Thursday, March 26, 2015

Privileged Species

Dr. Michael Denton is a British-Australian biochemist with a PhD from King's College London. I first read of Dr. Michael Denton some twenty years ago when I was questioning the credibility of Darwinism. I had discovered Darwinism and Intelligent Design (ID) could not both be true. Either one or both of them are wrong. In other words, Theistic Evolution is pretty much an oxymoron -- although I held that view while I was in college since I didn't know any better at the time. Darwinism certainly has the most advocates among the atheist intelligentsia running the scientific communities and institutions of higher learning, but truth isn't determined by majority opinion or a court of law, although the Darwinists like to trot out the Dover Trial as evidence their theory is correct. Court cases don't determine scientific truth, and sometimes not even truth at all as the O.J. Simpson case seemed to indicate.

Majority opinion changes in science. Not too long ago, the majority of the scientific community favored the steady state theory of the universe (i.e. no beginning), but today any scientist who doesn't agree with the "standard model" of Big Bang cosmology is marginalized out of the mainstream, or outright mocked as a fool. I believe within 75 to 150 years we'll look back on Darwinism the same way we do today on steady state theorists. Darwinism has been under increasing fire since at least 1985 when Denton first wrote Evolution: A Theory in Crisis.

The video below and its companion Privileged Species website is part of the ongoing work of Dr. Michael Denton to help Darwinists out of their delusions. Denton might not use that sort of language, but I do. The Theory of Evolution as Darwin proposed it has been altered by the NeoDarwinists to try and patch it up, but even that is insufficient to make it solid. Intelligent Design just makes more sense, and has more explanatory power. But as we saw in the Dover Trial, the Christians promoting Special Creation as a scientific approach through the wedge of Intelligent Design are doing a disservice to ID. Properly understood, Intelligent Design Theory is not a "God of the gaps" argument, nor does it speak to abiogenesis or what the intelligent agent might be. It is an honest recognition that we see actual design in nature, not just apparent design that must be explained away through the magic pixie dust of "millions of years" of unobserved evolution.

If you're a NeoDarwinist who believes ID is not a scientific theory, I challenge you to show me observable evidence of Darwinism happening. Darwinism is no more scientific than ID unless you define "scientific" as "what scientists believe." I've never seen Darwinism happen, and neither have you. Nobody has. Ever. Darwinism is essentially a claim about history. It is a proposal about what allegedly happened over "millions of years" of random variation in biological life where unguided Natural Selection preserved organisms most fit for survival. No new life forms have ever been observed to appear in an experiment proving the Darwinian hypothesis. Adaptations, yes. New life forms, no. Not one. Never. Last I checked, science was about observation, not history. The dogma of Darwinism is merely one story about how to explain the billions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth. It is the story most scientists believe about how that stuff got there, but it isn't the only story, and arguably not even the best or truest one.

Humans have used "directed evolution" in dogs and other domestic animals to create incredible diversity within those kinds of life forms by selecting traits intentionally, but there is no evidence the diversity of life we see today in nature has "evolved" by descent from a common ancestor through the unguided aid of natural selection. The idea that micro evolution (adaptation) results in macro evolution (new life forms) given enough time is an unproven hypothesis supported by data fitting of the fossil record.

What we actually observe in experiments and through experience is bounding within types. Today, horse races are won by hundredths of a second because through selective breeding we've made horses just about as fast as they can go based on their biological design. The observable evidence shows natural selection is bounded, unless you appeal to magic pixie dust of "millions of years" where nobody was there to observe it.

