Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Matt 24 watch, 147: Responding to a question on the Talpiot claimed tomb of Jesus and family

In a discussion of the nativity account over the Christmas break, the question of the Talpiot claimed tomb of Jesus and family, in Jerusalem -- not Galilee or Bethlehem -- was raised.

[U/D, Jan 4:] Expedition Bible responds:


Philip Cunningham (who had the original video embed) goes on to provide some relevant notes and a link to Craig's corrective paper on the mathematics in the recent sensationalist video on the tomb:
The Jesus Tomb Math - William A. Dembski and Robert J. Marks II
Bottom line: when the math is done correctly, probabilities that might be cited in evidence for the Talpiot tomb being the final resting place of the New Testament Jesus are not very impressive and would not even achieve a minimal level of significance as gauged by conventional statistical theory.

Expedition Bible Website


I trust this will prove helpful. END

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A short vid: History and the Nativity

John Ankerberg has a brief video on the historicity of the Nativity, worth watching here:

A good short overview that emphasises the significance of the criterion of embarrassment. 

Noted NT Scholar Gary Habermas gives a summary here:

This gives a more detailed overview, emphasising reasons to accept that we are dealing with record of credible, eyewitness testimony:

(This vid addresses the claims of Dr Bart Ehrman, which are often used to try to overturn confidence in the NT; by looking at patterns of incidental details such as statistics of names, geographical references etc, which show an easy familiarity only reasonably explained by the Gospels being based on eyewitnesses.  Licona takes up a string of Ehrman's purported "contradictions, here. [Onlookers may want to look at my notes on an exchange with a regional person who made similar claims, here; especially my note on how stringent "contradictions" are, and how a logically possible harmonisation can take them off the table on strict logic, never mind the rhetorical promotions of radical dis-harmonies that are ever so common.] If you are in the mind for a debate that reveals the sort of tone that so often happens when these matters are debated, cf. here, and the draft course unit here on discusses the wider context of the historically anchored foundations of the Christian faith. Wider worldview issues are addressed here.) 

Going yet wider, we should note from founding father of the modern anglophone theory of evidence, Simon Greenleaf, in his preliminary observations on Evidence, Vol I Ch 1 on the nature of moral evidence and related warrant for forensic/historical knowledge. 

Let's put in modern paragraphing to make it easier for us to follow: 
The word Evidence, in legal acceptation, includes all the means by which any alleged matter of fact, the truth of which is submitted to investigation, is established or disproved.
This term, and the word "proofs" are often used indifferently, as synonymous with each other; but the latter is applied by the most accurate logicians, to the effect of evidence, and not to the medium by which truth is established.
None but mathematical truth is susceptible of that high degree of evidence, called demonstration, which excludes all possibility of error, and which, therefore, may reasonably be required in support of every mathematical deduction.
Matters of fact are proved by moral evidence alone ; by which is meant, not only that kind of evidence which is employed on subjects connected with moral conduct, but all the evidence which is not obtained either from intuition, or from demonstration.
In the ordinary affairs of life, we do not require demonstrative evidence, because it is not consistent with the nature of the subject, and to insist upon it would be unreasonable and absurd. The most that can be affirmed of such things, is, that there is no reasonable doubt concerning them. The true question, therefore, in trials of fact, is not whether it is possible that the testimony may be false, but, whether there is sufficient probability of its truth; that is, whether the facts are shown by competent and satisfactory evidence. Things established by competent and satisfactory evidence are said to be proved.
By competent evidence, is meant that which the very-nature of the thing to be proved requires, as the fit and appropriate proof in the particular case, such as the production of a writing, where its contents are the subject of inquiry. By satisfactory evidence, which is sometimes called sufficient evidence, is intended that amount of proof, which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind, beyond reasonable doubt.
The circumstances which will amount to this degree of proof can never be previously defined; the only legal test of which they are susceptible, is their sufficiency to satisfy the mind and conscience of a common man ; and so to convince him, that he would venture to act upon that conviction, in matters of the highest concern and importance to his own interest . . .  [Evidence, vol 1, Ch 1, Preliminary observations, emphases and modern style paragraphing added.]
We have here a classic summary of the reasonable criteria by which matters of history or of events and affairs among men can be warranted to high enough confidence that one would be properly seen as irresponsible to in the teeth of relevant evidence, insist on acting as though these things were not so.

This is of course the problem of selective hyperskepticism, which may be followed up in more details here on. Unfortunately, it is all too commonly seen on this subject, and typically reflects  the eagerness or even desperation that all too many have to find or persuade themselves that these things are not so. (Cf here.)

But, the unfortunate irresponsibility involved in such tactics should be patent.

The bottom-line is obvious: we here credibly deal with the pivot of history, a pivot that challenges us all. 

So, what will we do, today, with this same Jesus the Messiah, God's holy anointed Deliverer and Saviour, called Christ in Greek translation? END

Friday, December 23, 2011

Capacity Focus, 29: Robots, controls and mechatronics in compuer studies, and in information & technology education

The OWI Robot Arm Edge "toy"
As we continue to think about using robots and other mechatronic devices --
wiki"Mechatronics is the combination of mechanical engineering, electronic engineering, computer engineering, software engineering, control engineering, and systems design engineering in order to design, and manufacture useful products"  -- 
. . .  in technology education, we first have to think about affordability and how we can build up our own familiarity with the technology through initial explorations.

