Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A basic Study Skills Primer, for especially Caribbean High School (or first year College) level students

Over the past several weeks, I have developed a [draft so far] study skills primer as a presentation, with special reference to those preparing for CXC High School level examinations in the Caribbean.

It is ultimately based on content from the Readak "Speed Reading" course by Reading Dynamics International that I did in about 1972 [I gratefully acknowledge my intellectual debt!], and to many things I have learned over the years since, including a video on the SQ3R method I saw in the 1990's, which refreshed my mind and deepened my understanding. [BTW: The web is amazing: a quick search led me straight to Readak!]

It develops similar presentations I developed while teaching at the Montserrat Secondary School in the early 1990's, and again at the University of Technology in the late 1990's. [BTW, if anyone has a copy of the old handouts used in these workshops, I would be grateful. My copies were inadvertently left in a file that is in some trunk or other in Jamaica.]

Topics include:
  1. Understanding “Knowledge” and “Learning”
  2. “Spotting” & “Fixing” Learning Problems
  3. Learning in the Classroom
  4. Note-taking skills & tips
  5. “Practical” learning in Labs and Workshops
  6. Learning by reading textbooks & doing homework
  7. Doing SBA’s and similar assignments
  8. Preparing for Theory and Practical Exams
  9. Exam techniques
  10. Learning for Life and for Work
The PDF handout is here, at the Kairosfocus reference web site. (I will probably also put a link in this blog's links column, "shortly.")

Comments are invited and welcome. END

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Matt 24 watch, 36: of live donkeys, dead lions (and lurking hyenas)

A few days ago, I received an invitation to a public lecture in "celebration" of the 200th anniversary of the ending of the British Empire slave trade; which I declined.

The reason for that declining, sadly, is both sufficiently general and sufficiently relevant to the issues-linked challenges Bible believing educated Christians now increasingly routinely face in our region, for me to share the following troubled thoughts excerpted and adapted from my letter of response to the invitation.

That the issues also reflect on the challenges faced by the regional university in the anglophone Caribbean, and also the implications of the agendas of a Sheik El Faisal, add to the reasons why it is necessary for us to think about the following:

__________

I . . . [am] expressing my specific and severe disappointment . . . . The specific point which excites this remark is the statement in the letter of invitation [to a public lecture on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the ending of the British Empire Slave Trade]:
Dr X will take a critical look at the sentimental construction of abolitionists as humanitarians versus the true historical abolitionists as spokesmen of a new colonialism safe from the dread of slave revolts. [emphasis added]
I find this statement to be grossly unfair, and superciliously and uncivilly dismissive; also, it is riddled with anachronisms that imply an unwarranted accusation of hypocrisy.

It is also grossly distorting of the evident motives and career of the relevant abolitionists, such as for instance Mr William Wilberforce.

In some ways even worse than these, is the one-sided advocacy implied in the dismissive use of the term "sentimental," in the context of a region that has but one research-level university which therefore has an obligation to avoid faddism, one-sided historical revisionism and political correctness . . . .

Added to all of this, I am increasingly concerned that one sided revisionism of the religious dimension of the history of our region will create an utterly distorted view of this crucial dimension of our past.

For, this comes only several years after Dr Sultana Afroz . . . presented a thesis that inter alia in effect 2/3ds of the slaves in Jamaica at the time of emancipation were crypto-Muslims, and that Anabaptist founders of the native Baptist church of Jamaica such as George Liele [we have in hand his covenantal statement of faith!] were similarly in "fact" Islamic; which is seemingly deaf to the overwhelming evidence that our slave ancestors in Jamaica were predominantly animist, then Christian [and of course syncretist between the two] as the Baptist faith took hold. Had Dr Afroz's thesis been true -- and Cf. Prof Maureen Warner-Lewis' response on specific points in the wider set of claims advanced by Dr Afroz -- . . . Jamaica would unquestionably be a Muslim state today.

In short, the claims just don't add up with what we already know on abundant and not exactly inaccessible evidence. I append several substantiating sources, on key factual points:
--> Even so humble a source as Wikipedia notes of Wilberforce that he "was an English politician, Member of Parliament for Yorkshire (1784–1812), a philanthropist, and evangelical Christian who, as a leading abolitionist headed the parliamentary campaign against the British slave trade, culminating in the passing of the Slave Trade Act in 1807, which paved the way for the complete abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1833" and also . . .

--> that in his view, as expressed in his personal Journal,
' "God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the Slave Trade and the Reformation of Manners"[38][39] (‘manners’ meaning ‘morality’ in the English of the eighteenth century).'

--> Accordingly, he was involved, from my recall, in something like sixty-nine reformation movements, including things such as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, reformation of the plight of child chimney sweeps, and that of the insane. Of course, he was a finite, fallen, fallible human being so his record is not perfect; nor obviously is that of the other Abolitionists of his day. [Nor is our own record today . . .]

--> A similar pattern extends to a great many of the other evangelical reformers of the late C18 and early C19 as the social implications of the ethics of the Gospel gradually broke through the personal and cultural barriers, then took on the power and policy agendas of their day. In short, whatever else Wilberforce and others were, they often were Gospel-motivated humanitarians.
The dismissal of their commitment, struggle and sacrifice as "sentimental construction" is utterly unworthy of their memory.

--> Next, we need to understand the implications of the anachronism that lies in the accusation that they were "spokesmen of a new colonialism," to wit, one "safe from the dread of slave revolts." First, there was no workable alternative to colonialism at the time and this simply was not an issue. The anachronism of our resentment over colonialism freights itself with all the rhetorical grace of a live donkey kicking at the carcass of a safely dead lion.

--> Second to that, we need to take a more serious look at the usual consequence of slave revolts in the era: pointless slaughter and massacre. In the case of the major success, war, slaughter on an even grander scale and tyranny for two hundred years has been the result. Indeed, as events raced to the Baptist War in Jamaica, the Missionaries laboured in vain to correct the dangerous mis-impression that abolition had already been granted, and pointed out that uprising was a futile and self-defeating act. While as a result of the uprising and the burning of 13 dissenter chapels by the Colonial Church Union and its ilk etc, the response of the authorities in Britain to the incensed dissenters there did accelerate the Emancipation Act, I am not at all convinced that it was worth the price, short-term or long-term.

--> In short, IMHCO, none of the key terms in the thesis as advanced . . . is justified, or just.

--> Turning to the incidental matter of Dr Afroz's claims, I [link] two further documents that in the case of the first, shows where I believe she has gone seriously wrong in her transforming of an indisputable small minority presence of Muslim [and former Muslim] slaves into a majority people-group identity. The second is Prof Warner-Lewis' similar response, which speaks for itself.
_________

The above is significant in itself as a response to yet another bit of unbalanced historical revisionism that seeks to undermines our understanding of the major significance of the antislavery movement as a key case in point of Biblically based reformation movements materially contributing to the rise of modern liberty.

But there is also the issue of the hungry hyena lurking in the shadows as the live donkey kicks at the dead lion.

For, as we discussed only a week or two back, in attacking the Gospel on national Television in Jamaica, Mr Trevor William Forest, aka Sheik Abdullah El Faisal, declared -- and pardon the vulgar tone and substance:
Christianity was introduced by slave masters . . . . European slave masters also shoved Christianity down our throats – they also threw human excrement down our throats
In short, Islamist radicals such as El Faisal and his ilk seek to create a hostility to the Christian faith as being a repulsive and toxic imposition by our former slave masters shoved down our throats as an instrument of oppression, with overtones of Sadistic enjoyment of having the power to carry out such abuses.

