in general. Did you know that some accredited universities in the US accept doctoral students from certain countries and when they graduate their degree contains the stipulation that it is not valid in the US?

When I was teaching at Fort Hare University (Nelson Mandela studied there – whoopee), one of the junior lecturers in the (English) Department said he was going to the US for 18 months to do an M.A. I said to him: “Eighteen months! Why don’t you do two or three?”

I know several South African graduates from accredited British Universities, who couldn’t explain what their dissertations/theses were about, and never published, and will – if I’ve got nothing to do with it – never ever be able to publish in an accredited journal.

Back to James White. What counts, as White, correctly points out, not exactly in these words, that if you can’t DO, your piece of paper is not even worth the doo-doo you wiped it on. And James White sure can do. So all you Arminians and Muslims (now not only James, but me as well, has put his foot in it), put that in your pipe and smoke it.

But hey, James, you too are not exactly snow white. Remember that time you cocked a snook from your underground bunker at Liberty University at Ergun Caner’s PhD from the “University of South Africa.” Now, it is you who is being horrible. Of course, I know that if you knew (and knew me) that I did my teacher’s diploma and B.A. Honours (French) there, you would have been more – as the Apostle Peter admonishes – gentle and respectful.

There’s another South African University tucked away in the cute North-Western town of Potchefstroom (formerly “Potchefstroom University,” now “North West University”). As far as Christian theology goes, especially Reform theology, Potch is high up there. Ask any Dutchman. Mike Licona sometimes hangs out there.

“Mike has a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies (University of Pretoria). He completed all requirements “with distinction” and the highest marks. He is a frequent speaker on university campuses, churches, Christian groups, retreats, frequently debates, and has appeared as a guest on dozens of radio and television programs. He is a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Institute for Biblical Research, and the Society of Biblical Literature. Mike is currently the president of Risen Jesus ministries and serves as an external research collaborator, Faculty of Theology, North-West University (Potchefstroom).”

Now James, or any other (North) American, don’t diss North West University (Potch), ’cause I did my M.A. there. En passant, I also have a Ph.D. (applied linguistics – so now I am qualified to do something with it) from a South African University, the University of Cape Town. Stop it! Didn’t you know that the first successful heart transplant was done there? True, the patient, a Jewish grocer, Louis Washkansky , only lived on for 18 days.

Viva University of Cape Town, viva Potchefstroom University – and vivaaaa Columbia Evangelical Seminary. And viva all Calvinists, Jewish and otherwise.

There are only two kinds of sensitive intellectuals: You wish.

There are only two kinds of sensitive intellectuals: sensitive Jew-ish intellectuals and sensitive You-wish intellectuals.

(ISH, here, is Hebrew for “man”)

By the way Hymie, if your father is Jewish but your mother is not, the Israeli Rabbinate will not accept you as a complete Jew, that is, as a Jew ISH but merely as Jew-ish. If, however, your mother is a Jew, then you are Jew ISH.

The yuckiest word in the English language

You’re at the doctor’s.

- Open wide your mouth. Say “aaaah.

- Aaaaaaaaaah.

- Say it coupla times.

- Aaaaahhh, aaaaaaaaahhhh, aaaaaahhh

- That’s aaaaahsome. Now shuddup.

In the wide wide world or sitting in front of the TV. Make it the TV. Turn to any North American food programme or “American pickers,” or just about anything to do with feeding your eyes, your stomach or your face, and you’re sure to hear (that’s) “aaaahhhhsome.” “That 1920s coke sign is aaahhsome.”

 

coca cola sign

 

If you’re watching a non-American English programme (say British, Australian, South African) you’ll hear something else: say aaaahhh. Keep it coming out of your throat but round your lips. “Oooorsome.”

I hate that word to pieces. It was not always that way because it hasn’t been that long since all English expletives of impressiveness have been sacrificed to the gods of “Cool” and “Awesome.” As Jews and Christians know, “awesome” used to mean “inspiring deep reverence and healthy fear.”

“Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How AWESOME is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

(Genesis 28:10-17)

Sadly, even among Christians, “awesome” is used as a superlative for “cool.” And it’s not rare to find preachers using it in the pulpit: “It was awesome” (describing the “fellowship” {becoming fast another icky word} at the recent church picnic).

Hang on, think I’m going to, going to aaaahhh, aaaahhh, aaaahh TISHOOOO; all over you.