This is where the under US$ 50 OWI Robotic Arm Edge (as pictured) and the like -- Edge is now at Amazon for US$ 32.50 -- come in, as assemble yourself "toys." The Amazon manufacturer's blurb for this "toy" is a useful start-point:
Command the robotic arm gripper to open and close, radial wrist motion of 120°, an extensive elbow range of motion of 300°, base rotation of 270°, base motion of 180°, vertical reach of 15 inches, horizontal reach of 12.6 inches and lifting capacity of 100g. Some of the added features include a search light design on the gripper and an audible safety gear indicator is included on all 5 gear boxes to prevent potential injury or gear breakage during operation. Total command and visual manipulation using the "5's", five-switch wired controller, 5 motors, 5 gear boxes, and 5 joints. For ages 10 and up. Add USB Interface cable and Software, OWI-535USB, (not included) to integrate programming and expand the capabilities of the Robotic Arm Edge . . . . Construct your Robotic Arm into a bionic marvel, then command the gripper to open and close, twist at the wrist, rotate on its base or extend at the elbow to retrieve objects. Special features include a five switch wired controller, five motors, five joints and audible gear safety indicators to prevent potential gear damage during operation. Assembled size about 9 inches long x 6.3 inches wide x 15 inches high. Uses four D batteries, not included.
A Think Geek video shows it in action:

This is of course under pendant control. The USB interface kit and software CD (additional US$  40 or less [Amazon, US $ 26.69 current]) allows hosting the robot on a computer, though the hosting is fairly limited, e.g. there is no absolute origin, and there is a problem of loose gearing so repeatability is an issue. Blurb:
. . . For use with our Robotic Arm (Item #45203), this optional USB Interface Kit for Robotic Arm allows you to program the Robotic Arm from your PC, using a built-in interactive script writer for real-time interactive control. Program the arm to perform a sequence of movements, just like an actual robot on an assembly line. The USB Interface Kit comes complete with a CD, printed circuit board, USB cable and accessories, and a detailed instruction manual. HARDWARE and SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: OS: Windows XP Service Pack 1,2,3/Vista. CPU: Pentium3, 1.0GHz or higher. Memory: 256MB or higher. Hardware Disk Space: 100MB or more. 
Acknowledging limitations at such a price-point, this device would be good for class demonstrations, and with some programing and planing, for experiments. But, we see that for US$ 60 or so, we are able to gain a basic hands on exposure to robotics that we can then extend to much more sophisticated systems.

Doubtless there are other kits and devices out there, starting at about the US$ 100 - 200 price point, but the issue here is to get our feet wet.

Here is an example of a Carnegie-Mellon University "roll yer own" collaborative student project [one each, mech eng, elec eng, and computer science], c. 2004, complete with typical glitches:

It is worth pausing to see the onward industrial context:

Notice, how not only are there obvious robots of various types in the car manufacturing process, but also that the overall assembly line processes are also highly automated and integrate controllers and precision mechanisms. Human workers are involved at points where our intuitive intelligence and flexibility are still an advantage.

This is the future of manufacturing and technology in general.

Which highlights the digital divide effect again, as -- by and large -- in our region, we are simply not being prepared for working productively in such a world.

In further thinking about a Java based introduction to computer programming, I came across a robotics based course here, which is presently Python-based, but a Java port is in progress, cf Java-ported draft ch 3 here.

In motivating the free online textbook (produced in the context of a collaborative initiative across several universities), prof Kumar observes in the preface, p. vi:
Computers and robots are no longer the realm of large corporate offices and industrial manufacturing scenarios. They have become personal in many ways: they help you write your term papers, store and organize your photographs, your music collection, your recipes, and keep you in touch with your friends and family. Many people might even dismiss the computer as an appliance: like a toaster oven, or a car. However, as you will learn in this book, a computer is far more versatile than most appliances. It can be used as an extension of your mind. We were not kidding above when we mentioned that computers can be used to process ideas. It is in this form, that a computer becomes an enormously powerful device regardless of your field of interest. How personal you can make a computer or a robot is entirely up to you and your abilities to control these devices. This is where this book comes in. You will learn the basics of how a computer and a robot is controlled and how you can use these ideas to personalize your computers even further, limited only by your imagination.
In short, it is demonstrably feasible to use robots, microcontrollers and interfaces in an introduction to computer programming course. 

Parallax's Scribbler 2
The course uses the Parallax Scribbler 2, a turtle format robot. (The name comes from the use of a pen-mounting slot that can then track the robot's path as it searches for a target and responds to obstacles by leaving a marker trace on a sheet of paper or the like.)

Turtle robots are low-slung mobile robots (usually mounted on wheels) that can work in autonomous or remotely piloted modes, depending. (Added, Dec 24th: Cf here on how they gave rise to turtle graphics and thence the sprites that are so important in computer graphics, and here on their current most advanced hardware descendants, the Mars Rovers. It is worth looking at UAVs here and on remotely operated submersibles [often, ROV]  here also. This press release from India on creating its first remotely piloted submersible points to economic potential.)

Turtles, then, are directly related to the Mars Rovers, to robot pallets in factories, and -- with extensions -- to remotely piloted submersibles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). That shows their industrial utility. And of course, it is not too hard to see such a robot being tracked or even a walker instead, or seeing sensor antennae/stalks with cameras or feelers etc being put on a more developed device, as well as guided manipulator arms with tool tips and end effectors. (Cf. more analytical discussions here, here.)

From this perspective, we can see that an elongated bird neck, head and beak is in fact a turtle robot with a single arm (with built-in sensor turret) and two-finger gripper!  So, we could envision a sort of mechanical chicken as a walking robot, and adding goose wings and elongated neck, we have an architecture for a flying/walking/diving turtle "robot" with mechanical arm:

A suggested "bird bot" based on a turtle chassis
Going beyond, we can even see the possibilities for a von Neumann-type kinematic self-replicating universal constructor as a universal manufacturing cell, which can "sit" on a turtle-type base:

NASA's vision of a vNSR self-replicating universal manufacturing cell.

