Friday, April 18, 2008

Matt 24 Watch, 53: On minds, brains and intelligence -- as Expelled the Movie comes out

Expelled the Movie comes out today. (We all need to see this one, and to think very hard about what it exposes. Cf trailer here, and press kit backgrounder here.)

On a related matter, over the past few days, as I wind down an extended visit with Uncommon Descent, I have had occasion to discuss the reality of mind with some commenters there, in this thread.

I think some snippets from the exchange [with a few slight adjustments] -- on mind, matter and evolutionary materialism (cf. Wiki's overview on "materialism")-- may prove stimulating, maybe even helpful:


111, DK:

. . . Call me a selective hyperskeptic if you will [CORRECTIVE: Actually, I always refer to the fallacy of selective hyperskepticism, I do not try to name-call . . .]. If I am such, then are not all those who call themselves “scientists?” Because all they and I ask is that you and StephenB cite empirical evidence for the existence of a substance called “mind” that exists in a form separable from a brain.

112, KF (i.e. GEM of TKI):

Thanks for the kind words.

On empirical evidence for mind, it is all around you.

To see it why not just try to address the “WELCOME TO WALES” question, in context:

echoing Richard Taylor, suppose you were in a train and saw [outside the window] rocks you believe were pushed there by chance + necessity only, spelling out: WELCOME TO WALES.

Would you believe the apparent message, why?

That should be enough to show the difference between mind and blind chance + necessity acting on matter + energy across space and time.

113, SB:

DK: Everytime you make a mental decision that reverses the brain’s impulses, you prove the existence of the mind. The “placebo” effect alone provides strong evidence of a mind. Conquering a bad habit proves the existence of the mind. Matter can’t reverse its own decisions or change its mind or reflect on itself.

In any case, that is a separate matter from the fact that two realms are needed for rationality and the perception of truth.

114, DK:

Your strawman (colossal enough to bestride the Bosporus and boy will that light up the sky when the oil of crimson herring with which it has been copiously anointed is ignited!): “blind chance + necessity” does not advance the discussion.

Because I do not question the existence of a behavior that is called “mind.”

I ask only for evidence that it is a substance separable from the activity of a brain.

115, KF:

Again, simply work through the following example:

echoing Richard Taylor, suppose you were in a train and saw [outside the window] rocks you believe were pushed there by chance + necessity only, spelling out: WELCOME TO WALES.

Would you believe the apparent message, why?

The implications thereof will suffice to show what is going on, once you reckon with the implications of the four forces of physics and chance acting on matter and energy without mind as an INDEPENDENT causal factor.

Since we have already argued the issue out at hundreds of posts length [with the evo mat position IMHBXO [In my humble but considered opinion] failing to hold up a solid ground for the mind — word magic like “emergence” will not do], I can only think that this is the best way forward:

(1) If you believe the product of chance + necessity without residue gives coded information and even truth [Aristotle, [defining truth]: that which says of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not], why?

(2) if not then you have to reckon with the implications of the visible world of symbolic code that refers to reality, and even makes a difference to it — starting with the fine tuned convergent multidimensional physics of a life-facilitating cosmos, and going on through the implications of DNA and our need for minds to apprehend all this.

116, EM:

I have been watching this discussion unfold with interest. Daniel King’s call for empirical evidence has been met mainly by the other side of the empirical/rational divide, namely reasoning (of a sort) that a materialist view of mind is self-contradictory or self-refuting. Yet I don’t know to what they (StephenB or kairosfocus) mean when they refer to a “materialist” view of mind. Such views come in many forms, and I see very little evidence that those who provide cartoon versions of materialism here comprehend that.

So I suggest a bit of reading. A good start would be The Nature of Consciousness: Philosophical Debates, edited by Block, Flanagan, and Guzeldere. Many of the big names are represented therein, including many serious materialists, and nothing in that 800+ page book looks remotely like the strawman constructed in the previous posts.

[NB: Here is a quickie overview, for The Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science -- note, too the naturalistic assumptions that are injected without further ado, thusly: "[t]here are many perspectives on the Hard Problem but I will mention only the four that comport with a naturalistic framework . . . "]

117, KF:

I see you have made some dismissive references on how we are caricaturing evolutionary materialistic views [but please cf. 102 above; which is very general on the issue of chance + necessity acting on matter + energy –> mind], and are trying to say that we are making a logical not an empirically based case. Even though reasoning processes and exercises are in fact in this case, empirical ones; ones that we can use metacognition about.

More to the point, though, if you will look above, you will see that I have provided a little thought experiment to trigger a real world exercise and [re-]constructivist discussion.