In fact, of course, especially in Jamaica, it was precisely dissenter, Evangelical missionaries and their sending churches who were strongly associated with (i) missions to the slave population, and with (ii) the Abolitionist movement. Indeed, this close association was one reason why the Anglican-based Colonial Church Union in Jamaica took occasion of the Baptist War uprising of 1831 - 32, to burn down thirteen dissenter chapels.

Sherlock and Bennett, in their well- worth- reading The Story of the Jamaican People [Kingston, Jamaica: IRP, 1998], are well worth excerpting on the result as it played out in the UK:
As soon as news of the rebellion was received, the West India interests immediately strengthened their propaganda campaign, denounced the "incendiary preachers" . . . and inveighed against the lunacy of "letting loose those wild beasts [i.e., the slaves]." . . . Buxton counter attacked on March 7 [1832] when he declared in the House of Commons: "if the question respecting the West Indies was not speedily settled it would settle itself in an alarming way (i.e. by further rebellions) and the only way it could be settled was by the abolition of slavery."

. . . . on 1 April, Lord Belmore's report on the
white insurrection was published in Britain. It described in detail the attacks on the chapels and the missionaries. The burnt out cane fields had signalled an attack on property while the burnt out nonconformist chapels signalled an attack on the right of dissent and freedom of conscience. The talk about secession [to join the slave-holding states of the USA] and open defiance of the laws by the Colonial Church Union shocked many . . . .

The political crisis came to a head in the middle of May 1832. On 12th May the king refused the request of the Whigs that he appoint a number of peers so as to give them the necessary majority in the House of Lords . . . The Whigs resigned. The king recalled Wellington [of Waterloo]. For ten days Britain was on the brink of revolution . . . The Whigs returned to power on the 19th of May, the Lords accepted the Reform Bill and the king signed it on 7 June . . .

During May missionaries from Jamaica arrived, among them . . . William Knibb, who told the committee of the Baptist Missionary Society: "But if it be necessary I will take them [my wife and children] by the hand and walk barefoot through the Kingdom but I will make known to the Christians of England what their brethren in Jamaica are suffering." . . . He began his campaign at the annual missionary meeting at Spitalfield's Chapel in London, where he declared "Whatever the consequence I will speak. I will not rest day and night until I see slavery destroyed root and branch," and he pointed to the story of the antislavery campaign as "a wonderful evidence of the force and influence of the truth when brought home to the heart and conscience of a Christian nation." [pp. 223 - 225. Italics added.]
Thus, as Sherlock and Bennett summarise, "[n]ever before had the case against slavery been presented so forcibly to the British people by white men who had spent some years in Jamaica, ministering to African-Jamaicans, observing the plantation system from within, acquainting themselves with the slave laws and learning how great were the powers of the owner. "

Buxton, defying severe pressure from his own party, returned to the attack in parliament, and declared in the House of Commons, that "a war against people struggling for their rights would be the falsest position in which it was possible for England to be placed." After further publicity, much more parliamentary debate and conflict, and a despatch from the Governor of Jamaica that corroborated the Missionaries' testimony, abolition was passed on August 28, 1833, to take effect August 1st 1834.

Thus, we can see that both the one-sided revisionists and the Islamists are on the relevant historical evidence plainly wrong.

Further, through the words of Knibb, and the actions of Buxton and many others, we can see the potential of Biblically anchored reformation and liberation movements in not only his time but our own too.

That brings us right back to the perennial challenge that stands before us, as we face the issues, power-agendas and oppressions of our own time: Why not now, why not here, why not us? END
_____________

UPDATE, Oct 31:
Since the story of Sir Thomas Buxton, as the second leader of the antislavery cause in the UK parliament [and the man who shepherded through the actual act of Emancipation] is also important in understanding the motives and actions of the Gospel ethics-motivated reformers relative to Dr X's thesis, I now again excerpt, from even so humble and accessible a source as Wikipedia:
Buxton was born at Castle Hedingham, Essex, England. His father was also named Thomas Fowell Buxton. His mother's maiden name was Anna Hanbury. She was a Quaker (member of the Religious Society of Friends). Through the influence of his mother, Buxton became a close friend of Joseph John Gurney and his sister, Elizabeth Fry, who were both prominent Quakers. Buxton married their sister Hannah Gurney, of Earlham Hall, Norwich in May 1807. . . . .

Although he was a member of the Church of England, Buxton attended Friends meetings with the Gurneys and became involved in the social reform movement being led by Friends. He helped raise money for the weavers of London who were forced into poverty by the factory system. He provided financial support for Elizabeth Fry’s prison reform work and became a member of her Association for the Improvement of the Female Prisoners in Newgate.

Buxton was elected as a Member of Parliament for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis in 1818. As an MP he worked for changes in prison conditions and criminal law and for the abolition of slavery. He also opposed capital punishment and pushed for its abolition. Although he never accomplished this last goal during his lifetime, he did help to reduce the number of crimes punishable by death from more than two hundred to eight.

Thomas and Hannah Buxton had eight children. Four of them died of whooping cough during a five-week period around April 1820. Another one died of consumption some time later . . . .

The slave trade had been abolished in 1807, but Buxton began to work for the abolishment of slavery itself. He helped found the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery (later the Anti-Slavery Society) in 1823. He took over as leader of the abolition movement in the British House of Commons after William Wilberforce retired in 1825. His efforts paid off in 1833 when slavery was officially abolished in the United Kingdom. Buxton held his seat in Parliament until 1837.

In 1839 Buxton urged the British government to make treaties with African leaders to abolish the slave trade. They sent a team (not including Buxton) to the Niger River Delta in 1841 that set up a headquarters and began negotiations. The party suffered so many deaths from disease that the government called them back. In 1840 Buxton was created a baronet. His health failed gradually, which some believed was caused by the disappointment over the failed mission to Africa. He died a few years later . . .
Again, I find that there is abundant reason to conclude that Buxton (though flawed as we all are) was clearly a humanitarian in the mould of Wilberforce; one who had the sensitivity and compassion to try to abolish the death penalty in the 1820's - 30's, and who plainly -- and in colloquial terms -- died of a broken heart when a further humanitarian mission led to mass deaths among the delegation, doubtless reminding him all too painfully of his own loss of four children to Whooping Cough in one month in 1820.

Further to this, his attempt to negotiate a settlement with African leaders in the pre-colonial era to abolish the slave trade in toto, immediately implies that he recognised the legitimacy and sovereignty of said leaders -- as did the UK Government, by direct consequence of the very act of trying to negotiate with them.

Thus, once more, the first -- and sadly dismissive -- part of Dr X's thesis is clearly inapt and the second is plainly anachronistic relative to abolitionist leaders of the relevant sixty-year period, i.e. 1780's - 1840's.

____________


FURTHER UPDATE. Nov 8 (a): Over the past day, I have received from the local sponsoring institution for the public lecture, a print copy.

While the tone and substance are such that, sadly, I must conclude that it is plainly pointless to attempt here a step by step rebuttal, a few additional remarks will be helpful in balancing the situation and further correcting on facts and issues. Hopefully, this will help to clear the air of the blinding, poisonous clouds created by the burning of rhetorical strawmen.

