Sunday, December 30, 2012

Capacity Focus, 70: According to a leak, top-drawer PC maker, Acer, may be releasing a US$ 99 or so 7" tablet in the new year (with a Google Nexus model also apparently in the game), in a context where the Chinese "whitebox" units have now gone as far as US$ 60 - 80

A Mockup of the Acer Iconia B
(PCM says, the photo -- taken from a forum
in Serbia --  seems to be legitimate)
(Two Sigma/Digital learning transformation
series  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 )

PC Magazine, as of December 24th, notes that "Acer is reportedly prepping a $99 [7" Android] tablet, dubbed the Iconia B1, but it remains to be seen whether it will actually show up stateside."

The source of this (via the Wall Street Journal blog) is ""a person with direct knowledge of the project."

The Tablet is said to be slated for release early in 2013, and is apparently intended for the so-called emerging markets, so even though it has been submitted to the FCC for testing as a compliant device, it is uncertain that the device will be released in the American Market.

PC Mag continues:
The gadget will sport a 7-inch, 1,024-by-600 display and a 1.2-GHz dual-core processor, the Journal said. Specs will be similar to the Kindle Fire $199.00 at Amazon or Nook Color.

Acer, however, is likely eyeing Chinese consumers rather than those in the U.S. The Journal said the Taiwan-based Acer needs to go up against the no-name Android tablets that are much more popular in China than they are in the states . . . 
The story does not stop there. PCM goes on to say: "a report out of Taiwan indicated that Google is planning to introduce a $99 version of its Android-based Nexus 7 tablet next year."

In short it looks like the US$ 100 or so (and below) Android tablet market is about to heat up, bigtime.

That is the context of Guy Wright of TG Daily's article that the really cheap Android Tablets are coming:
Tablets are about to take over the world - but you probably already knew that.

What you might not know is that there are truckloads of incredibly cheap, Chinese tablets already beginning to flood the markets. Tablets that you can order today for less than $70.

Everyone is talking about the tablet wars. Apple iPads versus Microsoft’s new Surface versus everyone else. The pundits talk about the pricing sweet spot – is it $300? $500? More? Less? Personally I think the pricing sweet spot is going to be closer to $80 or even lower.

I ran across a Chinese import site [An Amazon knockoff site . . . ] that sells all sorts of tablets you never heard of, and their prices are amazing. For example there is the JXD S18 for $46.49, the Q88 for $69.01, the P722 for $71.06, the Gpad A13 for $69.01, and on and on. There are 32 Android 4.0 or higher tablets on the site all for under $100! And they feature free shipping.

The reasons these tablets are so inexpensive is because they are based on ARM processors (not necessarily the latest or greatest versions either) and they’ll be running Android (again, not necessarily the latest flavors). And I would be surprised if any licensing fees will ever be paid to anyone.

They are also using multi-function components developed by other innovators over the past few years. WiFi, Bluetooth, and RF all on one tiny PCB for one tiny price, cameras, touch screens, etc - all off-the-shelf components these days.

Are people going to regret buying one of these cheap, Chinese tablets? Some people will. But I think the majority of buyers are going to look at a $500 Microsoft Surface or a $600 Apple iPad and then look at something like the $70.82 Chuwi V17 and guess what? They are going to buy the $70 model.
 Our capacity focus issue, of course is educational and with an eye to digital productivity as well.

A College textbook today easily runs you US$ 80 - 200, more if you pick the wrong field of study. High school textbooks are easily US$ 30 - 40 a pop, and you have to buy a lot of them. 

A nexus 7" tablet in a folio with a keyboard
(Credit: Slashgear)
What if we were instead looking at one of these tablets, with a folio and keyboard similar to the Nexus in the photo? Where such a folio and keyboard easily come in at US$ 10 - 15?

Could we not see such a tablet providing a rugged alternative to a 30 lb bag of heavy textbooks, plus exercise books etc? Not to mention a complement to a 14 - 15 inch screen notebook PC that is far heavier and more delicate? 

(Montserrat Ministry of Education (and other such ministries across the region), this is speaking to you on the behalf of a proverbial 90 lb weight, 5'2" youngster who is struggling to carry 20 - 30 lbs of books plus a 15" screen, delicate notebook to school day by day, with a battery that may last 3 - 4 hours if s/he is lucky. For which the state-subsidised price to the student's hard-pressed parents is EC$ 900.)

 But that -- though it is not to be overlooked -- is not the core issue.