Please forgive.

Vengeance and the cartoons about Mohammed: None can change the words of Allah, except Allah, which he does

In Islam and the Book: The heart of the matter, I presented a discussion with a Muslim on the inspiration of the Quran and the Bible. The Quran states that the Hebrew and Christians scriptures (the “Book”) are divine revelation but they have both been corrupted from time immemorial and thus in Mohammed’s time no Jew or Christian – no matter how faithful to the original scriptures – had a copy of the original scriptures. The closest any Jew or Christian came to the “Book” sent down by God was, argued the Muslim, the few snippets they carried in their hearts.

I present here a specific example we discussed of the clash between the two religions on this matter: the Islamic violence unleashed on the world occasioned by the Danish cartoon of Mohammed.

(My part is in normal characters; his in italics).

- Do you agree with the violence that resulted from the silly cartoon.
- Yes. Muslims have to defend Allah’s honour.
- Why do you need to do that, can’t he defend his own honour?
- We can’t just let people do this.
- You say the Christian Bible is corrupt and only what the Quran says is true in it is really true. In my copy of the Bible it says: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19). What do you think of the idea that vengeance should be left to God. Do you think this verse is a corruption of the original “Book” sent down to the Jews and the Christians by God.
- I think it is not wrong (that vengeance be left to God).
- But then why does the Quran say “Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you” (Surah 9:123).
- You can only understand the Quran in Arabic.
- I take it that the reason why Muslims acted so violently again the cartoons is because they believe they are obeying Allah in doing so.
- Yes.
- But you said that it was not wrong for the Christian Bible to say that vengeance belonged to God alone, and now you say that Muslims are required to take vengeance on those who make fun of Mohammed.
- They are both true. What happened was that when the original (uncorrupted) Christian Bible was written, it was Allah’s will that vengeance should be left to him alone, but when Mohammed came, the Angel Gabriel revealed to him that Allah had changed, and that from Mohammed’s time onwards, it was now right to take vengeance on those who insulted Islam.

The conversation ended here. Something to do with my Muslim friend’s cat (Leo – of Judah?) causing with another cat over the wall.

I say something about the last response of my Muslim friend, namely, Allah changing his mind. The theological term for this is “abrogation.” I find this idea of abrogation odd because according to the Quran:

“No change can there be in the Words of Allah (Surah 10:64).
“There is none that can alter the Words of Allah (Surah 6:34)

Now Muslims say that Allah inspired the original Torah and Gospel (Injil), which according to my Muslim friend, have been corrupted  from time immemorial. My Muslim friend agrees that there is nothing wrong with the Christian claim that God said in their Bible that we should leave vengeance to God, but later in the Quran, he changed his mind. Yet we see in Surah 10:64 in the previous paragraph that Allah’s word can never be changed. The only conclusion I can come to is that Allah changed his mind about “No change can there be in the Words of Allah (Surah 10:64). What justification does the Muslim have for this change of “no change” to “change”? Answer: “There is none (no human beings) that can alter the Words of Allah”‘ (Surah 6:34). The upshot of these two surahs: none can change the words of Allah, except Allah, which he does.

I say a little more about the Christian position on vengeance:

The Lord does not desire to get back at those who hurt him. As Christians it is tempting to react violently, especially when you see evil all around and our neighbours insulting us. We tend to think like an unbeliever. You mess with me and I’m gonna mess with you, in spite of the evidence in scripture of Christ doing the opposite. Satan wants to win his kingdom by taking lives. He hates humanity, he hates Christ. But what does Jesus do? He lays down his life to save people.

Proverbs 20:22 – Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.
1 Peter 3:9 – Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

When we Christians are insulted or see insults to Christ in the media, we need to step back and trust God. Thirst for justice, yes, but not for revenge. It’s hard for anyone, including a Christian to do this. Trust the Lord. It is he who will avenge one day. Muslims and others are killing Christians every day. Most of us have no idea of the destruction and death perpetrated against Christians. What we must guard against is the media’s encouragement of “righteous indignation”  - which is not righteous at all – against the perpetrators.

Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

 (Jesus in) Luke 6:28

Islam and the Book: The heart of the matter

I (Raphy) meet a Muslim on are regular basis. We are very fond of one another. We were discussing the Muslim view that the Bible is corrupted. Our conversation went like this:

R – Is there anything in the existing Torah (the whole Jewish scriptures) or the Injil (NT) that Muslims accept?
M – There are bits and pieces.
R – Which ones are those?
M – The ones mentioned in the Quran.
R – The Quran says:

“It was We who revealed the Law to Moses, therein was guidance and light … and in their footsteps, We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel, therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him, a guidance and admonition to those who fear Allah. To thee (Mohammed) We sent the Scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety.” (Surah 5:47-51).

In Mohammed’s day, were there any Jews and Christians who were following the Law of Moses and the Gospel?

M – Yes.
R – Then they must have had an uncorrupted version of the Torah and Gospel.
M – No, they didn’t.
R – But then how could these Jews and Christians remain faithful to the Law of Moses and the Gospel?
M – They carried the pure Law of Moses and the Gospel in their hearts.
R – Didn’t they get it into their hearts through their heads – through words, written words, a text. Surely, there can be no Islam without a Quran; indeed, all religions depend on texts. The Quran says:

“They did not form any proper estimate of Allah when they said: ‘Allah has not revealed anything to any man.’59 Ask them: ‘The Book which Moses brought as a light and guidance for men and which you keep in bits and scraps, some of which you disclose while the rest you conceal, even though through it you were taught that which neither you nor your forefathers knew – who was it who revealed it?’ Say: ‘Allah!’- and then leave them to sport with their argumentation” (Surah 6:91).

Are you saying that the Book of Moses that Allah was referring to had become so corrupted that Jews never managed to preserve an uncorrupted version from time immemorial?

M – Only bits and pieces. Also, the Torah and the Injil were written down by human beings and so errors crept in, whereas the Quran is a pure creation of Allah with no human interference. That is why we are sure that it is free of error.

R – Why then does the Quran say this about the People of the Book?

“Dispute not with the People of the Book, save in the fairer manner, except for those of them that do wrong; and say: ‘We believe in what has been sent down to us, and what has been sent down to you; Our God and your God is One and to Him we have surrendered’” (Sura 29:45).

If Allah says “dispute not with the People of the Book” doesn’t it follow that – at the time of Mohammed – there existed a book, a written text that “has been sent down to you; Our God and your God is One and to Him we have surrendered.”

M – No; by “Book” Allah means what used to be written in the “Book” before it became corrupted, which happened long ago before anyone can remember. In Mohammed’s time, the “Book” that Allah is talking about didn’t exist as a written text; it existed in a few of the “People of the Book’s” hearts.

 

Othello’s history of the postmodern brain

I am enjoying Carl Trueman’s “History and fallacies.” Arguing against the postmodern notion that texts have no fixed meaning, he says (p.57):

“You cannot, for example, use Shakespeare’s Othello as a guide for brain surgery. At least, if your brain surgeon tells you that that is where he obtained his knowledge of surgical procedure, I would strongly recommend you ask for a second opinion.”

I agree. You’d swear someone stole them beastly postmodernists’ brains.

Othello, Act II, Scene 3

A hall in the castle.

Iago. What was he that you followed with your sword? What
had he done to you?
Cassio. I know not.
Iago. Is’t possible?
Cassio. I remember a mass of things, but nothing distinctly;
a quarrel, but nothing wherefore. O God, that men
should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away
their brains! that we should, with joy, pleasance
revel and applause, transform ourselves into beasts!

The cult of options and the paradox of choice: Monkey business

In his “Fools Rush In where Monkeys Fear to Tread,” Carl Trueman refers to Mark Dever’s (pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church) fulminations “against what he sees as the ”cult of options’ that is so important for young people today. In essence, the cult of options is the desire to keep all life options open, of not making commitments that close down possibilities in the future. Arguably, this is a function of a consumer society where choice is exalted as a virtue; it is perhaps particularly ingrained in America where even the education system allows for options to be kept open even to university level, ln Britain, at least in my day, you limited your academic subjects to three at the age of sixteen, and thus the fundamental choice – arts or sciences – was made very early on, Against this cult of options, Mark argues strongly for committing oneself early to particular things and thus cutting off the temptation to choose and to drift and to drift and to choose throughout life.”

Trueman asks whether it is possible in such a willy-nilly dilly-dally society to produce responsible leaders, for a leader has to be able to make decisions. Mark Dever’s diatribe reminds me of Barry Schwartz’s TED talk on “The paradox of choice” where he argues with panache that the more options we have in life, the more miserable we are.