So, I take the position of the atheist when it comes to Darwinian evolution. I don't see it, so I don't believe in it. Show me, then I'll believe. In fact, I believe the evidence for the existence of God is more compelling than the evidence for Darwinism, and that is where worldviews collide. Darwinism is what atheists need to be intellectually fulfilled, at least according to Richard Dawkins. The atheists know this which is why they argue so vociferously for Darwinism and use political power and the courts to keep dissenting opinions quiet to the detriment of scientific progress. You can tell how committed an atheist is to atheism by how vigorously they defend Darwinism. They quickly move away from the scientific approach of detached incredulity and move toward a passionate diatribe often seen in religious battles. Just try talking to an atheist about origins, and you'll soon see what I mean. Darwinism is ultimately the religion of atheism. It is a religion in the sense that it answers the same questions as other religions.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Beyond Atheistic Perception

In materialistic terms, human beings can be described as carbon-based biological life-forms with five highly specified sensor systems on board. Our highly developed meat computers, a.k.a. the human brain, manage these five sensor systems (sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste) which allow us to perceive the cosmos around us while we think, will, emote, and act. This is what we are from the perspective of scientific naturalism. However, this description is still grossly lacking in explaining the human experience.

While the human biological machine is truly amazing, it is incredibly limited and finite. We exist on the razor's edge of a tiny piece of rock hurling around a small star out in the corner of a single galaxy in a very fine-tuned universe. If gravity was much greater (or less), or if the temperature range on the surface of the planet was more drastic due to even relatively small changes in the atmosphere, or if any similar small changes in the dozens of factors in the fine-tuning of the universe were different, we could not exist at all. The fact that we do exist seems incredibly improbable if this universe is all there is, and as far as we know from a materialist perspective this universe is all there is.

And that is the rub: As far as we know. We simply don't know a whole lot, at least not until very recently. Our built-in sensor systems are simply not that robust. Just take human sight, for example. The human eye can only see light between the wavelengths of 390 and 700 nanometers. We call this the "visible spectrum" because it is the only portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that a human eye can detect. Humanity didn't even know about non-visible electromagnetic radiation until 1800 when William Herschel discovered infrared light, so it is only in the last two hundred or so years that we were even aware of things like gamma rays, x-rays, ultra-violet light, microwaves, and radio waves. Before Herschel, all that stuff was beyond our perception.

This article would be too long if I got into the discovery of quantum mechanics, general and special relativity, and the DNA double-helix which are extremely recent discoveries, all pretty much in the last one hundred or so years. These four discoveries alone totally and radically changed our understanding of matter, space, time, and biological life. If you consider the last 100 years in the overall course of recorded human history of roughly 5,000 years, it has only been in this most recent 2% of recorded history that we learned about all this stuff. (If you believe the Darwinists, this is in the most recent 0.05% of human history since Darwinism might argue humans have been around for 200,000 years, but I digress.) Bottom line is for all but the most recent few years of human existence most of what we know today about physical reality was beyond our perception.

So, if all this stuff has been beyond our perception, what makes an atheist so sure that there is no God (or gods) out there beyond their perception? How can someone be so sure that God does not exist when for 98%, or 99.95% for the Darwinists, of human history we didn't know much of anything about the physical reality around us? What blows my mind is that otherwise intelligent people (a.k.a. atheists) disbelieve in the possibility of discovering God (or gods) when their supposedly scientific world view is based on discovery! The atheist mind does not welcome the possibility their human sensor systems have been unable to detect a God that transcends the natural realm. That level of inquiry is carefully carved out as off limits by an ad hoc assumption that the material realm is all there is of reality, and that (false) assumption is easily disproven. When it comes to the idea of God, the atheist mind snaps shut like a steel trap.

And that trap snap is just at the mention of the philosophical arguments for the existence of God. If you happen to venture into the topic that a philosophically possible God has been revealed in the best selling book of all time, pretty much every atheist will weave and dodge that evidence like a professional dodge ball player. That doesn't seem too "free thinking" to me. If you want evidence, dig in. Christianity is different from every other belief system. There is nearly 2,000 years of scholarship to examine, give or take a couple centuries for the dark ages where it was Christian monasteries that preserved knowledge. Take a look at the cartoon below to see how Christianity differs in simple terms from every other religion.

The unwavering faith the faithful disbelievers (a.k.a. atheists) have in Darwinism is stunning. The average Christian pales in their faithfulness as compared to the average atheist. According to perhaps the most famous atheist on the planet today, Richard Dawkins, "Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist." [The Blind Watchmaker (1986), p. 6] If you discount atheists who have a predisposed penchant for the dogma of Darwinism, which includes a large portion of the scientific community which is disproportionately atheist, pretty much every other thinking person on the planet understands what Intelligent Design looks like. If you see a wrist watch laying on the beach, you don't think all those parts just randomly came together out of the primordial ooze of the ocean by chance over billions of years. You know there was an intelligent watchmaker involved in designing and making the watch. Even a five year old understands this without any formal schooling.