Again: since we happen to be mental creatures, that is not only empirical — experience based — but a live example of the issues of mind and brain, mentality and materiality. We are not confined to simply blindly following the opinions and declared conclusions of claimed experts — we can think for ourselves, and need to, as:

[a] no expert is better than his/her facts, reasoning and assumptions, and

[b] we may be living in an intellectual Plato’s Cave of manipulative shadow shows backed up by force to suppress dissent — as Expelled publicly documents starting today.

The case, the third time of asking:

. . . echoing Richard Taylor, suppose you were in a train and saw [outside the window] rocks you believe were pushed there by chance + necessity only, spelling out: WELCOME TO WALES.

Would you believe the apparent message, why?

Why don’t you do it?

If you do so, I believe you will discover:

1 –> Functionally Specified Complex Information is a characteristic product of mind, and even in cases where such FSCI — per thought experiment [just try to observe this little exercise happen in the real world: rocks rolling down a hill per chance + necessity only and spontaneously forming a full sentence in English, with letters properly formed . . . !] — is believed to originate by chance + necessity only, it then loses credibility. (For, chance + necessity cause-effect chains are unconnected to ground-consequent issues. This is the exact issue I raised in 102 above.)

2 –> Further, how did you become aware of the text you read and responded to? [Your eyes as sensors, true, but how then did swatches of black and white etc become meaningful words and sentences in a language [as opposed to input and/or output signals and noise in a control loop or the like]? And how did you then make the observations, inferences and decisions relative to the excitation of rods, cones and connected neurons? If by chance and necessity only, you are back at 1. Namely, apparent messages tracing to “lucky noise” and/or non-foresighted, non-purposive mechanical necessity are not credible.]

3 –> Next, we are aware/conscious of our bodies and how they function, thence the external world, through: mental processes. Thus, the phenomenal world is a mental world, leading to the Kantian bridge challenge . . .

4 –> Namely, how do we bridge from things as they are perceived and conceived and subjectively experienced, to the noumenal world of “things in themselves”? [And, “inter-subjective consensus” does not help as your belief that we exist may be a part of that mental world isolated from things in themselves.]

5 –> Kant of course concluded that we cannot know things in themselves, but only as perceived. [Go back to 49 ff above and see why I and others think this leads us to a self-referential inconsistency and/or absurdity; and why it therefore makes sense to take certain truths to be self-evident, namely that we are aware, however provisionally and imperfectly, of an external, real world and can act into it, based on the use of our minds and how they influence the behaviour of our bodies.]

{ADDED: Excerpt from 49 on Kreeft and Tacelli on Kant's Copernican Revolution and its failure:

. . . [Kant’s] “Copernican Revolution in philosophy” was the claim that our knowledge does not conform to a real object but vice versa . . . All the form, determination, specificity or knowable content comes from the mind and is projected out onto the world rather than coming from the world and being impressed upon the mind . . . .

Kant’s “Copernican Revolution” is self-contradictory, just as simple skepticism is. After all, if Kant was right, how could he possibly have known he was right in terms of his system? He couldn’t. He could never know that there are “things- in- themselves,” onto which the knowing self projects all knowable content. That would be knowing the unknowable, thinking both sides of thought’s limit.

There is a half truth in Kantianism. Some knowledge is conditioned by our forms of consciousness(e.g. Colors by the eye, measurements by artificial scales and ideological positions by personal preferences). But even here there must be some objective content first that is received and known, before it can be classified or interpreted by the knowing subject.[Handbook of Christian Apologetics, (Crowborough, England: Monarch, 1995) pp. 372 – 373.]}

6 –> Notice, also how this exemplifies how the worlds of experience and of mind interact; thence, how we come to hold a well-warranted belief on evidence of fact and logic. Once we accept that real knowledge exists -- note the given simple definition of "knowledge" in a nutshell -- they cannot be separated, in short.

7 –> And, to make the claim that knowledge does not exist is to claim . . . to know. Oops. [Yet another self-evident truth, once we have a functioning mind that understands and experiences. (Such a truth is one that, once we understand what it is talking about and what it says about this matter, in light of our experience and a modicum of common sense, we will see that it is and must be true. To deny such a truth is to end in absurdity. For instance, try to deny that "error exists" and see if that does not simply land you in the situation of giving an example of the fact that error exists.) ]

8 –> So, we know that mind exists — that is how we come to perceive, be aware of, then understand and know everything else in our world, starting with our own bodies. MIND is more certain than the external world! [Or, haven’t we learned from Kant?]

9 –> But, is mind just “a matter of” a particularly useful configuration of matter and energy, as encoded, stored or transmitted information indubitably is? That brings us right back to 1 again: can we reasonably trust the deliverances of chance + necessity only acting on matter + energy to give us access to knowledge, understanding, reason and truth? [No word magic about “emergence” permitted — you have to explain how and why.]