Don’t be a monkey; Barry Schwartz is not a Calvinist; he’s Jewish. Oops, I’m both! Or is it all three?

My son wins gold: From this Olympian moment, my life is plain sailing; thank you Zeus.

Being a South African citizen, I am naturally proud of how well our swimmers are doing, having achieved two gold medals, and one of them pipping Michael Phelps to the post. Surely, the gods of Olympus must have been smiling down on Cameron van der Burgh and Chad Le clos. It is reported that:

Chad le Clos’s father is being called ‘the winner of the Olympics’ after giving a hilarious and heartfelt interview to the BBC following his son’s remarkable victory in the pool.
 As Le Clos stepped up to the podium to receive his gold medal for the 200m butterfly, his emotional father was becoming a hero in his own right. 
Gazing over his shoulder at Chad, Bert le Clos told an amused BBC interviewer to ‘look at him, he’s beautiful’ while pointing out how fat he himself was.
 ‘I have never been so happy in my life, it’s indescribable,’ said Bert. ‘It’s like I have died and gone to heaven. Whatever happens in my life from now on is plain sailing.’”

So, Christians, eat your heart out; and now will you give Zeus a chance! As smiling Bert intimates, reconciliation with the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ and eternal life compared to how he feels right now is nugatory. As the saying goes better the nugget round your neck than…or something like that.

Afer all, what’s more precious than gold?

“The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.” (Psalm 119:72).

C’mon Bert, reach beyond the sky.

Later. Someone typed in a search engine: “chad le clos jewish.” No, Chad never attended chader (Hebrew School). He’s an African, silly. Don’t you know your geography. Somewhere near Timbuktu. Hopefully at least one Jewish boy, or girl, will bring home gold. Keep ‘em peeled.

The fly in the cup: a lesson from the Hadith by Nadir Ahmed to Robert Morey

In “Orthodox” Judaism there is the Written Torah and the Oral Torah, which are both considered as divine revelation. In Islam, there is the analogous Q’uran (Koran) and Hadith. Many (if not all) Muslims regard the Hadith of Sahih al-Bukhari as divine revelation. Dr Robert Morey has made a deep study of Islam, and maintains that it is, at best, inauthentic. In his books and lectures he is very critical of the Hadith, specifically Sahih al-Bukhari. I must say that it is hard (for a non-Muslim) to believe much that appears in both the Q’uran and the Hadith(s). Here is an example on the fly.

In his “Ladies and gentlemen, we got him: Dr. Robert Morey: Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?”, Nadir Ahmed throws out this modest challenge:

“If Dr. Robert Morey can show us the proof for the following statements, which he made in his lecture at the Calvary Chapel San Bernardino… he will receive:

$500.00 U.S. dollars!

Here, says Ahmed, is Morey’s “lie #4″

The hadeeth which Dr. Robert Morey is referring to DOES NOT teach “drink it with the fly”. This is a pure concoction, rather the hadeeth states:

Volume 4, Book 54, Number 537:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet said “If a house fly falls in the drink of anyone of you, he should dip it (in the drink), for one of its wings has a disease and the other has the cure for the disease.”

My comment:

When the Hadith says “If a house fly falls IN the drink of anyone of you” the “in” must mean merely on the surface or close to the surface of the drink, for if the fly had fallen deeper down, there would be no need to DIP it IN the drink. But let’s not occupy our minds with how deep the fly falls into the drink. Deep or shallow, Ahmed is indeed affirming with Morey that the Hadith says that the drink contains both the disease (from one wing) and the cure (from the other wing) of our fly.

It’s no good, alas, me suggesting that we should not bother with the fly once he’s deposited his potion-poison, because Ahmed insists that (the Hadith is saying?) the fly has to go, whereas Morey (the liar!) is “insisting” a little bit of protein can only be good for you. Can we be sure that the drinker was directed to remove the fly before he drank; a fat lot of difference that would have made to the point the Hadith was making.

What is that point? “When it comes to flies, one man’s meat is the same man’s poison.” Or has it got something to do with not to worry too much about that fly; do what you will with it (I suppose they were hard to avoid in Mohammed’s day). The main thing (and I don’t see why Ahmed should object) is, you can indeed have your concoction AND drink it – protein ‘n all.

The “Sahih” in Sahih al-Bukhari means “authentic.” So, Muslims better believe what is written in his Hadith – as the word of God. I ask the Muslim, how can such nonsense be the word of God? How can you believe that these are the words of the God of the Abraham of the “Book.”