 Merkle explains why NASA is deeply interested in this sort of technology:
[T]he costs involved in the exploration of the galaxy [or even our solar system]  using self replicating probes would be almost exclusively the design and initial manufacturing costs. Subsequent manufacturing costs would then drop dramatically . . . . A device able to make copies of itself but unable to make anything else would not be very valuable. Von Neumann's proposals centered around the combination of a Universal Constructor, which could make anything it was directed to make, and a Universal Computer, which could compute anything it was directed to compute. This combination provides immense value, for it can be re- programmed to make any one of a wide range of things . . . [[Self Replicating Systems and Molecular Manufacturing, Xerox PARC, 1992. (Emphases added.)]

Focussing on the individual unit:
A self-replicating universal constructor
As is discussed in the associated IOSE origins science survey course:

therefore, following von Neumann generally, such a machine capable of doing something of interest with an additional self-replicating facility uses . . .

(i) an underlying storable code to record the required information to create not only (a) the primary functional machine [[here, a Turing-type “universal computer”] but also (b) the self-replicating facility; and, that (c) can express step by step finite procedures for using the facility;   
(ii) a coded blueprint/tape record of such specifications and (explicit or implicit) instructions, together with   
(iii) a tape reader [[called “the constructor” by von Neumann] that reads and interprets the coded specifications and associated instructions; thus controlling:   
(iv) position-arm implementing machines with “tool tips” controlled by the tape reader and used to carry out the action-steps for the specified replication (including replication of the constructor itself); backed up by   
(v) either:   
(1) a pre-existing reservoir of required parts and energy sources, or   
(2) associated “metabolic” machines carrying out activities that as a part of their function, can provide required specific materials/parts and forms of energy for the replication facility, by using the generic resources in the surrounding environment.
Also, parts (ii), (iii) and (iv) are each necessary for and together are jointly sufficient to implement a self-replicating machine with an integral von Neumann universal constructor.

That is, we see here an irreducibly complex set of core components that must all be present in a properly organised fashion for a successful self-replicating machine to exist. [[Take just one core part out, and self-replicating functionality ceases: the self-replicating machine is irreducibly complex (IC).].
This is of course quite directly related to the vexed debates on origin of life (starting with Paley's suggested self-replicating, time-keeping watch) and wider exchanges on the scientific warrant for the inference to design on IC and on other similar signs of design. While these are interesting, they are not a primary focus here.

Our focus here is that a vNSR universal constructor is potentially a key component for industrial transformation, not just for solar system or galactic exploration. For, with associated open source modular construction technologies from say the Global Village Construction Set -- envisioned, ultimately, as a "one DVD' "civilisation starter-kit" --being developed by Marcin Jakubowski et al, we are looking at the potential to transform the architecture and economic systems of manufacturing. 

Such a transformation would lead to breaking through the value added divide, whereby third world countries are by and large locked into extraction or basic agriculture and raw materials export models. We then have to provide additional services like tourism, to be able to afford the value-added products from the advanced countries. 

The resulting fragility of our economies here in the Caribbean is notorious.

Jakubowski et al pose a different possibility, by creating the GVCS:
This is a program for technological leapfrogging, distributive economics, and closing of the industrial divide between the haves and have-nots . . . .
By weaving open source permacultural and technological cycles together, we intend to provide basic human needs while being good stewards of the land, using resources sustainably, and pursuing right livelihood. With the gift of openly shared information, we can produce industrial products locally using open source design and digital fabrication. This frees us from the need to participate in the wasteful resource flows of the larger economy by letting us produce our own materials and components for the technologies we use. We see small, independent, land-based economies as means to transform societies, address pressing world issues, and evolve to freedom.

So, why not see -- seriously try to see -- if we can break the digital/ technology/ haves vs have nots divide cycles? 

Couldn't such a breakthrough help transform prospects for our vulnerable small island developing state economies in our region?

Why not have our science, computing and engineering faculties in the wave of existing and emerging universities and colleges lead the process, turning their publicly funded and philanthropic support and grant financing into a stream of valuable open-source hardware and software product initiatives that can then feed into community development, agricultural and industrial initiatives?

Commercial enterprises could then get into the act by providing value added support, products with extra plug-in capacity, and services. (This would be similar to the software model where for instance Linux and Android form ecosystems in which application projects build in value that consumers are willing to pay for.)

And, the key technical people in those commercial initiatives would come from the same universities. 

Indeed, why not do a prize programme where the most promising student or staff practical projects in any given academic year are given places in incubators with seed-grants?

Where also, we could develop a network of business incubators and small business finance and venture capital schemes to help fertilise the process.

But, we are leaving off a key side . . .

For, as Jakubowski implies, agriculture, too, comes within the purview of this transformation.

A good first thought is in a magazine article by Luke Iseman, on an urban mini garden managed via an open-source microcontroller, the Arduino. 

In his own words from the article:
My Garduino garden controller uses an Arduino micro-controller to run my indoor garden, watering the plants only when they’re thirsty, turning on supplemental lights based on how much natural sunlight is received, and alerting me if the temperature drops below a plant-healthy level.   For sensors, the Garduino uses an inexpensive photocell (light), thermistor (temperature), and a pair of galvanized nails (moisture).  You can use a Garduino to experiment and learn what works best in your garden . . .
As the diagram at the linked article reveals, the garden in view is a demonstration-scale project:

A demonstration microcontroller managed garden
But obviously this can be scaled up to say a small farming plot with microcontroller driven drip irrigation, plastic or straw mulching, etc. Onward, this points to high tech backyard gardening, or small scale commercial farming of strategically chosen cash crops.

The underlying technologies for all of these could plainly be incorporated in a basic programming course and in a basic controls-oriented electronics for all course that extends that, as has been envisioned as a basic tentmaking technology sequence for the proposed AA CCS.

But, more importantly, the onward context of capacity-building for potential industrial and economic transformation of our region -- and for other regions across the third two-thirds world -- should be plain.
So, let us again ask: why not now, why not here, why not us? END

Friday, December 16, 2011

Capacity Focus, 28: Using the Arduino (or a comparable unit: the Raspberry Pi etc . . . ) microcontroller board to teach the basic art of electronics and digital control, for all

A generation ago, Horowitz and Hill's famous book, The Art of Electronics, opened up a whole new way to think about learning and doing electronics, for those not particularly inclined to become full bore electronics engineers but who would find some ability to work with electronics helpful for their own work.