10 –> And yet, by the very fact of participating in the blog thread, you believe that reason, evidence, knowledge, understanding and communication are possible, actually existing and important. [Never mind the use of name-dropping and appeal to authority to dismiss a serious question without addressing it even in outline on the merits.] So, why?

11 –> ANS, part 1: because you know by experience [an observation that was immemorial in the days of Plato], that causal factors in the world in which we live trace reliably to:

[1] natural regularities rooted in mechanical necessities,

[2] chance configurations (which, per accident or happenstance, take up whatever values they hold, and could “just as easily” have taken up other values) and their constraining effects on such mechanical necessities,

[3] intelligent, intentional, decisional action, and its supervening effects on situations embracing necessity + chance.

12 –> ANS, part 2: Such intelligent, decisional actions result in matter and energy taking up complex, organised functional configurations that would otherwise be too rare in the relevant search space for reasonable random walk based processes to reach without exhausting available probabilistic resources — and one has to get TO the shores of islands of functionality before one can start to climb hills to better performance through whatever handy hill-climbing procedure you want to use. [Think of being stranded at a point at random in a vast Pacific dotted with tiny islands, and being on a raft with limited food and water. What are the odds of landing on an island before you run out of resources? But, what if you had a map, navigation tools and an engine with enough fuel to head to the relevant nearest island? See the difference intelligent action makes?]

13 –> This of course brings us right back to the significance and revolutionary power of the empirically anchored inference to intelligent action based on observed characteristic signs of intelligence. The design inference in short.

14 –> And, it shows why there is a self-referential inconsistency in the reasoning of those who have to use their MINDS to think that all is matter + energy, acted on by chance + necessity. Worse yet, some dare to redefine Science — “knowledge” — to embed and entrench and defend this assertion.

So, EM, join us: “Step into the sunshine, and step out of the cave!”

118, KF:

A bit of background reading on the issue of mind and matter: Reppert on mental causation, on defining materialistic worldviews — and in response to an attempted rebuttal, MP on materialism and truth.

119, F [excerpts]:

What is true for me on many levels may or may not be true for you but nonetheless logically one of us is right and we have to appeal to the forces and matrix of data from which we both derive our conclusions, namely experience . . . .

Leibniz uses the incredible illustration of the mill…

17. “Moreover, it must be confessed that perception and that which depends upon it are inexplicable on mechanical grounds, that is to say, by means of figures and motions. And supposing there were a machine, so constructed as to think, feel, and have perception, it might be conceived as increased in size, while keeping the same proportions, so that one might go into it as into a mill. That being so, we should, on examining its interior, find only parts which work one upon another, and never anything by which to explain a perception. Thus it is in a simple substance, and not in a compound or in a machine, that perception must be sought for. Further, nothing but this (namely, perceptions and their changes) can be found in a simple substance. It is also in this alone that all the internal activities of simple substances can consist.”

Also lets discuss the difference between consciousness as we experience it - the only way which it can be known- and as it may seem existent in say material objects such as a computer. The computer is just a mechanistic device that is not conscious of its surroundings or its origins- and the computer cannot conceptualize the infinite- you can program an infinite like algorithm but the concept of anything qualitative like infinity or benevolence is not a communicable- it has nothing to do with mathematics and counting-

The computer is a slave of the human who is its designer- The human has unpredictable or free will- but the computer is already programmed . . . .

As we infer intelligence from its effects. That is through the explanatory filter, we are ONLY inferring design. That is the filter is not finding consciousness but assuming it is there because its effects are obvious indicators . . . . Most everything begins and ends with experience. Without consciousness there would be no experience. Without mind no design. And no material process has been shown to mimic true design. Consciousness must be somewhere else in the laws that construct matter. The only place we know where to look for the source of laws is in a legislator and design in a designer. Here in this realm consciousness in manifest, indivisible and as real anything else. In the physical order of things we look for an ultimate cause, one that can account for the first at the big bang. All we can guess is that this thing is a non material thing- because we know of no material process that can exist without a cause. Incidentally that cause must be able to account for the complexity of life- it therefore must have mind and consciousness. A non material consciousness has therefore been inferred. An self referentially I know that mind is not merely dust.

120, EM:

. . . Would I believe I was in Wales if I also believed the rocks spelled out WELCOME TO WALES by chance? What a silly question! I would have no reason to hold such a belief, because I know that people — intelligent agents of which I have first-hand knowledge — arrange rocks all the time.

124, KF:

First, congratulations on making a design inference based on organised, functional complexity. (Mind that gets you Expelled!)