The core issue is that we are looking at an opportunity to transform education suing digital technology, where web based access, electronic book technology based course manuals, light office productivity suites, access to richly equipped digital libraries and the like can be integrated into secondary and tertiary education, creating a new world of empowerment.

Hence the series here at KF on this, in the context of the AACCS proposal:

Capacity Development -- the AACCS

So, now, can we begin to seriously get ready for the future?

With the trend to sub-$100 7" Android tablet coming out from top drawer manufacturers, that future is just about here. END

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Rom 1 reply, 30: The ghost of William Paley speaks -- Stephen Meyer's minimalist case for intelligent design in the face of claims that Hume and Darwin had refuted it

In July 2012 Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture presented a lecture at Tyndale House in Cambridge on the minimalist case for design in the face of the legacy of Hume and Darwin. 

Food for thought:

I find it particularly interesting how in his opening points, he highlighted how Hume (died, 1776) is often presented today as presenting the philosophical refutation of the case for design made in William Paley's 1802 work on Natural Theology (which work was quite influential until Darwin's proposal of adaptation through chance variation and natural selection were seen as overturning it). 

Hume of course emphasised a claimed dis-analogy between living systems and machines, attempting to cast doubt on the cogency of the analogy.

Meyer only vaguely spoke to the issue of additional complex, specific functionality Paley raised when in Chapter 2 of his Natural Theology he extended the famous Watch Analogy from Ch 1. However, as the picture of the Watch taken from the Wikipedia attack piece on ID shows, objectors to the inference to design in the world of life appeal down to today to the first part of Paley's argument but conspicuously and consistently fail to address the point in Ch 2, only a few pages further on. This seems to me to be a longstanding case of a strawman fallacy.

{Added, Dec 31st: I return the compliment paid by Dr Torley of UD, by inviting interested onlookers to see his excellent  take-apart of twelve myths concerning William Paley's case. Dr Torley, as usual, does a first class job of research and analysis rooted in well-documented facts. The core thesis is that Paley puts forward the point that from contrivance, we immediately and deductively infer design, as a conclusion in light of our experience and insight about the nature of reality, so the mere presence of contrivance, which entails purpose and composition of parts to work together to achieve such, immediately entails design. That is an historical fact that Dr Torley documents wonderfully well, regardless of whether we are apt to accept Paley's logic. 

As for me, my own view is that I would argue an inference to best [current] explanation in light of the known alternative causal factors and their characteristic signs that are supported by our general pattern of experience and insights as intelligent, reflective, insightful agents.  

Where, I explain such abductive inference on sign thusly:

I observe one or more signs [si in a pattern], and infer the signified object O, on a warrant W:

I: [si] –> O, on W

a –> Here, the connexion is a more or less causal or natural one, e.g. a pattern of deer tracks on the ground is an index, pointing to a deer.

b –> If the sign is not a sufficient condition of the signified, the inference is not certain and is defeatable; though it may be inductively strong. (E.g. someone may imitate deer tracks.)

c –> The warrant for an inference may in key cases require considerable background knowledge or cues from the context.

d –> The act of inference may also be implicit or even intuitive, and I may not be able to articulate but may still be quite well-warranted to trust the inference. Especially, if it traces to senses I have good reason to accept are working well, and are acting in situations that I have no reason to believe will materially distort the inference.

Such a frame of thought may not give deductive certainty but it is fully capable of compelling moral certainty in many cases, as as high a degree of warrant as we finite, fallible, morally struggling and all too often ill-willed creatures may attain or reasonably require on matters of fact. That is, my way of reasoning on such matters is in the end in light of well-tested forensic principles of establishing conclusions on evidence, along the lines of Simon Greenleaf's counsel in his seminal C19 Treatise on Evidence, Vol I Part I, Ch 1:
 None but mathematical truth is susceptible of that high' degree of evidence, called demonstration, which.excludes all possibility of error [--> SG was nearly 100 years too early to know of Godel's work on the limitations of Mathematical thought], 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 he 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 . . . 
I would further argue that in scientific matters,we are dealing with inference to best current explanation, provisionally, and should be humbly aware of the abstract possibility (and historical frequency) of error or significant limitations in even the most successful theories such as Newtonian Dynamics. So, we reason across live options and come to conclusions that are empirically well grounded as the general pattern of observed nature, but strictly subject to further development or correction.}