An Arduino open source single board
microcontroller, showing key chips
and ports on the printed circuit card
Today, something like the Arduino open source microcontroller and single board computer (or the like, e.g. the Raspberry Pi, etc) offers the opportunity to create a new version of this approach, for people who have grown up in a digital age and yet who are currently largely locked out of the underlying electronics and programming technologies, creating yet another form of the notorious digital divide. 

This time, between those locked into being consumers of digital technologies, and those who have key skills to develop systems that put such technologies to work productively.

As ever, the challenge is to bridge the divide, and that leads to the idea headlined above: a basic art of electronics and digital controls course, to be integrated with the proposed AA CCS programme.  Perhaps, such a course could be developed as one successor to the Java based programming for all course as was already discussed here

The idea-sparker for the course was my observation yesterday, of a kit and series of exercises for doing electronics related control based on an Arduino, by Adafruit:

The AdafruitARDX - v1.3 electronics and digital control experimentation kit

This kit uses the Arduino as a microcontroller, and steps students through exercises where they will interface electronic components that can be manipulated based on software instructions, and will then do interesting and even useful things.

So, let us build on this idea, in steps of thought:

1 --> Electronics can be "defined" for our purposes as the science, art and technology that uses the properties and behaviour of electrons and/or similar charge carriers in certain materials and/or a vacuum, to design, implement and control useful devices, circuits, networks and systems.

2 --> So, the natural focus for an electronics designer or implementer, would be:
a: the underlying physics of the materials and devices that makes them work, e.g. a light emitting diode or a transistor, as well as the classic passive devices: resistors, inductors, capacitors, inductors, transformers; also, basic motors and generators, including microphones, speakers and the D'Arsonval galvanometer movement.

b: the analysis and modelling of the devices that allows us to readily design circuits or networks without resorting to full bore quantum physics etc. (I would extend this to the sort of circuit simulation modellling that is now common, and would at least introduce transistors, amplifiers, op amps [I still favour the 071 family as an update to the classic 741 . . .  not least because we can then use them to make a quite impressive simple Class AB biased push-pull feedback controlled audio amplifier], gates and latches [as well as the famous 555 timer chip!], then point beyond to how electronics based systems are built up.)

c: techniques for analysis, modelling and design of the circuits or networks that use these devices (and of associated signals and controlled power flows), with an emphasis on computer based modelling. (I would bring on board counters, registers, adders and the ALU idea, A/D and D/A, as well as port interfaces, the Serial vs parallel question, microcontroller architecture as built up from these, etc.)

d: the development, implementation, control and maintenance of systems based on such circuits and networks, using the block diagram/exploded diagram approach and some examples.
3 --> In this context, the electronics circuits would be interfaced with the Arduino or the like, and for experimental work or initial development and testing would be on a breadboard [such as the odd looking whitish rectangular object with dots just above the Arduino board in the above photo of the kit].

4 --> Video of what it is like to use a breadboard for prototyping or experimenting with electronics:

Atari Punk Console on the scope from Sparkle Labs on Vimeo.

5 --> Now, we are of course interested in going beyond just "hook up this by carrying out the following steps," then "key in the following code into the Arduino," then  "flick the switch" and finally "watch the wonderful things that happen."

6 --> "Oohs" and "ahs" of wonder have their place, but we want to understand what is going on, and we want to be able to design our own applications and programs for control, e.g. for a drip irrigation controller or say a simple robot car. I am particularly intrigued by the +/- 90 degree arm servo motor kit for the Arduino:

Servo motor kit

 7 --> Similarly, I find the US$ 99 or so DSO Nano V2  hand-held single-channel oscilloscope an intriguing possibility for this sort of low-frequency project:

A hand-held, low-cost single channel digital oscilloscope

8 --> This last practically invites a project to do multiple channels based on using a chopper circuit (similar to what was used in the old analogue 'scopes when they were in chop vs alternate mode to give multichannel capacity).

9 --> For more sophisticated signals inspection the scope meter for field use or the now fairly common PC resident oscilloscopes such as those by Pico or the like for the lab would be my suggestion.

10 --> The prospect of embedding sensors, actuators and associated instrumentation and display devices itself suggests a whole new way to study experimental physics, chemistry, biology and engineering. In short, we also have here a platform for equipping people to do experimental science at a new level.

11 --> But, our main focus for the envisioned course is electronics in a microcontroller context. That points to the two main aspects of such control: discrete state, step by step control of an object, process unit or the like, and control of a system to keep on a set trajectory or target point, something that starts with say the level controller in the tank of the toilets in our bathrooms -- or (my favourite for teaching students), a bottle filling machine on a production line. 

Video of a simple filler machine line:

Video of a full scale drink bottling plant:

12 --> Electronic devices driving power amplifiers or control relays are great for starting to understand and be able to develop such units at fairly low power levels. Beyond that, electromechanical interfaces would ope up pneumatic and hydraulic systems, but that will require complexities and costs not within the reasonable remit of a basic course like the one in view. (However, some introduction to what would be needed, and maybe a demonstration, could help.)

I strongly believe such a course is doable, and would open up a world of being able to develop productive electronics systems for a lot of people. 

So, why not let's try?

Bridging the digital divide, II . . .  END

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Capacity Focus, 27: A gap -- a need for an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for writing Java software ON the cradled Android Tablet

A cradled Android Tablet:
how can this be used as a
valid program-writing
platform, for programming
for all?
While there are various options for writing and compiling software for the Android (on PC's etc), there seems to currently be a gap when it comes to having a local -- not cloud -- IDE for writing software USING the Android Tablet. 