(Think about what such an inference means in relevant cases such as DNA, a code-bearing, algorithmically functional molecule in cell based life that starts at about 300,000 4-state elements, i.e a config space of some 9.94 *10^180,617, i.e it vastly exceeds the search capacity of the whole observed universe.]

In the meanwhile, let’s get back to the main point:

. . . echoing Richard Taylor, suppose you were in a train and saw [outside the window] rocks you believe were pushed there by chance + necessity only, spelling out: WELCOME TO WALES.

Would you believe the apparent message, why?

Now, how did you respond?

ANS: By inferring that only design — presumably on overwhelming improbability of chance + necessity making sense much less making true sense out of rocks tumbling down a hill — could credibly account for such a configuration.

In other words, you find it incredible (on overwhelming improbability) that chance + necessity acting without intelligent direction can arrive at functionally specified complex information. (Rightly so, BTW.)

BUT “WE” DO THAT ALL THE TIME, WHEN WE WRITE, SPEAK, WORK READ ETC — even when we arrange rocks to spell out “WELCOME TO WALES.”

So, just what is that “we” or “I” and just where does it come from?

ANS: An intelligent agent, i.e. a mind with capacity to somehow — just how, admittedly, we know not — act into the world through our bodies [including brains, tongues and hands] so that one creates meaningful, complex and functional configurations of matter as part of one’s exercise of one’s mind. And, to know that is not vitiated by failing to know precisely how.

At any rate, we have plainly arrived at properties that we experience, and which we know that it is incredible for chance + necessity to generate.

So, we have very good reason to infer to an independent order of existence not driven by mechanical necessity + chance acting on matter and energy [the entities held by materialism to constitute reality]; to wit, the mind, as very traditionally understood.

Worse, without credibly functioning minds — i.e minds not originating in, constituted and thus wholly controlled by chance + necessity acting on matter + energy — one can’t even credibly think materialistic thoughts.

So, Richard Taylor’s little story has a point . . .


Of course, this is a live thread, with much more, doubtless, to come. But, I think that already there is much food for thought. It also shows just how helpful such an online, interactive discussion can be in studying an important, controversial topic -- i.e. forums are vital to the proposed cybercollege.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

1 Chron 12:32 report, 53: Plato's cave games in a Rom 1 world, as the North's dechristianising tidal wave thrusts further into the Caribbean

Over the past few days, I have been intending to remark on a pattern I have been observing through my ongoing study of the "eschatological literature" of evolutionary materialist secularism, i.e. science fiction.

For, in that literature, those who take God or his word seriously are commonly portrayed as irrational, dangerously violent zealots, as for instance can be seen in this free-access book by David Weber and Steve White, Crusade; published by Baen. (Weber's best selling Honorverse series about super-warrior Honor Harrington of the Star Kingdom of Manitcore is more subtle but therefore even more effective, e.g this on the imaginary planet Grayson, settled by an extremist, "fundamentalist" Christian sect.)

So, through enthralling (I mean that in the most pejorative sense, akin to Paul's use of "bewitched" in Gal 3:1) story-telling literary techniques that lead us to identify with certain heroes and their "progressive" ideas and to deplore their antagonists and their (obviously evil) ways and ideas, we see portrayed plausible -- but in fact seriously unrealistic -- worlds, agendas and characters. All of which cleverly gives us the impression that "this way lies progress," a process driven by "science" -- actually, usually only self-refuting evolutionary materialism.

But, while I was reflecting on contemporary science fiction and its manipulative techniques, the issues and dynamics just outlined suddenly took on unexpected reality.

For, I have learned in the past few days of a recent move by a Canadian "Human Rights" group, Egale Canada and the homosexualist -- pardon the neologism, but we need to distinguish people who struggle with homosexuality and those who turn it into a cultural identity, agenda and ideology -- Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) of Toronto, to stigmatise Jamaica as "homophobic," and to call for, among other things, a Canadian tourism boycott and a boycott on goods and services from Jamaica, as a part of a wider thrust to promote the homosexualist agenda in the Caribbean. [Cf here on linked problems in Canada, where criticism of homosexuality is rapidly being criminalised in the name of protecting homosexuals from feeling "offended," through the creation of what is tantamount to a Star Chamber Court with dubious procedures, all under the false colours of protecting human rights.]

As Neil Armstrong [Only in Jamaica . . . !], the Jamaica Star's Toronto Editor goes on to report:
. . . one individual who has been involved with Jamaica AIDS Support for Life and the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays since 1998 and is now in Canada seeking asylum along with his partner [i.e., from this euphemism, we can see that he is a homosexual], said: "It's not just that we're singling out Jamaica, and it will only be about Jamaica, but as soon as the issues in Jamaica have been addressed, then we'll move on to another country. We're not only looking at Jamaica but also the region, the 11 other countries that have the sodomy laws on their books."