You have to be a highly trained scientist like Richard Dawkins to unlearn this human intuition, plus you have to go to extraordinary lengths to explain away reason with the pixie dust of "billions of years" and fairy tales about amoebas evolving into higher life forms which eventually evolve into the lower primates and then finally homo sapiens. It goes against all rationality considering the complex design of the inner workings of a single cell, much less the highly developed carbon-based biological life-forms with five highly specified sensor systems on board. But, I guess if you need a reason to not believe in God, any silly reason will do. Never mind the possibility that perhaps God is just beyond the perception of the atheist like pretty much all of modern scientific understanding for 99.95% of human history, to use the Darwinists' numbers.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Why I Remain a Christian

I was raised in a Christian home. My parents took me to a Southern Baptist Church. I believed what I was taught because the people who cared about me had no reason to lie to me, and I had no good reason to not believe them. I asked a lot of questions, and many times that led to frustration as I didn't get satisfactory answers. However, the lack of satisfactory answers from the church and my family wasn't sufficient for me to kick God to the curb permanently. Fast forward 18 years from my birth.

When I was a freshman in college my parents got divorced. That shattered my worldview. I basically walked away from God and the church for a number of years. I didn't become an atheist. I just stopped asking the hard questions. I preferred hedonism, so I followed the advice of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 8:15. For the most part, I didn't have anything to do with God or religion as that would have interfered with my party lifestyle. I didn't bother reading Solomon's conclusions in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 because I was selfish and wanted to do whatever I wanted to do without some Cosmic Killjoy getting in my way. Fast forward another 10 years.

I got married, and I got divorced. I was raised in a loving home, and I'm very thankful for that, but I managed to unconsciously reproduce the same dysfunction modeled in my parents' 25 year marriage into my own four year "starter" marriage. What can I say? I'm a fast-track overachiever. When I remarried, my childish party life came to a halt because my wife had two sons from a prior marriage, and then we had a son of our own. My boys are 18, 21, and 24 now, but back then I had a bun in the oven, a two year old, and five year old. All of a sudden I had a lot of responsibilities that limited my selfish behavior. Growing up tends to do that. I learned a lot of painful lessons, and I'm still living out some of those consequences. But my most important discovery back in the mid 1990s was I had no idea what to teach my boys about God.

Did God really exist? What did I really believe? After living as a hedonist (i.e. selfishly) in one of the top ten most materialistic cities on the planet (Dallas, Texas), I realized I had no idea what I really believed other than the so-called "American Dream" which is to get a good education, get a good job, make a lot of money, and teach your kids to do the same thing so everyone can have an ever increasing standard of living. In a nutshell: (1) get all you can, (2) can all you get, (3) and sit on the can.

When you don't know what to do, a lot of times you go with what you know. I knew Christianity. I was raised in it, but I mistakenly believed I had to check my brain at the door to be a Christian. My college major was physics, and I thought I had learned critical thinking skills in college, but the truth is I had been thoroughly indoctrinated with Darwinism and secular humanism at the Presbyterian liberal arts college I attended. I had to unwind a lot of nonsense to really figure out what the facts were when it comes to issues of origin of both humanity and the universe itself.[1]

What I discovered is that I am passionate about the truth. Truth is my highest value. If Christianity is not true, I don't want any part of it. So, I set out on a quest to figure out if Christianity could be trusted as being truthful. I asked a lot of hard questions. I did a lot of study. I read the Bible carefully from cover to cover for the first time, and I looked into some other worldviews as well. After evaluating the evidence, it became clear to me that Christianity's core claim that Jesus was God was either the biggest lie ever foisted upon the human race, or it was true. The evidence as I understood it stacked in favor of Jesus being who he claimed to be, so to this day I am still a Christian.