For instance, the lecture begins with a public attack on me by name, a public attack that (in an unfortunately classic strawman fallacy) fails to fairly state or address the specific issues and remedies I raised in questioning the above thesis and instead caricatured what I had to say then set out on the all-too-familiar path of one-sidedly indicting the litany of the real and imagined sins of Christendom on matters linked to slavery -- while failing to assess, e.g., the very interesting implications of a point that say a Bernard Lewis has long since raised.

Now, too, despite Dr X's dismissive reference, I make no apology for again linking so humble but useful a source as Wikipedia as a first point of reference for basic, easily accessible, cross-checkable information! Yes -- as I have had occasion to comment at other places and times -- Wiki is flawed (as are all sources made by fallible humans), but that does not mean we can simply broad-brush dismiss what it summarises or cites in a specific case. Instead, we need to apply straight-thinking principles.

Let us excerpt briefly from Professor Lewis' now classic, balancing discussion on the roots of Muslim rage:
. . . revulsion against America, more generally against the West, is by no means limited to the Muslim world . . . . The accusations are familiar. We of the West are accused of sexism, racism, and imperialism, institutionalized in patriarchy and slavery, tyranny and exploitation. To these charges, and to others as heinous, we have no option but to plead guilty -- not as Americans, nor yet as Westerners, but simply as human beings, as members of the human race. In none of these sins are we the only sinners, and in some of them we are very far from being the worst . . . .

Slavery is today universally denounced as an offense against humanity, but within living memory it has been practiced and even defended as a necessary institution, established and regulated by divine law. The peculiarity of the peculiar institution, as Americans once called it, lay not in its existence but in its abolition. Westerners were the first to break the consensus of acceptance and to outlaw slavery, first at home, then in the other territories they controlled, and finally wherever in the world they were able to exercise power or influence -- in a word, by means of imperialism . . . .

In having practiced sexism, racism, and imperialism, the West was merely following the common practice of mankind through the millennia of recorded history. Where it is distinct from all other civilizations is in having recognized, named, and tried, not entirely without success, to remedy these historic diseases. And that is surely a matter for congratulation, not condemnation. [Kindly follow the link and read on. By the way, while all of this was going on, I was reading Samuel Eliot Morison on the southern voyages of exploration, which brings out the many sins of the explorers and conquistadores with great force, the more effectively for being given with a measure of sympathetic judgement on these men as great but greatly flawed men, not mere one-dimensional "blue-eyed devils." Perhaps, it is not too much to hope that our region's historians could emulate such a maturity of tone?]
In short, it was this same flawed and woefully sinful (as we all are) but significantly open to reformation Christendom which Dr X would indict, that -- in material part under the impact of the teaching of the Gospel as freed through the Reformation -- first created a public that realised that slavery as a whole, was wrong and needed to be abolished as an institution. Then, in however inevitably flawed a fashion, they actually set about abolition, and in many cases have stayed at this thankless and apparently endless task, down to today. [We should also note on the contributions of Gospel ethics motivated Christians to the wider project of liberation and empowerment I have discussed here and here.]

In that context, Britain set out -- in however imperfect and flawed a fashion as we humans inevitably will -- to abolish the slave trade and slavery in its colonial dominions. Specifically, in the British empire, it was various dissenter Christians who first led the organised campaign against slavery, and it was Christian MPs associated with this who led the campaigns in parliament.

Further to this -- as, for instance, the above cite from Wilberforce's Journal that Dr X sought to dismiss by noting that my specific cite came from Wikipedia
shows -- Gospel Ethics based philantropic and humanitarian principles were a material part of their motivation. (Note: refs. no.'s 79 and 80 in the relevant article are to [79] Piper, John (2006). Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, p. 35, and to [80] Pollock, John (1977). Wilberforce. London: Constable, p. 69.)

Indeed, it is worth excerpting an online dictionary definition: a humanitarian is
someone devoted to the promotion of human welfare and to social reforms.

In the case of Wilberforce, the same Wiki article correctly notes that, in addition to abolitionism, championed many other causes including: "Reformation of manners and the Society for the Suppression of Vice, Charity schools . . . and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals." Buxton, as noted above was especially involved in penal reform, including attempting to achieve the abolition of the death penalty in the 1820's - 30's. Knibb, as I recall, first went to Jamaica as a Missionary school teacher, and continued to work there as a pastor and was a champion for the rights of the enslaved Afro-Caribbeans, especially on his return to Britain.

In short, these men on the simple record of facts -- whatever their inevitable flaws and failings as fallible human beings -- credibly were humanitarians. So, again, I must continue to point out: it was wrong for Dr X to try to sweep away this record with words like:
the sentimental construction of abolitionists as humanitarians.

Similarly, it is fair comment to again note that colonialism simply was not an issue at the time, as there was no credible alternative. Thus, the Abolitionists were not champions of a new Colonialism, but were arguing for liberation within the realm of what was reasonably possible in their day.

So, again, there is a plain need for the Faculty members of the only research level university in the Commonwealth Caribbean, to
avoid faddism, one-sided historical revisionism and political correctness.

_____________


CAPSTONE UPDATE, Nov 9th:
It is rare for me to do a third update to a single post, but it is well worth the effort to add here from even so humble a source as the Wikipedia article on his life, the epitaph for William Wilberforce at Westminster Cathedral, which is attached to the statue by Samuel Joseph:
To the memory of William Wilberforce (born in Hull, August 24th 1759, died in London, July 29th 1833); for nearly half a century a member of the House of Commons, and, for six parliaments during that period, one of the two representatives for Yorkshire. In an age and country fertile in great and good men, he was among the foremost of those who fixed the character of their times; because to high and various talents, to warm benevolence, and to universal candour, he added the abiding eloquence of a Christian life. Eminent as he was in every department of public labour, and a leader in every work of charity, whether to relieve the temporal or the spiritual wants of his fellow-men, his name will ever be specially identified with those exertions which, by the blessing of God, removed from England the guilt of the African slave trade, and prepared the way for the abolition of slavery in every colony of the empire: in the prosecution of these objects he relied, not in vain, on God; but in the progress he was called to endure great obloquy and great opposition: he outlived, however, all enmity; and in the evening of his days, withdrew from public life and public observation to the bosom of his family. Yet he died not unnoticed or forgotten by his country: the Peers and Commons of England, with the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker at their head, in solemn procession from their respective houses, carried him to his fitting place among the mighty dead around, here to repose: till, through the merits of Jesus Christ, his only redeemer and saviour, (whom, in his life and in his writings he had desired to glorify,) he shall rise in the resurrection of the just.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Matt 24 watch, 35: Climate and energy issues in light of Mr Gore's Nobel Prize

Yesterday, an esteemed colleague asked me to comment on an interesting development, whereby an inventor in Florida stumbled on to a way to make saltwater burn like paraffin!

(Yes, it's not April 1: this is for real. Mr John Kanzius' related proposed Cancer cure is also in principle doable -- similar approaches using specifically tuned lasers and dyes that lodge in tumours have been developed.)

Of course, there is a trick to it: he is apparently using a very powerful radio frequency field to break up water molecules, which releases the very flammable hydrogen -- observe the kilowatt range power meter on his radio apparatus; about the power level of a domestic iron. [NB: If this can be done more efficiently than using the more familiar electrolysis, that may indeed be a breakthrough. But then, that means we need to find low-cost sources of vast quantities of electrical energy, e.g. as with Montserrat's hopes to harness geothermal energy.]