Let us now observe from Paley:
Nat Theol Ch 1 (The watch parable):
The new Paley watch photo from
the Wikiperia article on ID (intended
by the Wikipedians to dismiss ID
as a mere appeal to analogy)

In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone and were asked how the stone came to be there, I might possibly answer that for anything I knew to the contrary it had lain there forever; nor would it, perhaps, be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place, I should hardly think of the answer which I had before given, that for anything I knew the watch might have always been there. Yet why should not this answer serve for the watch as well as for the stone? Why is it not as admissible in the second case as in the first? For this reason, and for no other, namely, that when we come to inspect the watch, we perceive -- what we could not discover in the stone -- that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e.g., that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day; that if the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, of a different size from what they are, or placed after any other manner or in any other order than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would have been carried on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use that is now served by it . . . . Nor would it, I apprehend, weaken the conclusion, that we had never seen a watch made -- that we had never known an artist capable of making one -- that we were altogether incapable of executing such a piece of workmanship ourselves, or of understanding in what manner it was performed; all this being no more than what is true of some exquisite remains of ancient art, of some lost arts, and, to the generality of mankind, of the more curious productions of modern manufacture . . . .
Ch 2 (The Additionality issue):
Suppose, in the next place, that the person who found the watch should after some time discover that, in addition to all the properties which he had hitherto observed in it, it possessed the unexpected property of producing in the course of its movement another watch like itself -- the thing is conceivable; that it contained within it a mechanism, a system of parts -- a mold, for instance, or a complex adjustment of lathes, baffles, and other tools -- evidently and separately calculated for this purpose . . . .

The first effect would be to increase his admiration of the contrivance, and his conviction of the consummate skill of the contriver. Whether he regarded the object of the contrivance, the distinct apparatus, the intricate, yet in many parts intelligible mechanism by which it was carried on, he would perceive in this new observation nothing but an additional reason for doing what he had already done -- for referring the construction of the watch to design and to supreme art . . . . He would reflect, that though the watch before him were, in some sense, the maker of the watch, which, was fabricated in the course of its movements, yet it was in a very different sense from that in which a carpenter, for instance, is the maker of a chair -- the author of its contrivance, the cause of the relation of its parts to their use.

[[Emphases added. (Note: It is easy to rhetorically dismiss this argument because of the context: a work of natural theology. But, since (i) valid science can be -- and has been -- done by theologians; since (ii) the greatest of all modern scientific books (Newton's Principia) contains the General Scholium which is an essay in just such natural theology; and since (iii) an argument 's weight depends on its merits, we should not yield to such “label and dismiss” tactics. It is also worth noting Newton's remarks that thus much concerning God; to discourse of whom from the appearances of things, does certainly belong to Natural Philosophy [[i.e. what we now call “science”]. )]

What is interesting to me is that this is actually a discussion that, over 150 years before the facts of molecular biology were elucidated, brought out the question that is now on our table, as we today know sufficient details concerning life to know that the origin of life and the molecular machinery of the cell connected to the roots of cellular self replication far exceed the requirements of comparability that makes an inference to best explanation on credible similarity of cause per reliable signs of design highly persuasive, save to those committed not to see such.

As I noted in the IOSE unit on origin of life (OOL):
Observed cell-based life precisely fits the pattern Paley highlighted. 
Also, going beyond what Paley could have known, it uses coded symbolic information, has digital storage of this information, and also reading and guiding mechanisms that direct the replicating machinery and process. So, it is reasonable to consider whether “. . . its several parts are framed and put together for a [[functionally specific] purpose.”
 In fact, the observed cell -- which is what we need to explain the origin of -- joins together (i) a metabolising entity that draws in energy and materials from its surroundings and processes them, ejecting wastes, to (ii) a symbol-based coded system that allows it to replicate itself.
That is, we are looking at a molecular scale von Neumann self-replicating, metabolising automaton, functionally similar to that in Fig G.2 as was presented with a more elaborate description than the following, above:
Fig. G.2, copied: A schematic, 3-D/“kinematic” von Neumann-style self-replicating machine. [[NB: von Neumann viewed self-replication as a special case of universal construction; “mak[[ing] anything” under programmed control.] (Adapted, Tempesti.) 

Fig. G.2 (b), copied: Mignea's schematic of the requisites of kinematic self-replication, showing duplication and arrangement then separation into daughter automata. This requires stored algorithmic procedures, descriptions sufficient to construct components, means to execute instructions, materials handling, controlled energy flows, wastes disposal and more. (Source: Mignea, 2012, slide show; fair use. Presentation speech is here.) 