Over the last 25 years, I discovered I don't have to surrender my brain or my physics degree to maintain a Biblical worldview. That doesn't mean I don't have any questions or that everything makes perfect sense. And I'm far from perfect. I'm a work in progress as is my understanding of who God is, and what that means. There are still a lot of areas where I have questions like the age of the earth, but I believe Intelligent Design (ID) has better explanatory power than Darwinism when it comes to the origins of life, and the Big Bang proved scientifically that the Bible was right all along that the universe had a beginning. At the risk of my atheist friends saying "I told you so," it is only a small step from ID and a universe with a beginning to theism. The step from theism to Christianity is relatively simple once you conquer the Biblical text, which I admit is no small thing. It is over 750,000 English words, and if you want to do some deep digging you need to do at least a little spade work with ancient Hebrew and Koine Greek. But it has been worth the effort in my experience.

I still live in one of the most materialistic cities on the planet, which ironically is sometimes considered the buckle of the Bible Belt. It is an interesting juxtaposition of worldviews. Many people who live around me claim to be Christians, but only a small number of them actually submit their lives to Jesus Christ. Even fewer have their belief anchored by evidence to the point they can give a reasoned answer for why they believe what they claim they believe. I don't think there is anything necessarily wrong with someone who professes to be a Christian based on a personal experience, but I remain a devoted follower of Jesus Christ for primarily one reason: The evidence is clear Jesus is who he claimed to be. If that one fact is objectively true, then anyone who follows any other man, method or manner is a fool. And I don't want to be a fool. 

[1] My alma mater was established in 1849 and is the oldest institution of higher learning in Texas operating under its original charter and name. Austin College was modeled after the colleges and universities established before the Civil War in the United States, and many of these institutions were initially set up to train ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Today those same institutions are bastions of progressive liberalism with primarily atheist-leaning faculties, so this isn't just an indictment of my alma mater. It is just as bad or worse at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and the rest of the old Ivy League.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Bible Languages

Source:  http://www.biblica.com/en-us/bible/bible-faqs/in-what-language-was-the-bible-first-written/

The first human author to write down the biblical record was Moses. He was commanded by God to take on this task, for Exodus 34:27 records God's words to Moses, "Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel." And what language did he use? He wrote in his native language, called Hebrew.

[DiscoverTruth Comment:  Personally, I believe Adam was the first person to write down the biblical record, and Moses probably compiled prior writings based on the textual evidence.]

Hebrew is one of a group of languages known as the Semitic languages which were spoken throughout that part of the world, then called Mesopotamia, located today mainly in Iraq. Their alphabet consisted of 22 letters, all consonants. (Imagine having an alphabet with no vowels! Much later they did add vowels.)

During the thousand years of its composition, almost the entire Old Testament was written in Hebrew. But a few chapters in the prophecies of Ezra and Daniel and one verse in Jeremiah were written in a language called Aramaic. This language became very popular in the ancient world and actually displaced many other languages. Aramaic even became the common language spoken in Israel in Jesus' time, and it was likely the language He spoke day by day. Some Aramaic words were even used by the Gospel writers in the New Testament.

The New Testament, however, was written in Greek. This seems strange, since you might think it would be either Hebrew or Aramaic. However, Greek was the language of scholarship during the years of the composition of the New Testament from 50 to 100 AD. The fact is that many Jews could not even read Hebrew anymore, and this disturbed the Jewish leaders a lot! So, around 300 BC a translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek was undertaken, and it was completed around 200 BC. Gradually this Greek translation of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint, was widely accepted and was even used in many synagogues. It also became a wonderful missionary tool for the early Christians, for now the Greeks could read God's Word in their own tongue.

So the New Testament authors wrote in Greek. They did not, however, use really high-class or classical Greek, but a very common and everyday type of Greek. For many years some scholars ridiculed the Greek of the New Testament because many of its words were strange to those who read the writings of the great Greek classical authors such as Plato and Aristotle. But later many records were uncovered of ordinary people, and amazingly there were the same common terms used in everyday speech! The ridicule dried up accordingly.