All of this brings us back to the issues put on the table by the recent award of the Nobel Prize to Mr Gore for the Documentary, An Inconvenient Truth [jointly with the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change].

The Norwegian Prize Committee believes that climate-change related issues will dominate international stress lines in the upcoming century so Mr Gore has been rewarded for putting the issue squarely before the world public.


Just one fly in the sweet-smelling ointment, though.

At the same time, a Judge in Britain has found eleven critical flaws in the film, remarking:

In order for the film to be shown [in schools], the Government must first amend their Guidance Notes to Teachers to make clear that 1.) The Film is a political work and promotes only one side of the argument. 2.) If teachers present the Film without making this plain they may be in breach of section 406 of the Education Act 1996 and guilty of political indoctrination. 3.) Eleven inaccuracies have to be specifically drawn to the attention of school children.

The inaccuracies are:

* The film claims that melting snows on Mount Kilimanjaro evidence global warming. The Government’s expert was forced to concede that this is not correct.

* The film suggests that evidence from ice cores proves that rising CO2 causes temperature increases over 650,000 years. The Court found that the film was misleading: over that period the rises in CO2 lagged behind the temperature rises by 800-2000 years.

* The film uses emotive images of Hurricane Katrina and suggests that this has been caused by global warming. The Government’s expert had to accept that it was “not possible” to attribute one-off events to global warming.

* The film shows the drying up of Lake Chad and claims that this was caused by global warming. The Government’s expert had to accept that this was not the case.

* The film claims that a study showed that polar bears had drowned due to disappearing arctic ice. It turned out that Mr Gore had misread the study: in fact four polar bears drowned and this was because of a particularly violent storm.

* The film threatens that global warming could stop the Gulf Stream throwing Europe into an ice age: the Claimant’s evidence was that this was a scientific impossibility.

* The film blames global warming for species losses including coral reef bleaching. The Government could not find any evidence to support this claim.

* The film suggests that the Greenland ice covering could melt causing sea levels to rise dangerously. The evidence is that Greenland will not melt for millennia.

* The film suggests that the Antarctic ice covering is melting, the evidence was that it is in fact increasing.

* The film suggests that sea levels could rise by 7m causing the displacement of millions of people. In fact the evidence is that sea levels are expected to rise by about 40cm over the next hundred years and that there is no such threat of massive migration.

* The film claims that rising sea levels has caused the evacuation of certain Pacific islands to New Zealand. The Government are unable to substantiate this and the Court observed that this appears to be a false claim.

Doubtless, this is a tad embarrassing for the Nobel Prize Committee, but -- after all -- the Nobel Peace Prize is indubitably one for political, rather than scientific achievement. However, this incident should underscore just how often headlined and trumpeted "indubitable" truths rest on a fragile and too often debatable- at- best "factual" foundation.

Also, on the theme of Matt 24, it shows just how easily the world at large and world leaders in a media-dominated age can be misled into making strong personal, ideological and policy commitments on technical matters which they know little about. (But then, when the whole world set about celebrating the dawn of a new millennium in the year 2000 when simple arithmetic plus the fact that there was no year of "zero" would suffice to show that 2001 is the proper beginning of the new millennium, we should have seen that long since.)

On Climate- related matters in the context of the recent prize award, my own counsel (again in the context of a recent blog visit) is that:

First, given the technical defects in his case, it is painfully plain that Mr Gore’s Prize has more to do with the internationalist political climate, rather than the real one — and several other inexplicable awards over the past years simply underscore the point.

That will, sadly, redound to the harm of the Nobel Prize as an institution, long term.

However, having got that out of our system, we need to attend to matters more directly germane to the focus of this blog. Namely, the current deleterious intersection of Science, worldviews, political agendas and public perceptions.

Where to begin?

1] Let’s calm down:

We can note that very, very few of us are qualified to read technical, mathematics- and theory-dense papers on climate trends and driving dynamics with critically aware insight.

It would therefore behoove us to hold our opinions lightly and tentatively, rather than with ferocious emotional commitments and hostile perceptions that too much of this debate manifests — especially on Mr Gore’s side, who have unfortunately been more the sinners here than the sinned against. I am particularly incensed by the tendency to accuse those who point out deficiencies in the AGW advocates’ case, of being motivated by bribes from the Oil industry, etc.

2] Focus on the merits, not the headlines and hype:

Much of the strongly voiced opinion we see is driven by the weight of headlines and the prestige and persuasiveness of spokesmen for one side or the other — not the substance of the case.

In any case, science — as a study based on inference to best current explanation of observations — is incapable of proof beyond revision or even abandonment. Computer models, especially the relatively crude ones used in GCMs, are even moreso incapable of proof beyond reasonable doubt. Indeed, as has been noted above and in links, there are still troubling empirical gaps between what the models say and what the data says.

In that context, headlining one-off events such as Hurricane Katrina, or the retreating of this particular glacier [and not the nearby one that is growing], or every heat wave — or cold one for that matter — simply acts to persuade, not to substantiate.

On balance therefore, there is an observation on current or recent climate trends, there are interesting explanations on offer, and there are concerns; some of them perhaps a bit overwrought due to hyping by enthusiasts and advocates.

3] Take reasonable and prudent actions:

My rule of thumb on CC-related action steps, is that we should take no action motivated by concerns over AGW that do not make sense on other grounds. Especially, if the actions have a high cost-to-benefits ratio.

For instance, I think the IPCC etc analysis suggests that Kyoto protocol actions would probably delay their projected trends by a decade. At the same time, too many of these actions may well have drastic and adverse impacts on economies. [And, economic depressions are a leading trend index of major wars, for many reasons. Not least, economically destabilised, desperate people are a lot less prone to think carefully before acting politically — just ask the Germans of the early 1930’s.]

4] Work on credible alternatives:

In the meanwhile, we can work harder on developing reasonable alternative energy technologies, e.g. Geothermal energy here in Montserrat. Such could cut our generation costs to competitive levels internationally, and take us out of the highly volatile international oil market for our biggest fossil fuel line item. Plus, we may have up to 900 MW of potential, from some estimates I have seen, raising the possibility of attracting energy-intensive industries and even electrical power export.

Longer term, I think dye-sensitised TiO2 photocells [maybe less than US$ 1/Watt capacity], Pebble Bed Modular Reactors [maybe less than US 2 cents/kWhr, or half current levellised generation costs], fuel cells and other emerging technologies offer interesting alternatives.

So do some of the proposals for Carbon sequestration and even the possible use of exhaust from power plants to make biofuels out of GM algae. (Transportation and Electricity generation are usually the top two fossil fuel users in an economy.)

Similarly, we have more than adequate reason to take prudent adaptation and where possible mitigation steps on climate related natural hazards. For instance, New Orleans should never be rebuilt to be as vulnerable as it was to a Cat 3 - 5 storm. Sooner or later one will come again. (Similarly, Plymouth, Montserrat, should never have been developed as it was as the principal centre for key infrastructure, right in the target zone of an active volcano.)

Thus, we can change the tone and terms of the debate, dramatically.

But also, I think I have found a calming voice of reason in the midst of the over-heated debate. One that we all should listen to. That is, I think we could all do with a read of the Roy Spencer article here.