Nonetheless, he described Jamaica as the most homophobic of all the Caribbean countries.

In short, we are seeing the beginnings of a major, sustained thrust, one that now comes to us in the guise of a homosexualist "Church" [recall here, Mr Obama's recent dismissive remarks on Romans 1] acting in partnership with "Human Rights" groups and regional homosexuality and AIDS activists; some of whom now reside in Canada and elsewhere, as "refugees" from claimed anti-homosexual pogroms. [NB: In Jamaica, sadly, there are serious human rights concerns, but they do not target any one group. For instance, a goat thief "caught in the act" is notoriously in far more danger -- at the hands of angry mobs, not the police -- than a homosexual activist. In short the deplorable attitude to homosexuals in certain Jamaican pop songs is symptomatic of a wider pattern, not a mark of focused, officially supported persecution of any one target group. And, even more sadly, the police do have a serious -- and acknowledged -- problem with human rights in general. But, the plain underlying problem is lawlessness (something to be repented of and reformed from), not the general state of the law.]

Our task today therefore embraces "formulating cogent responses that will not only win the argument but also win the souls."

That is a challenging task.

For, we must first face a sobering truth.

One that we may reflect on in light of one of the most eloquently insightful, and at once simple but subtle remarks by the Spirit-inspired Apostle Paul, in Eph 4 - 5:
. . . you must no longer live as the [ethne — nations] do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness . . . . For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. [Eph 4:17 – 24, 5:8 - 10.]
Jesus' earlier remarks in the Gospels bring out a subtlety in the just cited text -- for, what we at first think is light may in the end only be darkness, the darkness of deception:

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness. [Mt 6:22 – 23]

No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead he puts it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eyes are bad, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp shines on you. [Lk 11:33 – 36]

Of course, how we credibly know that Jesus is indeed true light was brought out by the Apostle Paul in a famous confrontation with Athens' leading intellectual lights on Mars Hill in Athens, in AD 50:
AC 17:22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

AC 17:24 "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28 `For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, `We are his offspring.'

AC 17:29 "Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone--an image made by man's design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."
In short, the evidential anchor-point of the Christian faith is the risen, glorified Jesus who is our Lord, Saviour and Judge, before whom we shall all account. One may choose to dismiss that, but it stands as a fact of true, uncensored history, backed up by over five hundred eyewitnesses and a church that -- for all its failings over the centuries -- has manifested the beauty and power of that resurrection for two thousand years. One may dismiss it [to one's eternal peril], but one cannot overturn it, on any fair examination.

It is before that same risen Jesus that we will account for our lives, words, thoughts and deeds on a day set by the Lord God, our Creator. For, as Peter notes, in 2 Pet 1:16: "We [the Apostles] did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty."

The full force of these clash between true and false enlightenment is further brought out when we set the above Biblical discussions against the contrasting cultural backdrop of the classic C4 - 5 BC parable of Plato's Cave, which aptly brings out the difference between deceptive, manipulative, oppressive "endarkenment" -- I know, another neologism . . . --of heart and mind and true enlightenment.

Of this parable, Wikipedia gives us a reasonably good, useful precis. [NB: A useful -- though of course itself subtly ideologically loaded -- You-Tube video presentation is here.]

The Wiki summary leads us right up to -- but omits -- the ironic, tragic climax:

Imagine prisoners, who have been chained since their childhood deep inside a cave: not only are their limbs immobilized by the chains; their heads are chained in one direction as well so that their gaze is fixed on a wall.

Behind the prisoners is an enormous fire, and between the fire and the prisoners is a raised walkway, along which puppets of various animals, plants, and other things are moved along. The puppets cast shadows on the wall, and the prisoners watch these shadows. When one of the puppet-carriers speaks, an echo against the wall causes the prisoners to believe that the words come from the shadows.

The prisoners engage in what appears to us to be a game: naming the shapes as they come by. This, however, is the only reality that they know, even though they are seeing merely shadows of objects. They are thus conditioned to judge the quality of one another by their skill in quickly naming the shapes and dislike those who play poorly.

Suppose a prisoner is released and compelled to stand up and turn around. At that moment his eyes will be blinded by the sunlight coming into the cave from its entrance, and the shapes passing by will appear less real than their shadows.