Greece and the Vatican: The Irony in Western civilisation

Commemorative stamp of Greece, The First Olymp...

Commemorative stamp of Greece, The First Olympic Games (1896): Wikipedia)

Greece, the cradle of Western civilisation, will in modern times perhaps bring about, ironically, European (and all of Western?) civilisation’s downfall. “Downfall?” you may ask. Surely, civilisation is much more than economics.

True, but unless a civilisation can feed its face, civility withers away, and with it much of its cultural accoutrements. But all may not be lost;  there will still remain the Kingdom of iron – Rome; more specifically, the Vatican – to iron out the Olympian Mess.

Deutsch: Emblem des Pontifikats English: emble...

(In the book of book of Daniel, the Kingdom of iron appears to be Rome).

Enjoy the Olympics.

Thinking about thinking mystically: the cat with at least nine Dads

Misty and Sammy, two kitties, and their parents live in a duplex. Sammy has one Dad and one Mom. Misty, “ee-ee” (term of endearment), in contrast, has several Dads, at least nine. They fall into two groups: the downstairs Dads and the upstairs Dads.

Sammy

Downstairs, there’re the standing-up-downstairs Dad, the sitting-down-downstairs Dad, the lying-down-downstairs-Dad and the lying-down-very quietly-downstairs-reading Dad.

Misty on "her" memory foam mattress

Upstairs there’s the leaning-over-the-bed-to-kootchie-me Dad, the lying-down-very still-with-no-ipad-on-lap Dad, and a few more Dads in different stages of position and transition. I forgot, there’s also the Not-upstairs-not-downstairs Dad, namely, the going-up-the-stairs Dad. The latter Dad is Misty’s worst. Why worst, what’s so bad about Dad going up the stairs? Well, he’s not just the going-up-the-stairs Dad but the going-up-the-stairs-only-in-his-underpants IN-THE-DARK Dad.

What made me think of Misty is the book I am reading at this very mo called “The cradle of thought by Peter Hobson, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at University College London. On page 1, he writes:

“Just think … and you will realize how remarkable thinking is. In thinking about thinking , or even (on simpler level) in thinking about whether to read on, you are doing something that no other species but ours can do.”

{The lying-down-very quietly-downstairs-reading Dad is thinking: “They call ‘thinking about thinking’metacognition.’ So when I’m thinking about Hobson thinking about thinking about thinking, then, I’m meta-meta-meta-meta-thinking.”}

What on earth does Hobson mean by “No other species but ours can [think]!” True, Misty can’t read signs like words but she can sure read other signs. How else would she know whether to stay put downstairs safe in the crook of Mommy’s soft arm resting on the even softer and spongy arm of the comfiest Lazyboy in the world OR to go upstairs for her tenth rest for the day on “her” memory-foam mattress?

Misty on arm of Lazyboy with Marmee

“I’m comfortable in Mommy’s crook but I think I might need to go upstairs where I can stretch better. But look meeeeeeeeeeuuuuuuuu! What’s that on the stairs? It’s it’s my going-up-in-his-underpants IN-THE-DARK Dad! Marmeeeee!!

Misty with her Kootchie-upstairs Dad: "Genuine communication could not take place without a background of sharing" (Hobson, p. 259).

Here is Hobson’s final  thought (p. 274, Pan books Paper Back Edition):

“The infant has been lifted out of the cradle of thought. Engagement with others has taught this soul to fly.”‘

The infant has been lifted out of the cradle of thought. Engagement with Misty has taught this soul to fly.

I remember Mollusc Mania with a little help from Carlos Montoya’s farruca

Carlos Montoya: One for the thumb, one for the index, one for the middle, and one for the ring finger

Yesterday, while preparing for my debut public flamenco performance of the farruca – as accompaniment to my daughter, Rushka, I was watching Carlos Montoya’s hands shimmering through the farruca. I flashed back several decades to the “Space” theatre in Long Street Cape Town where I performed in a show called “Mollusc Mania” based on Gus Ferguson‘s book of poetry (1978) “Snail morning.” Gus and Jenny Pichanick were also in the show; Jenny directed, while I drekted.