Now, following von Neumann generally (and as previously noted), such a machine uses . . .

(i) an underlying storable code to record the required information to create not only (a) the primary functional machine [[here, for a "clanking replicator" as illustrated, a Turing-type “universal computer”; in a cell this would be the metabolic entity that transforms environmental materials into required components etc.] 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 irreducible complexity is compounded by the requirement (i) for codes, requiring organised symbols and rules to specify both steps to take and formats for storing information, and (v) for appropriate material resources and energy sources.

Immediately, we are looking at islands of organised function for both the machinery and the information in the wider sea of possible (but mostly non-functional) configurations 
In short, outside such functionally specific -- thus, isolated -- information-rich hot (or, "target") zones, want of correct components and/or of proper organisation and/or co-ordination will block function from emerging or being sustained across time from generation to generation. So, once the set of possible configurations is large enough and the islands of function are credibly sufficiently specific/isolated, it is unreasonable to expect such function to arise from chance, or from chance circumstances driving blind natural forces under the known laws of nature . . . . 

A typical “consensus definition” of biological life is that living organisms exhibits “all or most” of:
  • organisation based on functional cells
  • homeostatic regulation of the resulting internal environment
  • metabolic processing of energy and materials (with elimination of waste)
  • growth and development across the life cycle
  • individual and collective adaptive responses to environmental circumstances
  • responsiveness to stimuli
  • reproduction
[[NB: the “most” here signifies that the “definition” is based on typical examples and cases that sufficiently resemble them. For example mules, worker bees and the comatose are alive. That is, it is based on appeal to sufficiently close analogy. (This also means that -- contrary to much popular rhetoric -- inductive argument by analogy is alive and well in biological science.)]

The above definition underscores just how central the cell is to biological life, and just how difficult the challenge to propose an empirically credible spontaneous origin model for the cell is.  
Key to that challenge is how central programmed, digital information processing is to the cell's functional organisation and ability to replicate itself. This can best be seen from the process of protein synthesis, which creates the workhorse molecules of the cell through a regulated process:

Fig. G.8 (a): Overview of Protein Synthesis: [[Courtesy Wikimedia, under GNU. (Also, cf a medically oriented survey here.)]  . . . . 

Protein codes are stored in the DNA molecules of cells, and when a particular protein is to be made, it is (a) transcribed to messenger RNA, and – if the cell has a nucleus – (b) it is passed through a port to the ribosomes in the endoplasmic reticulum. There, through (c) step by step translation, the protein chain is assembled, starting with the START three-letter codon, extended codon by codon, and then completed with the STOP codon. [[Codons use a genetic code based on three DNA or RNA letters, each of which can hold the states: G/ C/ A/ T (or for RNA, U).]  
Then (d) post-translation, the protein folds itself (perhaps with the help of a barrel- shaped chaperone molecule; cf M. pneumoniae below) and may have effector elements added. (NB: It may also be transported to the site where it is needed along an internal transportation network.)

Already, terms such as “transcription,” “step by step translation,” “start,” “stop” and “codon” tell us that we are dealing with symbolically coded digital (i.e. discrete as opposed to continuous state) information that is being algorithmically -- i.e. step by step -- processed. A closer look at the ribosome in action confirms this impression, and highlights how the mRNA chain acts as a digital information storing tape:

Fig. G.9: Protein translation using mRNA and tRNA -- an expansion of the Ribosome at (c) in Fig G.8(a).  [[Courtesy Wikimedia under GNU.]