The earliest copies of parts of the Hebrew Old Testament were discovered in 1947. They are part of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls and actually date back to the first century BC. Even though they are at least 900 years older than any parts of the Bible we had before this, they are not the originals. They are copies. The originals have all been lost or destroyed. But we are not at all doubtful that we may not have the original text. Copying by scribes was done with great care in those days and because the text was regarded as sacred, the copyists were extremely painstaking. Today some 5000 hand-copied documents exist of all or part of the Bible, and they agree in 98% of the text! No other ancient writing has this amount of underlying support with such amazing agreement as to the text.

Yes, we do have what God wanted us to have! By way of translation, we now have His revelation in our own language and in 2300 other languages, too. Today we have the very Bible that comes to us from the three languages used in the original. Truly we can say, "God speaks my language, too!"

Manage, Lead, or Coach

I'm in the software development business. Software development in corporations is a team sport, and most teams aren't very good. For the past 25 years, here in the Dallas, Texas, area I've seen the same companies and organizations (at least the ones that are still in business) flounder around while trying to build better software. A lot of the companies I worked with 15 and 20 years ago are gone. Bankrupt. Obsolete. Merged. Acquired. They became irrelevant, or simply couldn't keep up with the pace of change in the technology marketplace. The few companies that are still around aren't doing that much better at building software. Building large software systems is incredibly complex.

Over the past 10-15 years, a new way of thinking has emerged in software development. This new way of thinking is frequently called "Agile" which is an umbrella term for building software in a manner different from the traditional "Waterfall" style. I'm already in the weeds here, so let me back up. The principles of Agile software development are just that - principles. Solomon was right: "There is nothing new under the sun." Agile isn't new, as much as it is taking good principles and applying them differently. Some of the distinctives of Agile thinking are around management, leadership, and coaching. I read this in a LinkedIn post, and thought it was insightful enough to put here so I can go back and reference it. I know some of the industry jargon below might not make sense to those not in the Agile world, but the principles are still applicable. (Note: Scrum is a style of Agile practice.)

Question: So, How does a Scrum Master coach and not Manage?

Answer:

When I get asked this question, I usually respond:
  • A leader tells you what we're doing and why we're doing it.
  • A manager tells you what to do and how to do it.
  • A coach shows you how to do it and why it's important.
In most organizations, people are under-led and over-managed. That is to say, they get told a lot of what to do and how to do it, but not given the benefit of context (the why). The result is people feel demotivated and may not fully engage with the task at hand. Also, the micromanagement style (I know how to do this better than you, so I'm going to tell you how I want you to do it) is a problem that prevents Scrum from taking hold in many organizations.

When you think about coaching, it's not just teaching the how and the why. It is also offering support. The biggest difference between a Scrum Master and a Project Manager is that the Project Manager works for the stakeholders, and the Scrum Master works for the team. The Project Manager says, "We're behind schedule guys, we're gonna need to work extra hours" then gets a pat on the back for "cracking the whip." The Scrum Master says, "I will relentlessly own anything that is in the way of us reaching our goal, and I will do anything to help make the team more successful."

Servant Leadership is not the same as Management

Answer courtesy of Tirrell Payton.

Criticism

"No one so thoroughly appreciates the value of 
constructive criticism as the one who is giving it."

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Open Letter

Mr. Achenbach,

I just read with interest your article on "Why Science is So Hard to Believe" from the Washington Post, which was sent to me by a friend who works for the National Science Teachers Association.  The comments were closed. I thought I'd send my comments directly to you since I couldn't comment on the article online. I very much appreciate your perspective, but one reason why science is so hard to believe is all the unscientific propaganda that is passed off as science - particularly Darwinism. 

The so called "Evolutionists" have had a grip on science since the early 1900s, and better theories have not received the proper attention. We know from information science, probability, and micro-biology that the incredible design inside a cell defies self-created order through random chance. Darwin couldn't see inside a cell, but if he had been able to see all the machinery, I doubt he would have proposed his theory. However, the (neo) Darwinists still promote a fairy tale that the pixie dust of "billions of years" and complete random chance of "natural selection" explain what we see as "apparent" design today. Nonsense. Go here for details:

http://elenburg.blogspot.com/2014/12/intelligent-design.html

Intelligent Design (ID) Theory is maligned as some sort of "God of the gaps" argument from creative Creationists. That simply isn't true. It is a lame guilt-by-association ploy by Darwinists who are loathe to give up their broken theory for something with better explanatory power, usually because giving up Darwinism would prevent them from being intellectually fulfilled atheists as Richard Dawkins said in his book The Blind Watchmaker (p. 6).