Of this author it is written therein:

Roy W. Spencer received his PhD in meteorology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1981. Before bcoming a Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 2001, he was a Senior Scientist for Climate Studies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, where he and Dr. John Christy received NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal for their global temperature monitoring work with satellites. Dr. Spencer is the U.S. Science Team leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite. His research has been entirely supported by U.S. government agencies: NASA, NOAA, and DOE.

I make a few notes:

–> It is sad that he has to make a long preface on the oil money bribe accusation. "Money" quote:

The dirty little secret is that environmental organizations and global warming pessimists receive far more money from Big Oil than do global warming optimists such as myself. While professional environmental lobbyists are totally dependent upon environmental crises for their continued existence, atmospheric researchers and meteorologists have day jobs which are not. Some outspoken global warming pessimists have received large cash awards (hundreds of thousands of dollars) for the positions they have taken; there are no such monetary awards for global warming optimists.

–> His contrast between the infamous Hockey-stick graph that tried to do away with the Medieval Climate optimum and the results of the GRIP borehole project is also interesting: we don’t need to use “proxies” for temperature like tree ring measurements — there are actual temperature ‘measurements’ that go back over 1,000 years. Borehole temperatures are taken deep in the ground, where the seasonal cycle in surface temperature sends an annual temperature pulse down into the Earth. Dating of these underground temperature pulses from Greenland (Fig. 3) reveals much warmer temperatures 1,000 years ago than today.

–> Thus, the climate optimum is evidently real, and shows a temp spike that is significantly in excess of the current one. Thus, natural variability can be a key factor in what is going on.

–> To this, we can add the recent “kept quiet” correction to the temp records of the US over the past 130 or so years, which suddenly and significantly shifts the pattern of “warmest years.” As Lorne Gunter remarks in the National Post, "The hottest year since 1880 becomes 1934 instead of 1998, which is now just second; 1921 is third. Four of the 10 hottest years were in the 1930s, only three in the past decade . . . . The 15 hottest years since 1880 are spread over seven decades. Eight occurred before atmospheric carbon dioxide began its recent rise; seven occurred afterwards."

–> To help us understand the rhetorical significance of that, Gunter asks us to imaginatively reverse the situation: "Imagine the shrieking of the warmers if we had previously thought that hot years were scattered throughout the past 130 years, but after a correction the warmest years could be seen to be concentrated in the past decade . . . . They would blitz every news organization and talk show."

–> In that context, the "quiet" correction is highly, sadly revealing.
So, let us all pause, take a deep breath, and then methodically proceed in a reasonable way to a more balanced, prudent and fair minded position and approach to truly sustainable development. END

_____________

UPDATE:
A Gore Spokeswoman, has responded to the findings of the UK Judge in the Washington Post. Mr Christopher Walter, third Viscount Monkton of Brenchley [a former policy advisor to PM Thatcher of the UK] has come back to this point by point, itemising and discussing thirty-five errors in the Gore Film (including those raised by the Judge).

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Matt 24 watch, 34: The Dawkins agenda at work in Sweden's independent Schools

A few days ago, we had occasion to draw out some of the unpalatable and potentially destructive implications of the De-Christianising agenda Professor Dawkins is advocating for atheism in the public and institutional spaces of Western Civilisation.

Unfortunately, we do not have to wait to see this agenda in action. For, thanks to a further blog visit with Uncommon Descent, we can see a current, and deeply disturbing, case in point.

The article Dr William Dembski of the Discovery Institute is responding to is sadly revealing:
The Swedish government is to crack down on the role religion plays in independent faith schools. The new rules will include a ban on biology teachers teaching creationism or 'intelligent design' alongside evolution.

"Pupils must be protected from all forms of fundamentalism," said Education Minister Jan Björklund to Dagens Nyheter .

Some Christian schools teach biology students that the world and the organisms on it were created by a supreme being. This is often presented as another valid scientific theory alongside evolution - something most scientists reject.

Religious Education will remain on the curriculum and it will still be allowed to start the school day with prayers. But in classes teachers will be expected to stick to the curriculum . . .
In a comment to the blog thread [currently pending approval by the Blog's Moderators], I made some observations on this policy announcement, which follow [with minor cleanup and some extra links]:

___________________

Over the past few days, we have looked in this Blog at the proposals, claims and behaviour of Dawkins et al, as they hope to monopolise the public square.

Lo and behold, it is already happening in Sweden!

As I looked at the Swedish Government's repressive action, I felt a familiar sour taste in my mouth, for, it seems that the secularists who vaunt themselves on their skeptical, inquiring spirit, are forgetting to be self-critical and self aware -- and are verging into becoming tyrannical and oppressive abusers of the vast state power of big-government Welfare states.

Let us take a look at what is already going on in Europe, friends:

1]
“Pupils must be protected from all forms of fundamentalism,” said Education Minister Jan Bj√∂rklund to Dagens Nyheter.

Here, we can easily see how a handy contentless, propagandistic smear-word often used to improperly equate Bible-believing Christians and Islamist suicide bombers, serves as a thought- and fairness- stopper. This is classic, bigoted atmosphere -poisoning through slander.

And, it is coming out of the mouth of the Minister of "Education" -- shades of Orwell's 1984 and double-speak!

Even Sam Harris knows better, e.g. when he spoke out [and, sadly, was not properly listened to] at the recent Crystal-Clear Atheism conference:
He . . . cautioned the audience against lumping all religions together . . . . Specifically, he [Harris] noted that radical Islam was far more threatening than any radical Christian sect, adding that Christians had a right to be outraged when the media treated the two religions similarly . . . .
Telling isn't it, that While the audience gave Dawkins a standing ovation [for a speech that passes all bounds of civility and derides moderate Christians thusly: If you've been taught to believe [Christianity] by moderates, what's to stop you from taking the next step and blowing yourself up?] , Harris received only polite applause.

Now, too, we see where the ideas and agendas being championed by Mr Dawkins et al lead:

2] The Swedish government is to crack down on the role religion plays in independent faith schools. The new rules will include a ban on biology teachers teaching creationism or ‘intelligent design’ alongside evolution . . . . Some Christian schools teach biology students that the world and the organisms on it were created by a supreme being. This is often presented as another valid scientific theory alongside evolution - something most scientists reject.

Notice how the "consensus" of atheist-dominated Scientific institutions is presented as if it is unquestionable, authoritative --dare I say, even "gospel" -- truth?

Have these Educators never heard of the Parable of Plato's Cave, on the dangers of social consensuses enforced by power games, and of suppression of principled dissent? [Surely, the ghost of Socrates can tell us better than this!]

Or, that Science is supposedly an empirically controlled, open-ended, fallible and hopefully progressive investigation of the truth about the world through inference to best current explanation, not an atheistical dogma to be imposed by state power?

Or, that Science is in no position to pronounce that by force of the current "consensus" of finite, fallible and possibly even ill-willed "Scientists" atheism or whatever doctrine is fashionable at any given time must monopolise education, science or otherwise?

Worse in some ways [as both Science and Education should hold values such as truth and fairness dear], they have utterly, and by either criminal negligence or willful slander, missed the mark on ID.