The various IDE's on the cloud are helpful, for what they do, but for educational purposes, it is clear we need something that can turn the Tablet into a valid light Java programming platform in its own right. We need people to be able to program for assignments and projects in the context of a programming for all course, without having to have (fairly expensive) broadband and/or wireless access at home etc.

I suspect that in the next year or two, someone out there may seek to address this, but the reality of the gap has to be recognised. 

In the worst case, this means programming on the cloud -- using hosted remote IDE's accessed through browsers, and perhaps writing code using a stripped down txt file format on the Android's word processor. But, that is far from preferable.

One hopes the "1337's" out there [i.e. the "leets" = elites of the programming subculture] will recognise that this is not idiocy or stupidity, but a legitimate need in especially an educational context.  As in, where will the next generation of 1337's -- especially out in the 2/3rds World boondocks where the digital divide most urgently needs bridging -- come from?

Perhaps, someone out there in a university computing department could help out. E.g., an Android version of Dr J or the like would be very welcome.

Not a deal-breaker, but a point of concern. END

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Capacity Focus, 26: What about Bible Study apps for the Android mobile operating system?

The envisioned educational computing platform, a cradled Android Tablet, with keyboard and wireless web access, will need to have local Bible Study software. "Apps" as such application programs are called in this context.

The Word and eSword do not seem to have been ported to Android as yet, though these remain the recommended freeware applications for PCs. (Macs are almost irrelevant in the Caribbean.)

It seems the two best alternatives are Olive Tree's BibleReader 4.0 (the KJV version is free) and CadreBible, which seems to be similar in philosophy to The Word and eSword, hosting multiple versions and resources.

Youversion seems to be a good Bible reader with a nice set of versions.

A cluster of screenshots from CadreBible is:

CadreBible screenshots
In addition the ColorDict app, which imports and sets up a collection of dictionaries, should be a useful Bible Study and general reference app.

Obviously, these should all be seen as complementing other Bible study tools and resources, including of course, Bible reference web sites. (Cf the NCSTS resources page, here.)

So, we have adequate resources for Bible reading and research, and over time this situation will improve as the Android Tablet and the Android Smart Phone become "hot," widely used, and popular personal computing platforms. END
F/N: HT, Bible and Tech, and ChurchMag.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Capacity Focus, 25: Libre (Open) Office, the Android mobile operating system, and office productivity on tablet PCs

The Libre Office Logo

Further reports: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Libre Office is a fork of the well-respected Sun [Now, Oracle] Open Source -- i.e. free for download -- office productivity software, Open Office. I have come to use this as my main office productivity package, retaining an old MS Office suite as a means of compatibility. We should note, that the open document format used by OO is an ISO standard, and is solid. OO family products will open MS Office products and will work in and save to that format also. Indeed, I have found cases where OO is more compatible across MS Office files than various versions of MS Office, especially if one has to bridge Macs and PCs.

(Personal view: I definitely do not like the "Ribbon" interface introduced as of MS Office 2007, which I find too restrictive, obscure and hard to work with. LO or OO are much better bang, especially for no bucks. Though, I find the problem of what happens when document recovery fails a bit annoying.*)

Android is, of course, the Linux-based operating system developed for mobile phones, and which has been extended to Tablet PC's.  That means that it has a viable Apps market, and that it is a credible base for educational tablet computing. I think that a 7-inch tablet, in a cradle, with USB connector and a compact keyboard, for US$ 80 - 100 or thereabouts,  a very viable form factor for educational computing and eBook reading, in a year or so:
A cradled tablet, in a folder with a keyboard

 However, so far, there are some problems with having a good free overall office productivity  suite that preserves format when converted to Microsoft's formats and opened up in MS software, especially as there does not seem to be a version of MS Office for Android. (Microsoft sponsors a rival mobile operating system, a minor player in the Smart Phone market, so far.)

One workaround is to circulate documents in PDF format whenever possible, as this is about the most controlled, consistent format there is. However, this does not answer the problem of a good, free office productivity suite that will more or less reliably work in a world that is still dominated by MS Office.

According to Softpedia and other sources, though, The Open Document Foundation, sponsor for Libre Office has announced that late in 2012 or early in 2013, they should have a release of the Libre Office Suite, for Android. The key factor for this, is that LO -- like OO -- is written in Java, so it is far more portable across operating systems than other suites.

From Softpedia, Oct 17th:
The Document Foundation proudly announced a few days ago, at the LibreOffice Conference 2011 event in Paris, that LibreOffice will be ported to the iOS and Android operating systems.

As LibreOffice is an open source project, it can be easily ported to other operating systems were Java is supported, such as Android and Apple's iOS, making LibreOffice on iPads and Android tables.

The Document Foundation announced that a web-based demo, called LibreOffice Online Prototype, will also be available soon. It is based on HTML5′s canvas and the GTK+ framework.

The first public releases of LibreOffice for Web, iOS and Android will be available sometimes in late 2012 or early 2013.
As announced, Libre Office will also appear in a web based "cloud" form similar to Google Docs and the like.

Bottomline: in 1 - 2 years, we will have a credible open source Android suite for office productivity that would make the tablet in a cradle format very useful for education use. 

And, for those worried about needing compatibility with MS Office, or that people using OO or LO will not be able to work with Ribbon format MS Office suites, the simplest solution is to install LO on the machines, which will cost management essentially nothing. If you want something that you pay for, I have been testing ThinkFree office suite, which goes for about US$ 50, and which is noted to be very compatible with Office. With one exception: no ribbon, an ADVANTAGE in my view. It is available on the cloud, for PC's and Macs, AND for Android.

So, the tablet format is plainly very viable right now, and in the 1 - 2 year window, we will have a free for download office productivity suite that is industry strength.

So, I flag the 7" tablet in a cradle format as the format to watch for educational computing. 