From this figure, we see that a crucial role is also played by transfer RNA, where the tRNA molecules have an attached amino acid at one end (20 AA's are used for most proteins), and the corresponding anti-codon at the other. Once the correct tRNA locks to the codon in the A site, the amino acid then attaches to the growing protein chain as it passes to the P site. As a result proteins are informational macro-molecules, which is what causes them to have precisely controlled functional properties in the cell . . . . 
Cells use hundreds or more proteins to carry out their work, embedding many thousands of bits of functionally specific digitally coded information. 
The required protein synthesis system also exhibits irreducible complexity, and uses algorithmic processing. Thus, the “analogy” between the cell and electronic information processing systems is sufficiently close to again raise questions of purposeful design of codes, storage systems, readers, and effecting machinery.  
(Indeed, since the actual essential nature of digital, flexible, code-based algorithmic processing systems is a mathematical one, it is also reasonable to say that the protein synthesis system instantiates such a digital information system. And if that is at all a reasonable inference, then all objections that pivot on dismissing "analogies" collapse  -- even, if we for the moment ignore the key role analogy plays in inductive reasoning.)
Further to this, Tokuriki and Tawfik note how islands of function for proteins are strongly constrained, thermodynamically and kinetically:
The accepted paradigm that proteins can tolerate nearly any amino acid substitution has been replaced by the view that the deleterious effects of mutations, and especially their tendency to undermine the thermodynamic and kinetic stability of protein, is a major constraint on protein evolvability--the ability of proteins to acquire changes in sequence and function.  [["Stability effects of mutations and protein evolvability," Curr Opin Struct Biol. 2009 Oct; 19(5):596-604. Epub 2009 Sep 16. Emphasis added.]
Moreover, the expression of such stability constrained functional proteins and the development of  body plans are based on a complex regulated process . . . . complex regulatory networks (with duly complex "wiring plans") are intimately involved in the development of a body plan from embryonic stages onwards, and in the responsiveness of life forms to their environment. 

We may thus easily see how such functionally specific, integrated complexity can present a challenge for the various origin of life models . . . 

In fact, such OOL models are in a state of mutual ruin, as advocates of one spontaneous origin model decisively undercut the grounds for the other, whether Genes First/RNA World or the less popular Metabolism First.  As Shapiro and Orgel summarised:

[[Shapiro:] RNA's building blocks, nucleotides contain a sugar, a phosphate and one of four nitrogen-containing bases as sub-subunits. Thus, each RNA nucleotide contains 9 or 10 carbon atoms, numerous nitrogen and oxygen atoms and the phosphate group, all connected in a precise three-dimensional pattern . . . .  [[S]ome writers have presumed that all of life's building could be formed with ease in Miller-type experiments and were present in meteorites and other extraterrestrial bodies. This is not the case.

A careful examination of the results of the analysis of several meteorites led the scientists who conducted the work to a different conclusion: inanimate nature has a bias toward the formation of molecules made of fewer rather than greater numbers of carbon atoms, and thus shows no partiality in favor of creating the building blocks of our kind of life . . . .

To rescue the RNA-first concept from this otherwise lethal defect, its advocates have created a discipline called prebiotic synthesis. They have attempted to show that RNA and its components can be prepared in their laboratories in a sequence of carefully controlled reactions, normally carried out in water at temperatures observed on Earth . . . .

Unfortunately, neither chemists nor laboratories were present on the early Earth to produce RNA . . . 

[[Orgel:] If complex cycles analogous to metabolic cycles could have operated on the primitive Earth, before the appearance of enzymes or other informational polymers, many of the obstacles to the construction of a plausible scenario for the origin of life would disappear . . . .

It must be recognized that assessment of the feasibility of any particular proposed prebiotic cycle must depend on arguments about chemical plausibility, rather than on a decision about logical possibility . . . few would believe that any assembly of minerals on the primitive Earth is likely to have promoted these syntheses in significant yield . . . .  Why should one believe that an ensemble of minerals that are capable of catalyzing each of the many steps of [[for instance] the reverse citric acid cycle was present anywhere on the primitive Earth [[8], or that the cycle mysteriously organized itself topographically on a metal sulfide surface [[6]? . . .  Theories of the origin of life based on metabolic cycles cannot be justified by the inadequacy of competing theories: they must stand on their own . . . . 

The prebiotic syntheses that have been investigated experimentally almost always lead to the formation of complex mixtures. Proposed polymer replication schemes are unlikely to succeed except with reasonably pure input monomers. No solution of the origin-of-life problem will be possible until the gap between the two kinds of chemistry is closed. Simplification of product mixtures through the self-organization of organic reaction sequences, whether cyclic or not, would help enormously, as would the discovery of very simple replicating polymers. However, solutions offered by supporters of geneticist or metabolist scenarios that are dependent on “if pigs could fly” hypothetical chemistry are unlikely to help.  [[Emphases added.]

Mutual ruin, in short.

Paley's self replicating watch is back at the table as a cogent and compelling comparison on the origin of life, especially when one is willing to see how functionally specific, complex information and associated organisation are inductively strong signs pointing to design as cause.