As we've seen with other scientific paradigm shifts, the old guard needs to die off in order for the new and better science to replace it. In the mean time, we're left with lousy science posing as truth. I guess in that sense the Darwinists are right that survival of the fittest (idea) will eventually prevail, but their grip on the power structures and political positions in the scientific community is harming overall scientific progress. The division over Darwinism vs. ID is just as bad as the controversy in climate science and just as harmful to real scientific inquiry. Rather than let the best ideas surface, the Darwinists file law suits trying to keep ID out of schools. What are they so scared of?

Best Regards,
Dennis Elenburg
Sachse, TX

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Daylight Savings Time Kills

I'll admit upfront that I think daylight savings time is silly. However, I now have observable evidence that it is deadly. I live in suburbia. We have a lot of little critters that live in our neighborhood. Mainly squirrels and rabbits, but also the occasional snake, skunk, and opossom. These little neighborhood critters are out and about in the morning dawn as I drive to the gym for my early morning workout.

The last couple of days I've noticed more than the usual amount of road kill, and then twice this week I've had near misses on a squirrel and rabbit. It then occurred to me. Nobody sent a memo to the animal kingdom about the foolishness we call daylight savings time! All of a sudden, the animal kingdom is invaded with hordes of suburbanites driving along the animal crossing zones on their way to work an hour earlier than they were the week before. The insanity! Did Mr. Squirrel set his clock ahead? What about Mr. Rabbit? So, all you clock tinkerers, call your congressman! Let's get rid of daylight savings time if for no other reason than to save the little creatures who don't get the memo and forget to set their clocks ahead only to get run over on their morning routine.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

BibleTrans.info

I've known Dr. Tom Pittman for more than 20 years. Tom is slightly famous for his $5 TinyBasic Interpreter, which was used by computer hobbyists in the 1970s, and for his book on the The Art of Compiler Design, which has been used as a text book at colleges and universities. For the past 20 years, Tom has put a lot of thought and effort into solving the problem of speeding up the process of Bible translation.

Problem: There are roughly 1,500 languages in the world representing about 180 million people who have no Bible in their native tongue, not even one single verse! Bible translators map the concepts and meaning from the original source texts of the Bible into the target languages to create a readable translation. Doing a Bible translation into just one unreached language is a huge commitment, and it often consumes the majority of the working career of one or more Bible translators. Tom came up with a better way.

Watch the 2 minute video below for the quick summary. 

Solution: Bible translation is a unique translation problem because there is a single source text. Tom's insight is that we can do the difficult task of understanding that source text *once* by encoding the Greek concepts in a computer using the Louw & Nida Semantic Domain Lexicon, which is essentially a dictionary of all the concepts in the New Testament. Once this semantic encoding is done, we will be able to quickly produce first cut translations of the entire New Testament once the mapping of the grammar is done by a translator that knows the target language. You can learn more about this working technology at BibleTrans.info.

Details: Tom's approach uses a computer to do what it is good at doing (repetitive stuff) so translators can do what they are good at doing, which is thinking and interacting with other human beings in mapping meaning and concepts. We believe BibleTrans can take 1,000 years off the effort necessary for getting the Bible translated into all the remaining languages on Earth, and we have working software to prove the concept is viable.

BibleTrans significantly shortens the time it takes to get a first cut translation to the place where native speakers with minimal training can then fine tune it into a readable translation for languages that have no Scripture today. BibleTrans can do this with much better quality and accuracy than brute force manual efforts using large teams of minimally trained translators, and it can also fill the need for languages where finding more than a few competent translators is difficult. We believe this a project worth doing, but we need help getting the semantic database encoded.  

If you're interested in helping, please leave a comment.