Gus and Jenny recited most of the poetry, while I sang, played the guitar and also did a few poems, one with Jenny called “Gastropoda.” Jenny did the poem and I followed with a description of a flatulent inflated yiddishe snail Montgolfier;  ascending and “descanting,” through my descant recorder and the snail’s shfinkta.

Montgolfier Balloon

But enough of versatile me and to the very talented Jenny Pichanick. She didn’t just recite the poems. It wasn’t merely a poetry reading. One of the poems was the mournful “Shellancolia,” which required many dramatic effects. Jenny was marvelous.

After the show, my sister Sonia – she is now in her eighties and lives in Highlands House, a Jewish retirement home in upper Cape Town – went up to Jenny and said:

“You were wonderful…the way you this and the way you that; and, and and – the way you remembered your wooooooorrrrrds!
And I say to Carlos, the way you this and the way you that —- and and and – the way you moved your fingerrrrrrrrrrs!

A woman of the first order of human talent: Madame de Staël

“MADAME de Staël, writes a 19th century reviewer of her “Complete Works,” was not only the most remarkable woman of her time, but is in one respect strikingly distinguished above all her sex. She is, perhaps, the only woman whom a majority of competent judges would place in the first order of human talent.” (The Foreign Quarterly Review, Vol 14 1834, London).

She was also the bugbear of the Napoleonic regime and told what she could or could not write. Here is one example of the censor’s scissors:

She must not say that “un homme peut faire marcher ensemble les elemen(t)s opposés, mais à sa mort ils se séparent.”

(Translation: A man may succeed to live a contradictory life but at his death these opposing elements fall asunder).

The implication is the goats will be separated from the sheep. The secular regime weren’t into divine husbandry.

So, “the only woman whom a majority of competent judges would place in the first order of human talent,” hey. Wha’ abou’ George? “Was that Madame de Staël’s hubby?” But I forget, George was only about 15 when the review was written.

George Eliot

Thank you for the moonshine: A prayer

When I was about 15 years old, I was at boarding school in Wellington, South Africa, the base of the great missionary and Bible teacher, Andrew Murray Jr.

 

After evening studies, we had “bid uur” (prayer time) in the 12-bed dormitory.

 

 There were never more than three-four Jews at the boarding school in any specific year, and only a small resident Jewish community in the town of about 30-40 families. I joined in the evening prayers before dinner. One evening, about six of us were kneeling on either side of the bed, facing one another.

One of the Afrikaner boys prayed: “Thank you for the sunshine and the moonshine” (Dankie vir die sonskyn en die maanskyn). Trying to preserve decorum, I almost split both gullet and groin. For years after, I told the story of the silly boy who thanked God for the moonshine because he didn’t know what to thank God for after the sunshine.

Blessed of the Lord be his land. . .

for the precious fruits brought forth

by the sun, and for the precious things

put forth by the moon. Deut. 33:13—14

Hmmm.

(See School years after the Orphanage: Wellington)

 

Moon landing: The strong leg of Neil Armstrong

Here is another one of my lessons from 2005, at Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat, Oman. The students were doing a year of preparatory English before they entered the faculties.

05 December

In the morning lesson today with my students, the topic was the Space Race. Neil Armstrong was, naturally, mentioned. One of the lines in the text was “one step for a man, a giant leap for mankind.”

The reason, I “explained,” why Armstrong was chosen to be the first to walk on the moon was not because his arms were strong but because his legs were strong. They had to be strong to avoid Armstrong buckling under his legs when he touched down on the surface of the moon.

I then asked one of the students to tell me why Armstrong was famous. She replied: “He was first man to step his leg on the moon.”

Don’t touch my heart; you might broke it

I have created a new category called “Motley Brew”  - a miscellany of thoughts..

Motley refers to the traditional costume of the court jester, or the harlequin character in commedia dell’arte. The latter wears a patchwork of red, green and blue diamonds. (Wiki).

Here is my first entry.

Between 2004-2006 I taught English at Sultan Qaboos University in Oman. In one lesson, I got the students to divide in pairs and write a dialogue on the theme of giving to charity. They were provided with a set of phrases they could use. One of these was “touch my heart”.

The one pair of students asked to present the dialogue in front of the whole class – very unusual in this part of the world. One of them was called Yousef (Joseph). He didn’t only talk, but acted the part. One of his lines was: ” I don’t want to touch somebody’s heart because I might broke it.”

Who worries about grammar when such tenderness, poetry and beauty abound. At the same time, ain’t it sad?