So, here is a new motto:

OTPS-- one tablet per student! 

One year's time . . . END
* F/N: Whenever the program starts up, it will ask you to try to recover the failed document. You may have to dump the install and start over, so keep your download file handy.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Matt 24 watch, 146b: Responding to the (implicitly anti-Semitic) Bible difficulties rhetorical game used to drag disucssions of unwelcome issues into a polarising side-track

In response to the just previous post here at KF blog, which I linked at UD, the immediate reply by one of the ilk of the hate mailer I exposed, was an attempt to drag the UD thread off into a side track on whether or not Deuteronomy 22 is [im]morally equivalent to the recent case in Iran where a young woman, having been raped, was sentenced to gaol for 12 years for fornication; and could only get out to raise her toddler child resulting from the sexual assault, by marrying the rapist. (This case, of course, I had highlighted in a previous post in this blog, as just linked.)

This is an example of the sort of (1) distract, (2) distort, (3) denigrate and poison 1-2-3 trifecta combination fallacy rhetorical tactics too often advocated and used by today's new atheists. 

At no point was there any willingness to be accountable over the hate mail already exposed. 

That is already a serious warning-sign on the irresponsibility, underlying hostility and unwillingness to be reasonable involved on the part of too many of these atheism advocates. 

Underneath lies an attitude that obviously wishes to improperly project unto Christians the notion that we are morally equivalent to the theocratic, tyrannical mullahs in Iran and/or Taliban or Al Qaeda terrorists -- when in fact such are not even typical of most Muslims.

That is already a direct case of hateful slander that should be acknowledged and turned from.

A further, even more dangerous issue is that in a vast majority of key cases of alleged Bible issues and difficulties being raised to try to indict the God of the Bible as a "fictional" "bronze age tribal deity" and "genocidal moral monster," etc, the texts being snipped out of context come from the Old Testament or the Tanach, especially the Pentateuch or Torah. 

That is, the texts are taken from the strictly Hebrew, i.e. Jewish, Scriptures.

So, Dr Dawkins and co, kindly note: the direct implication of these anti-God, anti-Bible arguments, is that they are implicit attacks on Jews and Judaism, not just Christians and Christianity. Those who would make them, need to ask whether they would be willing to explicitly substitute terms directly accusing or challenging Jews, for those that accuse or challenge Christians. 

For instance in Dawkins' The God Delusion, we may read:
The God of the Old Testament [read: Jews] is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully . . . ” [Cf. Lennox- Dawkins debate, here. For a quick initial response to this sort of rhetoric, cf. CARM here and JPH of Tektonics here, here, here and here. Also cf. Vox Day's short book length critique of the new Atheists in a free to download format here. (Available from Amazon here.)]
The subtext of thinly veiled Anti-Semitism* should be obvious, once we headline the reference to "The God of the Old Testament." Let's spell that out, a little more plainly: The God of the Old Testament [Jews].

Dr Dawkins, would you be willing to explicitly say that "the God of the Jews" is "jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully"?

Obviously not, or you would not have resorted to the sort of snide euphemism that allows you to pretend that it is only Bible-believing Christians who are in your cross-hairs.

So, I have a direct challenge to the legions of so-called new Atheists who are ever so eager to carry forth the accusation or snide insinuation that Bible-believing Christians are barbaric, potentially terroristic, theocratic, tyrannical and genocide-supporting followers of an imaginary "bronze age tribal deity and moral monster."

It is this:
If the arguments you use to try to discredit the Bible, God and Christians would be out of order and unacceptable if addressed directly and explicitly to Jews, such an argument, by simple fairness, is also out of order and unacceptable if directed at Christians.
Indeed, such an argument, like it or not -- and my accuser at UD did not like it and tried turnabout accusation tactics, is rather obviously implicitly anti-Semitic. 

(Just think, Christianity is NOT from the bronze age; that is the time of the Hebrew patriarchs, of Joseph, of Moses and on down to David -- who seems to have led Israel into the Iron Age through the immigration of 600 Philistines under his sponsorship; the Philisines having previously dominated Israel by monopolising blacksmithing, to the point where Israelites had to go to Philistia to get their iron agricultural implements -- obviously, bought from Philistines --  sharpened. So, do you wish to be of the ilk of the anti-Semites? If not, kindly refrain from attacking the alleged "bronze age tribal deity" you imagine you see in the Bible.)

This issue needs to be dealt with first, as there is plainly an atmosphere poisoning, polarising tactic that is being routinely resorted to that needs to be answered.

So, next time Dr Dawkins or one of his aficionados and talking point parrots tries to drag an inconvenient discussion off track by making such implicitly anti-semitic accusations, let him first answer, whether he would be willing to explicitly make that argument as a challenge to Jews.

If not, then he has automatically disqualified himself from the circle of civil conversation if he tries to use such tactics against Christians.

So, we see that there is plainly a need to shift the whole tone and focus of discussion to a more civil and reasonable approach. 

And, those who have shown -- inadvertently exposed, in fact -- themselves willing to resort to implicit anti-Semitism, far from holding the moral and intellectual high ground,  now have a lot of quite serious explaining to do.

Until such "bronze age tribal deity and moral monster" talking point tacticians and those who willingly parrot their talking points are willing and able to explain themselves properly, they should be seen for what they are. Such, should understand that the price of re-admission to civil discussion is to turn from and apologise for such viciously poisonous tactics.

Dr Dawkins and co, with all due respect, this means you.

New Atheists etc, who have entertained and propagated such poison, this also points to you.

Your explanation for the above clip, and for keeping it up for several years now is  . . . ?

[The silence, is deafening.]

But, someone will ask, aren't there real Bible difficulties, that really do need reasonable answers for honest and concerned, or even perplexed people?

Indeed, but the shift in tone and focus needed to reasonably and fairly address such, should be plain. Until that step is taken, then no real dialogue is possible in a climate of willful false accusations and nasty caricaturing.