The last object he would be able to see is the sun, which, in time, he would learn to see as the object that provides the seasons and the courses of the year, presides over all things in the visible region, and is in some way the cause of all these things that he has seen . . . . Once enlightened, so to speak, the freed prisoner would . . . be compelled to [try to free his fellow prisoners], [but] . . . descending back into the cave would require that the freed prisoner's eyes adjust again, and for a time, he would be one of the ones identifying shapes on the wall. His eyes would be swamped by the darkness, and would take time to become acclimated. Therefore, he would not be able to identify the shapes on the wall as well as the other prisoners, making it seem as if his being taken to the surface completely ruined his eyesight. (The Republic bk. VII, 516b-c; trans. Paul Shorey).[2]

Plato then observes, chillingly:
". . . Men would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes; and that it was better not even to think of ascending; and if anyone tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death."
In short, when the light in us is truly darkness, it may well lead us to distrust, rage against and even violently turn on those who, in love, would truly enlighten and liberate us.

Indeed, that is exactly what Jesus warned against in John 8, as he spoke to a small (but obviously powerful) minority group of his fellow Jews, who, ever so sadly, were more preoccupied with the privileges of being of the physical seed of Abraham, than with being his spiritual children; as is shown by how they responded to God and to others:
JN 8:39 . . . "If you were Abraham's children," said Jesus, "then you would do the things Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the things your own father does." . . . .

JN 8:42 Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? 47 He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God."
Grim reading.

Reading that is not lightened when we compare Romans 1 (a passage which also brings out the truth about the painful roots of widespread, accelerating homosexualisation of a culture):
RO 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For 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. [We may note: in the old days, statues in temples, nowadays images on TV, in textbooks and museums.]

RO 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. RO 1:26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

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. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
So, we first have to squarely face the power of deception, especially in the form of false enlightenment that thinks it is speaking the truth and doing the right, and challenging "backward fundamentalist attitudes" that are held by irrational, potentially violent would-be theocrats who want to impose their narrow morality on the wider community.

On this, we need to hear Rev Dr Rod Hewitt, a leading liberal-leaning theologian from Jamaica who has often appeared in the pages of that nation's leading newspapers, in words penned only a matter of weeks after the 9/11 attacks in the USA:
The human tragedy in USA has also served to bring into sharp focus the use of terror by religious fanatics/fundamentalists. Fundamentalism or fundamentalists are terms that are applicable to every extreme conservative in every religious system . . . . During the twentieth century in particular we have seen the rise of militant expression of these faiths by extreme conservatives who have sought to respond to what they identify as 'liberal' revisions that have weakened the fundamentals of their faith . . . They opt for a belligerent, militant and separatist posture in their public discourse that can easily employ violence to achieve their goals. [Gleaner, Sept. 26, 2001, italics added.]
In short, there is a "plausible" narrative out there that portrays Bible-rooted concerns over where our culture is going as reflecting the most irrational, backward, destructive and tyrannical of mindsets, comparable to the suicide Terrorists of 9/11. That is what we are up against, and it is a formidable barrier in the public, in many policy-making circles and even when we try to discuss our honest concerns at a personal level.

If you doubt me on this, consider the response to Oklahoma state Rep. Sally Kern when she spoke to the "same-sex marriage" agenda in her state as follows:
What they're trying to do is send a message of intimidation to those people who are taking a stand for traditional marriage and against the homosexual lifestyle. They want to silence us, is what they want to do. And it's happening all over the state. You know, the very fact that I'm talking to you like this, here today, puts me in jeopardy. OK, and so, so be it.
What was the response? [Pardon the easily discerned vulgarities in the following, sadly typical, email excerpts . . .]

  • YOU NAZI FREAK!!!! …YOU MORON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • What a bigoted moron you are … a hate-filled, lying idiot. You would have made a great Nazi if you'd only have been born earlier.

  • I heard what you said and you should be killed you stupid c---- b----! along with George W. Bush! Christianity is the cancer in our society and should be eliminated!

  • YOU ARE A HOMOPHOBIC D-- YOU F--- C--- DIE. You're a horrible person who deserves to burn in hell.
So serious were some of the threats that the Representative was assigned a bodyguard by the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety.

Why is that?

First, because we are being perceived as cutting across "rights" and as enemies of "liberty."

In turn, that is because the sterling and massively sacrificial contribution of Christians to the rise of modern liberty and democracy is commonly censored out in how the history of the past 500 years is presented. But also, because of fundamental confusions on the nature of ethics in general and "rights" in particular, confusions that are driven by the rise of radical evolutionary materialism-driven secularism and relativism, which undermine the foundation of morality. As a result of such confusions, many
assume, imply or assert that Bible-believing Christians [however labelled] are -- generally speaking -- potentially violent and/or oppressive enemies of liberty. Similarly, they confuse principled, reform-minded civil opposition to abuses, licence, libertinism and amorality [this last, often announced as "tolerance" and "diversity"] with enmity to liberty.

In short, those caught up in a Plato's cave world of manipulative shadow-shows will often misperceive deception as truth, and so will tend to resist those who would enlighten or help to liberate them. Truth and right held hostage to our follies, rhetorical tactics, sins and power games, in short.