For, they have imposed a ban on a serious side of major debates in current and emerging science, while they haven't even bothered to check whether they have been fed a false and loaded "definition" of ID by those with an axe to grind. To see that, simply contrast Dembski's classic summary to their distorted presentation as just excerpted:
intelligent design begins with a seemingly innocuous question: Can objects, even if nothing is known about how they arose, exhibit features that reliably signal the action of an intelligent cause? . . . Proponents of intelligent design, known as design theorists, purport to study such signs formally, rigorously, and scientifically. Intelligent design may therefore be defined as the science that studies signs of intelligence.
3] Religious Education will remain on the curriculum and it will still be allowed to start the school day with prayers. But in classes teachers will be expected to stick to the curriculum . . . . all elements of religious worship would have to be completely separate from class teaching. Most independent schools in Sweden are privately owned but funded by government grants.

Let us note that there is no exception for schools that are both privately owned and independent of Government funds.

In short, the Atheists are taking over the schools, by Government fiat.

Worse, let us remember that there is really no such thing as "Government Grants," for the excellent reason that there really is no such thing as "Government Money." THERE IS ONLY TAX-PAYERS' MONEY. (And the targetting of anonymous donations is obviously intended to further the degree of control over schools in the hands of these usurpers. Let us never forget that the power to tax is the power to control and if there are no proper restraints, to destroy.)


That is, the stewards of the funds of the people of Sweden are here usurping their power and in effect are declaring that the Children of the nation are their wards -- whatever their parents may wish to think about it.

This is tyranny, and the people of Sweden would be well-advised to act in defence of their liberties now, before it is too late.

The second paragraph of the US Declaration of Independence would be a great place to begin, not least because it underscores
the roots of modern liberty in the Judaeo-Christian tradition:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, [cf Rom 1:18 - 21, 2:14 - 15 -- i.e. one denies these on pain of reduction to absurdity through self contradictions and self-serving hypocrisies], that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security . . . .
For shame, Sweden!
____________________


For us, what more can be said than that to be forewarned should be to be forearmed? END

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Matt 24 Watch, 33: Mr Dawkins and his fellow Atheists make their agenda "Crystal Clear"

In a report on the recent conference of the newly launched Atheists Alliance held in Virginia, "Crystal Clear Atheism," we may read of a telling contrast between Oxford University's Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science, Mr Richard Dawkins, and his fellow Atheist, Mr Sam Harris:
Dawkins portrayed a black-and-white intellectual battle between atheism and religion. He denounced the "preposterous nonsense of religious customs" and compared religion to racism. He also gave no quarter to moderate or liberal believers, asserting that "so-called moderate Christianity is simply an evasion."

"If you've been taught to believe it by moderates, what's to stop you from taking the next step and blowing yourself up?" he said.

By contrast, Harris's speech was a more tempered critique of the atheist movement itself. While Harris said he believed science must ultimately destroy religion, he also discussed spirituality and mysticism and called for a greater understanding of allegedly spiritual phenomena. He also cautioned the audience against lumping all religions together . . . . Specifically, he [Harris] noted that radical Islam was far more threatening than any radical Christian sect, adding that Christians had a right to be outraged when the media treated the two religions similarly . . . .

While the audience gave Dawkins a standing ovation, Harris received only polite applause. One questioner later declared herself "very disappointed" in Harris's talk . . . .

"Religion is not the root of all evil, but it gets in the way of [determining] how we got here and where we find ourselves," Dawkins said. "And that is an evil in itself."

Dawkins was particularly critical of parents who raise their children as a "Catholic child" or "Protestant child." Children must not be labeled as subscribing to a particular religion, he said, and should be allowed to examine the evidence and determine their beliefs for themselves . . . .

When asked what the main difference between believers and atheists was, Dawkins had a quick answer: "Well, we're bright."
Mr Dawkins' recent interview with the Guardian Newspaper is equally telling (and quite chilling; pardon my citing the offensively racist reference he makes):

Britain’s leading atheist is spearheading a campaign in America to challenge the dominance of religion in every day life and in politics, insisting that the millions of US godless deserve to be heard too.

Atheists in the US “have been downtrodden for a very long time. So I think some sort of political organisation is what they need”, he said . . . . Religion is palpable in US schools, places of work and public institutions . . . .

"When you think about how fantastically successful the Jewish lobby has been, though, in fact, they are less numerous I am told - religious Jews anyway - than atheists and [yet they] more or less monopolise American foreign policy as far as many people can see. So if atheists could achieve a small fraction of that influence, the world would be a better place."

What did he hope an atheist bloc in the US might achieve? "I would free children from being indoctrinated with the religion of their parents or their community. I would like to free everyone from the assumption you have to be religious in order to be a decent person or to be moral. Obviously stem cell research and all the interference with scientific research that goes on [should stop]. Obviously the whole creationist interference with education [should stop] but I think, more positively, I would like to see people encouraged to rejoice in the world in which they find themselves, the universe in which they have been born, to take full advantage of the tiny slice of eternity they have been granted."

It is hard to pick where to begin with in such a target-rich, hostility-laced rhetorical environment. However, several points plainly should be highlighted, so that we can be forewarned and forearmed:

1] The two tidal waves: Observe how Mr Harris had to try to publicly correct Mr Dawkins on the plain and obvious difference between Bible-believing Evangelical Christians and violent Islamist terrorists -- a direct implication of the propagandistic impact of the smear word "fundamentalism." It is telling that the Atheistic audience received Mr Dawkins with a standing ovation; Mr Harris' attempt at being self-critical and fair-minded received only tepid polite applause. And these folks view themselves as "the brights" and complain of oppression and unfairness? [By the way, relative to evolutionary materialist premises, how can one ground the binding nature of moral claims such as the claim to fairness as a right? More on this later.]

2] A telling irony on "freedom": Obseve that when it comes to religion, Mr Dawkins and his ilk believe that "Children . . . should be allowed to examine the evidence and determine their beliefs for themselves" and intend to "free children from being indoctrinated with the religion of their parents or their community." Let's put that plainly: by direct implication, in the name of "freedom," it would be illegal to have Family Devotions, or send kids to Sunday School -- shades of the late, unlamented USSR. But at the same time, in school [as we can see from the Judge Jones case on ID], it would be illegal to allow children to examine for themselves the pros and cons of the actual evidence relating to the self-refuting philosophy of Evolutionary Materialism, especially such evidence as might point to intelligent design as a major feature of nature from the fine-tuned physics that permits a life-habitable cosmos to exist, on to the formation of the equally fine-tuned functionally specific, complex information systems of life at cellular level, to the further increment in such complex specified information required to account for the diversity of life forms from amoeba to man. All, in the name of "freedom."

3] On being "moral" while Atheist: Mr Dawkins says: "I would like to free everyone from the assumption you have to be religious in order to be a decent person or to be moral." Of course, as we just saw, the profound immorality of what he intends to do in the name of freedom seemingly escapes him and too many of his followers. But, there is a deeper misunderstanding that lurks, one that can best be appreciated in light of Paul's teaching in Romans 2 and 13 [c. 57 AD]:

RO 2: 6 God "will give to each person according to what he has done." 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil . . . 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good . . . 11 For God does not show favoritism . . . . 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) . . . . RO 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
--> In short, right from the very first generation of the Christian faith, in its foundational Scriptures, it has been plainly, explicitly taught that normal men have an innate, God-given intuition about core morality, regardless of their worldviews.