But, how can real Bible difficulties be reasonably answered?

We can start with a Google search or the like, under that name or the like. Easily done, and serious people will be able to find resources and points of contact for more specific discussion and follow up.

I just did this basic research step, and easily came up with the following top level hits that look reasonable for a first-look:
CARM first page on Bible Difficulties, here

Apologetics Index opening page on Bible Contradictions, here

Answering Islam's Bible Contradictions page (with a Muslim focus) here

R A Torrey's classic short work on Bible Difficulties is online as a PDF here

Philip and Cherian have a paper analysing the subject here

Geisler and Howe give a general approach here

Countering Bible Contradictions, here

Bible Difficulties: resources to defeat the skeptics and critics, which has a helpful guide and onward links to reference sites and books etc., here

(One of the sources this last lists is Tekton's Encyclopedia Apologetica search page, here. OT issues are addressed here, and NT ones here. The so-called enc of Bible errancy is addressed here. While I am at it, the Evil Bible site is answered here.)

The Bible Query page has a major index and reference here
In addition, there are many classic and modern reference works that can be seen for the price of a trip to your friendly local Christian book store, e.g. Gleason Archer's classic Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, now updated.

In addition, such stores, theological libraries, the sort of sites listed, and many other possibilities provide ways to have reasonable dialogue with the informed are within reach of the serious inquirer.

In short, it can hardly be said that Christians do not take Bible difficulties seriously, or that reasonable answers to serious questions cannot be found. And, there are obvious opportunities for live or web based dialogue for the serious inquirer.

That is the context in which I must take a dim view of those who want to push toxic talking points as though they are knockout arguments that allow them to get away with failing to think through their own worldview base from first principles and deal with the many worldview problems of evolutionary materialism.

As I listed such concerns in my just previous post, top issues for evolutionary materialists include:
1: just how evolutionary materialist atheism is inescapably self-contradictory and necessarily false.

2: just how it is inescapably amoral and so cannot ground OUGHT in a foundational IS, so it undermines rights and justice.

3: how a step by step analysis of credible worldview options leads to the conclusion that generic ethical theism is the soundest worldview option.

4: how the specific, Judaeo-Christian worldview and tradition is grounded in the historic evidence that undergirds the gospel as truth that brings us hope for redemption and transformation under God.

5: just how destructive and willfully, slanderously unfair is the attempt to smear Bible-believing, gospel-teaching Christian disciples with the false accusation that we are in effect the same as Al Qaeda's terrorists, would-be theocratic tyrants and general menaces to liberty, progress and democracy.
Before closing off, let me also briefly comment in more details on the difficulty in Deut 22 that was raised, for those who have a genuine problem, in light of basic principles of inductive Bible study. (NB: Beyond Bible study there are the principles of hermeneutics and the professional practice of exegesis based on technical knowledge, including history, background, theology, language etc. Nice introductory survey of the themes and approaches, here.)

A glance a few verses just above the text cited, will show that once rape was reasonably proved, the case law precedent was that the rapist was liable to be put to death. Indeed, in a case of a pledged girl caught and raped in the countryside, the law's presumption was that she screamed but there was no-one to hear; i.e. the presumption of hebrew law here is NOT that the woman asks for it and tempts the man into it.  Though, of course, the additional wider context is that Hebrew law was careful to insist on reasonable standards of testimony etc., most famously the need for two or three independent witnesses, separately examined. It is plain that a distressed pledged woman who had say gone out to get firewood [a major task for women in the days before modern cooking equipment] coming back crying for help -- and bearing obvious marks of assault -- seen by two or three witnesses in that condition, will be believed over her attacker, who is liable to the rigorous penalty.

So, there are contrasting cases in view: where a cry for help was heard or could reasonably be presumed, the rapist was liable to the death penalty. But, then the focus changes; to a case where the boy who despoiled a girl is seen as liable to pay the bridal dowry, and to marry the girl without possibility of divorcing her. (Just as, a man who having married a girl but finding that he dislikes her falsely accuses her of not being a virgin on the wedding night, must pay a stiff fine to the girl's family and cannot ever divorce her, once the traditional tokens -- presumably, kept in custody of the girl's family (cf here and here) [and yes, a rabbinical source is obviously relevant]) -- are produced. [Do you now see the significance of reading and understanding textual, cultural and situational context, J et al?])

Why is that?

Is this a case of forced marriage to a rapist "just like" in Iran, as the skeptical accuser would have us believe?

Nope, not if we understand that the Hebrew culture was high-context in its way of communication, i.e. we cannot properly understand many things unless we have a highly nuanced understanding of context. (So, let the ignorant and hostile skeptic beware of declaring and declaiming on what he knows not!)

What is the key to understanding this case?

Simple, actually: this is c. 1400 BC, and boys and girls were not supposed to be off together in secluded areas without supervision.

No "parking" and no "light" or "heavy" "petting." No "lovers' lanes" and no "date rape" either.

The case in view -- this was doubtless based on an actual case -- therefore addresses what happens where that major cultural rule is broken, and there is a scandal and a he said she said situation, in the context of an unsupervised "date"; already itself a major violation of the cultural codes.

In short, if a teen aged girl (by late teens a girl would normally have already been married) goes along with a set up for seduction (going off to a secluded location with a boy . . . ), and there is a scandal or dispute thereafter, her father -- the implicitly recognised authority -- has the say on the prospective son in law. 

If he is willing to accept the dowry and the young man, the young man is married and has forfeited the possibility of divorce.

Implicitly, if the father is not willing to accept this young man for his daughter, he has an un-marriage-able, scandal-tainted daughter on his hands (virginity was an extremely important issue to the point where defrauding a husband to be on this implied claim was a death penalty matter).  But, he has a dowry to support her also.