Obviously, if we can avert the rise of a situation where more and more people in our region are caught up in such webs of manipulation, that would make a big difference.

But, how does that speak to the policy level, on things like the legalisation of sodomy and the obvious rapid follow-on agenda item to create out of whole cloth a homosexualised pseudo-marriage?
1] Obviously, it first helps us preserve the sort of broad-based, thoughtful support that is vital for the sustainability of law in a democratic community. In that regard, it will also help to show that marriage reflects a basic, natural diversity and complementarity in the sexes; indeed, the Creation Order as Jesus pointed out.

2] For, we should not seek to wedge apart what the basic, obvious biological nature of the two sexes tells us that our Creator has joined. As the gospels record:
MT 19:3 Some Pharisees . . . asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"

MT 19:4 "Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator `made them male and female,' 5 and said, `For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh' ? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." [And, we comment: if easy divorce and remarriage is against God's intent, how much more so, that which would twist marriage against nature?]

MT 19:7 "Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?"

MT 19:8 Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."

3] This text also speaks powerfully into the astonishing incidence of sexual sin, cohabitation, visiting relationships and casual sexual promiscuity that so sadly typifies our region. (Cf, here.) In short, there is need for repentance and reformartion so that we all take the planks out of our own eyes even as we address the sawdust in our neighbours' eyes. (Sawdust in the eye, however, is not a good thing, to be made light of or treated as a benefit or a right rather than a danger to people, our children and the stability of the whole community!)

4] Similarly, we should realise that, properly, a right is a binding moral claim we make on one another, rooted in the inalienable dignity we have by virtue of our being made in God's image. Accordingly, we cannot just make up pseudo-rights that fly in the teeth of how God has made us. And, no sin can be a right or a valuable virtue. [Cf here on the issue of values, virtue and public policy in the community in a relativist age.]

5] So, law should properly -- and without danger to true liberty (license and libertinism are NOT liberty!) -- protect marriage from destructive counterfeits.

6] Similarly, in the church, we should expose and refute -- through "the truth in love" [a tough but vital balance to strike and keep . . .] -- the homosexaualist heresy, noting how it picks and chooses, then (sadly) twists scriptures to suit itself and its proclivities. For, it is simply not the case that -- citing
Rev. Troy Perry, the founder of the said Metropolitan Community Churches -- “To condemn homosexuals, many denominations have intentionally misread and misinterpreted their Bibles to please their own personal preferences.”7

7] This accusation is plainly, and willfully, false. Instead, as Paul Morris wisely counselled: “. . . if I were a Christian homosexual, I think this one question would disturb me most: Am I trying to interpret Scripture in the light of my proclivity; or should I interpret my proclivity in the light of Scripture?"

8] At personal level, we must prevail through the Spirit-anointed power of the truth in love, backed up by a winsome, wholesome purity that shows that the truth works:
1CO 6:9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
9] In reaching out, personally, to those caught up in the homosexualist subculture, perhaps a few remarks by one who came out of that sub-culture into the light of liberation by the gospel will help:
1. Establish and accept for yourself that God’s Word is true AS-IS.

2. Seek the truth within the scriptures about homosexuality

3. Do not resist God’s call on your life

4. Know with certainty that you are loved by God exactly where you are and that your experiences are of great value for kingdom work

5. Say Yes. That’s really all it takes to accept the truth which is accepting Jesus Christ.

6. Make your salvation real . . . We must believe with our hearts AND confess with our mouths.

7. Experience paradise NOW! Consult God first, then go ahead and live your life! . . . Enjoy your life to a new degree, without the burden of sin AND with the confidence of ALL of God’s promises on your side!

8. Walk Carefully or ‘circumspectly’ as the scriptures describe. This is about being careful to keep your spirit clean and fresh.

9. Have fellowship with believers. We know that the church has largely failed gays and lesbians by not being a welcoming place for those who have sought spiritual change. The invitation to ‘come as you are’ seems to be extended to everyone but us. However God has people everywhere who are open, real and willing to walk out with you. Ask the Lord to lead you to a loving, caring, bible-believing fellowship where you can be nurtured, be blessed, grow AND be a blessing. [Hebrews 10:25]
So, now by God's loving grace, let us all turn from our oh so comfortable sins and let us repent, walking into the glorious light of grace and truth, then walking ever more, day by day, in that light. END

UPDATE Apr 11:
Minor edits, and some further remarks, including amplifying John 8 and remarking in more details on mob violence and related lawlessness in Jamaica.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Matt 24 watch, 52: 66 lbs of -- thankfully, depleted -- uranium captured from FARC

As March wound down, and as the war scare over Columbia's cross-border raid against a FARC base in Ecuador gradually faded from the headlines, a troubling but largely unremarked event occurred:
following up on leads tracing to computer files captured during the raid, Columbian forces, as at March 20th, have now captured 66 lbs of [thankfully depleted] uranium, from what appears to be a FARC cache just south of Bogota. [VIDEO.]
This has led to considerable speculation over whether FARC is trying to develop a radiological "dirty" bomb, or is simply trying to trade on the radioactive materials black market. Then, the question arises: whether FARC was scammed or a potential scammer in that market. (I note that since in the video, the DU was in effectively woven fibre shopping bags, those handling it knew that the degree of radioactivity was low.)