--> However, equally, at our best, we all struggle to live up to such intuitions. That is, there are no truly moral or decent people, just plain ordinary struggling sinners. (Thence we come to the Gospel as Good News, i.e that by God's grace in Christ, our risen Lord and Saviour, we may find forgiveness and a path to reformation, moral-spiritual empowerment and transformation. Indeed, from Rom 2:7, evidently even those who have never explicitly heard of Christ but "by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality," will be welcomed and blessed by God: " . . . [to these] he will give eternal life.")

--> In this light, I find the self-laudatory idea that "I don't have to believe in God to be 'decent' or 'moral' . . ." deeply troubling. For therein lies a want of self-critical reflection on one's own imperfection and moral struggles. Indeed, this is exactly what Mr Harris tried to point out during the "Crystal-Clear Atheism" conference -- and plainly failed to get across.

--> Indeed, it is not without relevance to note that Evolutionary Materialism, a foundation-stone of modern Atheism (on which it grounds its claim to be "Scientific"), has no firm basis for morality as a binding obligation. Indeed, the very fact that in quarrelling we appeal to just such a binding moral law raises the direct question of a Lawgiver, i.e God.

4] Monopolising the public square: Mr Dawkins blunders badly by citing the alleged Jewish monopoly on US Foreign policy. In so doing, he immediately shows his habitual want of care over truth and fairness in his public statements. The claim is also inexcusibly bigoted. It is further revealing: in a context where Atheistic thought and its associated secularism actually dominate the Campus, the media, many courtrooms and much of the public square, Mr Dawkins declares that Atheists are "downtrodden," and hopes to monopolise the public square. Given the now routine censorship, misrepresentation of other views and even career-busting that prevail and the declared intents as cited above, the fruit of such control would plainly be destructive and oppressive in the extreme.

5] The "brights": Mr Dawkins' parting shot on being asked on the difference between "believers" and "atheists" is utterly, stunningly revealing: "Well, we're bright." First, inescapably, atheists are believers too. For, to "prove" A, one needs B. Then, B required C to prove it in turn, and so on. So, either one faces an impossible infinite regress of proofs, or else at some point F, one accepts some things without further proof. One's Faith-Point. The real question is whether one's faith-point stands serious scrutiny on its own account or relative to other possible worldviews. On that score, Evolutionary Materialism [the hard core of current atheism] spectacularly self-destructs:
materialism . . . argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature. Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.

But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. Thus, what we subjectively experience as "thoughts" and "conclusions" can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance and psycho-social conditioning, within the framework of human culture.)

Therefore, if materialism is true, the "thoughts" we have and the "conclusions" we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity. Of course, the conclusions of such arguments may still happen to be true, by lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” them. And, if our materialist friends then say: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must note that to demonstrate that such tests provide empirical support to their theories requires the use of the very process of reasoning which they have discredited!

. . . . In the end, materialism is based on self-defeating logic, and only survives because people often fail (or, sometimes, refuse) to think through just what their beliefs really mean.

As a further consequence, materialism can have no basis, other than arbitrary or whimsical choice and balances of power in the community, for determining what is to be accepted as True or False, Good or Evil. So, Morality, Truth, Meaning, and, at length, Man, are dead.

This is no surprise to one who is familiar with Paul's acid comment in Rom 1 on those who in ingratitude, turn their backs on the obvious evidence in the world without and the heart and mind within that plainly points to God:
20 . . . since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

RO 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles . . . 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised . . . . RO 1:28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done . . . They are . . . 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful . . . senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless . . .
All that has changed, plainly and sadly, is the technology of the images, where they are located, and the particulars of the myths that substitute for the truth of Creation and moral accountability before God. In the old days, we had images of wood and stone, in temples and scandalous legends about gods. Today, we have computer-generated images and fossil reconstructions in Museums or on television or the Internet, and the stories are those of Evolutionary Materialism in the guise of science.

Nothing truly fundamental has changed.

Unsurprisingly, the results -- as the very conference of atheists we have examined above so painfully but plainly reveals -- are the same: en-darkened minds and hearts, arrogance, boastfulness, loss of the voice of conscience so that one is insensitive to the evil one is advocating or doing, out-of-control dark and plainly destructive passions.

So, let us pray for, counsel with and patiently correct [cf. 2 Tim 2:23 - 26] these sad, self-deluded, self-important people, that they wake up before it is to late.

Eternally, too late.

And, let us understand the implications of the ideas and agendas they espouse, that we may defend our hard-won liberties from this latest threat. END

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Matt 24 Watch, 32: More from El Faisal's Media Blitz

Mr Trevor William Forest, aka Sheik El Faisal, a radical Islamist advocate, was recently deported to Jamaica , after serving four years on charges relating to stirring up race hate and inciting murder through his sermons and tapes etc, in the UK.

Over the past several weeks, he has had several TV appearances in Jamaica, especially on Mr Ian Boyne's Religious Hard Talk programme. During these sessions, he has laid out several grave accusations against the Bible, the Gospel, and Church leaders.

It is worth noting that, on the reports of his sessions with Mr Boyne, he has apparently not been asked to specifically answer, point by point, to the evidence that led to his conviction, which evidence is not widely known in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean. It is therefore worth the while to again pause and excerpt remarks on some of that un-answered evidence from a key article in the August 27, 2006 Gleaner:
el-Faisal urged Muslim women to "bring up your male children in the jihad mentality."

"So when you buy your toys for your boys you buy tanks and guns and helicopter gunships and so forth. The way forward can never be the ballot. The way forward is the bullet."

"How wonderful it is to kill the Kuffar [unbeliever]. You crawl on his back and while you push him down into hellfire you are going into paradise."


Another of his jihad tape contains the words: "So you go to India and if you see a Hindu walking down the road you are allowed to kill him and take his money, is that clear?" [According to a BBC report, they were sold "at specialist Islamic bookshops" (itself highly telling!)]
On the significance of this evidence, let us observe from a Feb 24, 2003 Guardian of the UK report on his trial, that:
[An] Old Bailey jury found El-Faisal guilty of three charges relating to inciting racial hatred as well as three charges of soliciting murder. He was remanded in custody for sentencing on March 7. El-Faisal had denied five charges of soliciting the murder of non-believers, Jews, Americans and Hindus, and four charges relating to inciting racial hatred . . . .

Tapes of El-Faisal's study circle lectures, given around the country, went on sale at specialist bookshops. In them, he was heard calling for the death of nonbelievers, and making references to training schoolboys to shoot Kalashnikovs.


He was heard quoting the words of Osama bin Laden and backed the use of nuclear and chemical weapons. On the cover of one recording was a picture of the burning World Trade Centre . . . .


El-Faisal told his audiences: "You have to learn to fly planes, drive tanks and you have to learn how to load your guns and to use missiles."


In another reference, he said boys of 15 were soldiers and asked them: "Is it sensible for you to be a soldier and you don't know how to shoot a Kalashnikov?"


El-Faisal promised that those who died during a holy war would not feel pain and would go to heaven, where they would be given 72 virgins.


"We believe in the bullet not the ballot,"
he told them. In another speech, El-Faisal told youngsters: "People with British passports, if you fly into Israel, it is easy ... Fly into Israel and do whatever you can. If you die, you are up in paradise.


"How do you fight a Jew? You kill a Jew. In the case of Hindus, by bombing their businesses."