This is patently utterly different from the case in Iran, where a girl was beyond reasonable doubt raped by some sort of relative, and she was gaoled for fornication (apparently, the men involved are deemed unable to resist the opportunity and so are held blameless . . . ), as she could not find four witnesses to the act to rescue her from the charge. So, she was forced to marry her rapist as a way to be able to raise her toddler child, the result of the rape, outside of gaol.

What was done at UD earlier today, then, clearly, was a willfully poisonous distraction, and J is inexcusable for his misbehavior there and at Anti Evo. Indeed, the full force of the issue of implicit anti-Semitism applies as well. Regardless of his attempts to twist that about.

Surely, it is high time for such skeptics to think seriously and act soberly with a due measure of reasonableness. 

 So, I invite us all to reflect carefully on the apostle Peter's remark shortly before his martyrdom c 65 AD:
2 Peter 3:15And consider that the long-suffering of our Lord [[e]His slowness in avenging wrongs and judging the world] is salvation ([f]that which is conducive to the soul's safety), even as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the spiritual insight given him,
    16Speaking of this as he does in all of his letters. There are some things in those [epistles of Paul] that are difficult to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist and misconstrue to their own [g]utter destruction, just as [they distort and misinterpret] the rest of the Scriptures.
    17Let me warn you therefore, beloved, that knowing these things beforehand, you should be on your guard, lest you be carried away by the error of lawless and wicked [persons and] fall from your own [present] firm condition [your own steadfastness of mind].
    18But grow in grace (undeserved favor, spiritual strength) and [h]recognition and knowledge and understanding of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (the Messiah). To Him [be] glory (honor, majesty, and splendor) both now and to the day of eternity. Amen (so be it)! [AMP]
Let us pay heed to such wise counsels. END

F/N: Slight updates and added links, to Mon Dec 12.

F/N 2: discovered a defect in a link, replaced. 

*F/N 3. Dec 13:  I see where an objector elsewhere claims: (i) "I see no anti-semitism whatsoever, even when one substitutes "God of the Jews" for "God of the Old Testament." Dawkins's point remains valid and true," and (ii) "If you want to talk anti-semitism: why are you calling the Hebrew Scriptures an "old" testament?" In short, (i) he agrees with Dr Dawkins' claims as outlined above against the God of Israel, and (ii) he thinks that the Christian view that the messianic prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus, and so the Old Covenant was completed in him, is false. The first is hardly a sound rebuttal (simply compare what the above shows), and for the second, my comment is that we may all read in the prophet Zechariah as follows:
Zech 12: 10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit[a] of grace and supplication. They will look on[b] me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son . . .  

14:1 A day of the LORD is coming when your plunder will be divided among you.
 2 I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it . . .
 3 Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle. 4 On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south . . .
. . . I trust, therefore, that this critic will be willing to respond to the One who stands on that Mount, even if he has been "pierced" with nail-prints in his hand (even as Thomas responded in the upper Room), and has been as well the Suffering Servant of Isa 53 (and the one with 500+ eyewitnesses to his resurrection of 1 Cor 15:1 - 11). In short, a disagreement on theological matters hardly constitutes hatred of a people, but the unjust, jaundiced, superciliously denigratory and dismissive  characterisation of the God of Israel we find in Dr Dawkins' remarks as cited above raises serious questions about the implication of his words for both Christians and Jews; which is what was highlighted above.

F/N 4: I believe also, I need to note here, on an objection made by the same objector to this post at UD.  

He began by trying to defend radical relativism in morality, then when I pointed out that the cultural form of such would have no basis for condemning  actions of people under the Nazi German regime, he objected that "As someone of Jewish upbringing, I think you’ve said something very hurtful and stupid. What Hitler did, however was in fact legal. He made it so, and many “moral” institutions either helped out or looked the other way . . .

Immediately, we can see a thinly veiled blanket dismissal of the significance of the stance taken by Niemoller, Bonhoffer, Barth, et al (starting with the Barmen Declaration of 1934) , by the leadership and many members of the Catholic churches (consider here the White Rose movement, who at the cost of their lives, first made the holocaust a publicly known matter), and by others (think Oskar Schindler), at serious risk of their lives in the face of the calculated intimidation and ruthless brutality of a totalitarian regime. [Please read the White Rose movement's story, to see what was entailed in trying to resist by even just typing up and distributing some leaflets!] In short, it is the want of due balance and reasonable recognition of those who risked their lives to stand up in the face of demonic, totalitarian tyranny, that are ever so revealing here.  

But, in fact, I primarily had something very specific in mind, and replied by calling attention to the relativism-based Nazi defence offered at the Nuremberg Trial, and to US Supreme Court Justice and chief American prosecutor Robert Jackson’s devastating reply to the Nazi claims, which pivots on the premise that there is a discernible, well known moral law embedded in our nature to which we all owe obedience, based on our moral worth and our equality as persons of moral worth -- Hooker's key point that (through Locke's citation in his 2nd essay on civil gov't, Ch 2 Section 5 . . . ) is the premise of modern liberty and democracy:
In The law Above the Law, John Warwick Montgomery describes [the Nazi] argument: “The most telling defense offered by the accused was that they had simply followed orders or made decisions within the framework of their own legal system, in complete consistency with it, and they therefore ought not rightly be condemned | because they deviated from the alien value system of their conquerors” (emphasis added).4

But the tribunal did not accept this justification. In the words of Robert H. Jackson, chief counsel for the United States at the trials, the issue was not one of power — the victor judging the vanquished — but one of higher moral law. “The tribunal rises above the provincial and the transient,” he said, “and seeks guidance not only from International Law, but also from the basic principles of jurisprudence, which are assumptions of civilization . . . . ” 5 [Beckwith, Francis, and Koukl, Greg, Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air, Baker (2005 printing) pp. 50 - 51; Judge Jackson's words emphasised. HT, Google Books.]