Many experts think the bomb-making scenario is unlikely, as DU is of much lower radioactivity than its more infamous cousin, highly enriched uranium [which apparently sells for US$ 2.5 millions per kg on the black market]. Plutonium by contrast, is a deadly -- though not exceptionally so -- toxin, and ingesting a tiny fraction of a gram can kill, generally by triggering cancer (over the course of years or decades). Of course, if a significant quantity of Pu dust is inhaled or otherwise ingested, acute radiation sickness could follow, killing in a matter of days or weeks, not years or decades. It is also comparable to lead as a heavy metal toxin. However, it is so ticklish to handle -- there have been several nasty and fatal critical-mass radiological event accidents with it -- that it is unlikely that a common garden variety terrorist group would be likely to play around with "Ploot." (Obviously, the major terrorism sponsoring nation, Iran, has the science and technology infrastructure to work with it, so "ploot" should not be discounted once we can see a link back to Iran. North Korea is a similar risk, and on serious concerns, is held to be a potentially dangerous risk, as they reportedly will sell literally anything to anyone.)

Technically, DU is mostly U-238, which has a half life of ~ 4.46 billion years, as opposed to U-235's ~ 704 million years. As a result, the radiation dosage from a given quantity of DU is about 60% that of a comparable quantity of natural uranium. But in any case, uranium is a relatively low radioactivity element, as half life is inversely related to intensity of radioactivity. [Many radioactive isotopes have half-lives of order years or days or less; it is these that are the obviously more serious radiological hazards.]

Now, too, Jonathan Winer reports in his counter-terrorism blog:
The FARC computers had discussed selling up to 50 kilos of uranium to unspecified governments that might be interested in acquiring it. Notably, the press accounts suggest the uranium was not weapons grade. According to the Colombia military, a sample of the uranium was provided by the military to experts at the Colombian Institute of Geology and Mining, who confirmed the sample to be what was characterized as "depleted uranium."
Immediately, this find further underscores the credibility of the recovered files, following on the heels of the seizure of US$ 480,000 in Costa Rica and Peru's capture of two FARC operatives. That also means that the files' remarks on US$ 300 millions given to FARC by Mr Chavez -- perhaps under the nominal heading of a "ransom" for release of several hostages -- have to be viewed with a certain measure of seriousness.

Also, on the main point of the recovered uranium, we need to reckon that the point of terrorism -- as its very name suggests -- is psychological not military. Just simply to hear that a dirty, radiological bomb has gone off would be enough to evoke mass panic, regardless of the actual physical hazard involved. So, common sense tells us that black market trading and terrorism could both be involved.

Winter went on to remark:
. . . the latest revelation, should it be validated [cf the above linked video], provides further reason to believe that narco-terrorists with nuclear material are no longer the merely confined to Hollywood thrillers, but are dangerously real-world, requiring a real-world response, including from Colombia's neighbors, who need to decide whether they are serious about confronting terrorists in their midst.

FARC's operational, financial, logistical, and political networks now face exposure, and those who have directly facilitated terrorist or criminal activity -- regardless of their political position -- need to face practical consequences. Such consequences can include such responses as the imposition of economic sanctions and asset freezes, the bringing of criminal indictments, the loss of the right to travel in countries registering objections to those doing business with or supporting terrorists. But there have to be consequences, and they need to be multilateral, not confined to issuance by Bogota and Washington.

First, some honesty about what happened. Then, after the dose of reality, practical steps to deter those with public responsibilities who have chosen to become partners with an organization that specializes in drug trafficking and bombings.
Given what has now also come out on Mr Chavez's links to FARC -- and to Iran (and Hezbollah), we here in the Caribbean plainly need to do some very serious fact-checking and re-thinking of our diplomatic alignments and geopolitical inclinations.

But, there is an underlying issue: nuclear terrorism cannot any longer be viewed as a speculative scenario, for we see here a terrorist group in Columbia with 66 lbs of - thankfully, depleted -- uranium, acquired by plainly black market means.

However, though the situation is not a bad as it could have been, the ongoing global war with Islamist militants plainly just moved up another notch on the scale of escalation. END