Such are quite grave matters, and it is reasonable that Mr El Faisal should not be further entertained as a pundit on Jamaica's airwaves until he gives us good reason to conclude that he is not a destructive extremist. (NB: Further material below from his August and October TV appearances shows a basic problem with civility towards, and even basic respect for those with whom he differs.)

Nor, is brushing aside such evidence while attempting to put on
Mr Garvey's mantle as a victim of racially or religiously or politically motivated persecution, good enough. (Cf. here a reported remark in his late August interview, to the effect that "I am not the first Jamaican who is deported for preaching.")

Having noted this unfortunately highly material issue of character and intent, let us now pass on to a select few of the main accusations and claims he has to make regarding the Christian Faith and its leaders:

1] [Aug:] On the Incarnation: Christianity is very blasphemous . . . . preachers should not lie to people that Jesus is God. That God came from belly of a woman! It is beneath dignity of God to "beget" beneath dignity to procreate:

It is blasphemous, rather, to utterly distort, misrepresent and try to stir up hostility against the teaching of the Bible concerning the Incarnation of our Lord and risen Saviour, and to accuse others of "lying" -- i.e. willful, knowing deception -- when they are actually only accurately and honestly teaching what they can plainly see from the C1 NT:
LK 1:26 [c. 60 AD] . . . God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin . . . [whose] name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you” . . . . 30 But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High . . . 35 . . . "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

LK 1:38 "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.
In short, the explicit, eyewitness lifetime record of the NT is that Jesus was born of a virgin, miraculously.

Mr El Faisal's utter distortion of a Holy and loving act of the Son of God, by humbling himself to become a servant and suffering Saviour [cf. Phil 2:5 - 11 and Isaiah 45:18 - 23], in fact, directly traces to Mohammed's plainly erroneous teaching in the Quran, 600 years after the fact:

Q4:171: “O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His messengers. Say not "Trinity" : desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son . . .”
This plainly utterly misunderstands and misrepresents the NT and the Creeds.

2] [Aug:] Citing his mother, now an Islamic convert, after forty years of service with the Salvation Army, on the Trinity: She cannot believe how she was deceived . . .

Rejection of a distorted form of the concept that God is manifested as complex rather than simple unity
is a hallmark of the Islamic objection to the Christian faith and the plain teaching of the Bible on the subject.

So, we should first note how the Quran unfortunately misrepresents then rejects the actual biblically anchored doctrine:

004.048
YUSUFALI: Allah forgiveth not that partners should be set up with Him; but He forgiveth anything else, to whom He pleaseth; to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin Most heinous indeed.

005.116
YUSUFALI: And behold! Allah will say: "O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah'?" He will say: "Glory to Thee! never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, Thou I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden.
It is well worth citing Phil 2:5 - 11, an early hymn cited by Paul in the 60's AD, by way of sharpest contrast on both substance and attitude:
PHP 2:5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

PHP 2:6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

PHP 2:7 but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.

PHP 2:8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death--
even death on a cross!

PHP 2:9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,

PHP 2:10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

PHP 2:11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
[NB: If you want to examine the grounds of the Trinity as a matter of theology and philosophy [Cf. 1 Peter 3:15], the above linked article on the Shamrock principle, may be a helpful, theology 101-level place to begin.]

3] [Oct "debate" with Adegold:] Slavery and Christian Faith: Christianity was introduced by slave masters . . . . European slave masters also shoved Christianity down our throats – they also threw human excrement down our throats:

Of course, the attitude problem pointed out above, comes out even more forcefully in that telling comparison on excrement that Mr El Faisal makes. This last statement is utterly uncivil, and is grossly disrespectful. Indeed, it shows just how well-justified are those who have, on inspecting the evidence of this gentleman's prior behaviour in the UK and in Jamaica, have refused to publicly debate with him.

Further, given that arrogance and thinly veiled hostility and grossest disrespect just shown, it is in order to note an obvious direct rebuttal: the Islamic faith's founders were an active and leading part of a slave-holding society themselves, so hot sauce for the goose is hot sauce for the gander too.

For instance, just what was the status of Mary the Coptic slave-girl from Egypt, one of Mohammed's concubines?

(Also, the Trans-Sahara and Trans-Indian ocean slave trades are every inch as much a part of history as the trans-Atlantic slave trade. We could add, that "those pirates" who "robbed I" and "sold I" to the English man's "merchant ships," were often Muslim Arab or Berber traders or arabised African tribesmen. Similarly, slavery was officially abolished by Saudi Arabia only in 1962. As headlines repeatedly reveal, it still continues in the Islamic state of the Sudan.)

But, that is just "you're just as bad."

The better answer is that until men whose hearts were softened by the gospel rose up to object and campaign against it, slavery was a universal oppressive phenomenon backed up by the power centres of many societies across the globe. In short, the abolition of the slavery system and its vicious trade were in material part yet yet another result of the many reformation and liberation struggles that stemmed from putting the Bible in the hands of the ordinary man some 500 years ago. (cf also here, on the roots of modern liberty.)

Further to this, in fact it was the same Dissenter/ Evangelical Christians who first effectivley preached the gospel to the slaves of Jamaica, starting with Black American preachers, George Liele and Moses Baker.

4] [Oct;]: The Cross and the Gospel -- Christians believe God committed suicide as he died on the cross. If God was in grave for 3 days who was in charge? Was the world put on autopilot?

Here, it is helpful to first note that the Quran denies the historical core of the gospel:
Q 4:156 -158: “they killed him [Jesus] not, nor crucified him . . . . Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself.”
By contrast, here is the authentic 55 AD record of the official, 500-witness-anchored testimony of the earliest Christians from the 30s AD on:
“By this gospel [we] are saved if [we] hold firmly to the word . . . . that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures [and was seen by over 500 witnesses, including the 12, James and many others, most then being alive] . . . . if Christ has not been raised [from the dead], our preaching is useless and so is [our] faith . . . [we] are still in [our] sins.” [1 Cor. 15:2 – 5, 14, 17.]
So, whose report should we believe? The direct eyewitnesses and the subsequent millions of us who have experienced the power of the risen Christ in our lives? Or a man who misunderstood and rejected their testimony, 600 years later? Or, the latter's sadly ill-spoken spokesman in our day?

The sensible answer is too obvious to directly state.

As to the polemical objections on who was in charge while Jesus was in the grave, Phil 2:5 - 11 is sufficiently plain: the TRIUNE God was, and is in charge. So, when our Lord emptied himself of all but love and came, loved, bled and died then rose, the universe did not have to go on autopilot. (In short, the perceived contradictions arise from the Islamic misunderstanding, not from the actual Biblical record. It is not wise to set up and knock over straw man misrepresentations of a case.)

As to the notion that God "committed suicide" on the cross, this is just another crude, unworthy and contempt-filled distortion. Jesus surrendered himself to the power of wicked and cruel men, who unjustly put him to death by nailing him to a cross between two murderous rebels, as though he were the ring-leader of their insurrection -- suicide, this plainly was not. But in so surrendering himself, he made an atonement for our sins.

Here is Hebrews on that:
HEB 1:1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven . . .
And, Isaiah 53, in a magnificent prophecy made 700 years before the event:
ISA 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

ISA 53:4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
ISA 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

ISA 53:6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

ISA 53:7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

ISA 53:8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken . . . .

ISA 53:10 Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

ISA 53:11 After the suffering of his soul,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
So, now, whose report -- and whose Spirit -- will we believe, and why? END