But of course OOL is the root of the tree of life, the analogy used by Darwin to promote the concept that life forms can be seen as diverging through chance variation and culling out of less successful forms that lose out in the competition to survive to grow and branch out across the world of life:

Darwin's branching tree of life analogy -- the ONLY illustration in Origin of Species

So, we have design at the table of explaining biological diversity from the very root of the tree of life proposed by Darwin, as of right, not sufferance. This puts a very different colour on the closing remarks from the well known 6th edn of his Origin of Species:
It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the conditions of life and from use and disuse: a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved. [[Origin, Ch 15. Emphasis added.]
All we have to add here, is the understanding that the increment of biological information to form a novel body plan easily exceeds 10 - 100 million new bases, from observed genome sizes. This by far exceeds the 500 - 1,000 bit threshold at which FSCO/I is best explained on design, once it is present. Where also it is well known that complex function requiring the specific arrangement and interfacing of well-matched parts normally comes in isolated islands of function in the space of possibilities for scattering or clumping the same or similar parts. (Those who would argue the opposite need to actually SHOW their case, where for instance the problem with so-called genetic algorithms and the like, consistently, is that they are working WITHIN islands of function.)

So, it seems that William Paley is the ghost that roared. END

PIVOTAL NEWS ISSUE: On the "Fiscal Cliff" vs the "Fiscal insanity" of an insolvent economy in Washington DC -- Stuart Varney with Brent Bozell, as the clock ticks down . . .

Bozell has observed (during an interview with Stuart Varney -- now of Fox News) that the current debate on the "fiscal cliff" is in the context of twenty-five years of kicking the spending vs revenues vs economy can down the road, now beginning to come due:

Unfortunately for the rest of us, if and as the US economy tanks, it will have serious ripple effects around the world. Indeed, we are looking at an economic tidal wave.

Where, of course, economic insanity driven by the politics of largesse and voters looking for another helping at the pig trough of such largesse, is already coming home to roost in Europe. 

All of this multiplied by a case where in less than a decade, oil went from about US$ 20 - 30 per barrel to US $ 110 or so per barrel, with spikes higher than that. Where, everything else is driven by energy, as everything uses energy. (And of course, energy is in a mess globally.)

In that context we of the Caribbean need to begin to ask ourselves about the long-term viability of tourism as a primary base for our economies, and to ask ourselves seriously what must we begin to do to make for a more robust economic base in an increasingly digital, high technology global world. END

Friday, December 28, 2012

Matt 24 watch, 185: A call to censor the Bible -- CNN Anchor Piers Morgan, in an interview with the Rev Rick Warren, calls for the Bible to be rewritten to accommodate homosexualisation of marriage

In a revealing moment, during an interview with the well known pastor Rick Warren CNN Anchor Piers Morgan called for rewriting -- thus censoring -- the Bible to fit the agenda to homosexualise marriage:

As a WND report describes:
While interviewing California pastor Rick Warren on CNN Monday night [--> i.e. Christmas Eve, cf Charisma magazine's comment], Morgan called for a same-sex marriage “amendment” to the Bible.

“Both the Bible and the Constitution were well intentioned but they are basically, inherently flawed. Hence, the need to amend it,” Morgan claimed. My point to you about gay rights, for example, it’s time for an amendment to the Bible.”
[U/D, Dec 29th: Apparently, someone has issued just such an "amended" Bible -- the so-called "Queen James" Bible, which objectively distorts the Hebrew and Greek at crucial points in eight key passages. For example 1 Cor 6:9 - 11 is "amended" to speak of the “morally weak, nor promiscuous . . . ” where in fact the actual raw Greek words mean -- forgive the distasteful specificity -- participators in passive and active male homosexual unnatural acts of sodomy. And so forth. Michael Brown of Charisma therefore aptly concludes: "to sum things up, we can say that the Queen James Bible accomplishes the exact opposite of what it sets out to do: It provides eloquent testimony that the Bible and homosexual practice are incompatible."  (HT: A certain reader.)]
Warren, a strong opponent of same-sex marriage replied: “Not a chance. What I believe is flawed is human opinion, because it constantly changes. …

“I willingly admit that I base my worldview on the Bible, which I believe is true. My definition of truth is: If it’s new, it’s not true. If it was true 1,000 years ago, it will be true 1,000 years from today. Opinion changes, but truth doesn’t.”

“We’re going to agree to disagree on that,” said Morgan.
 We need to ask a pointed question (one I wish Mr Warren had asked): so what is Mr Morgan going to do with the thousands of years of manuscripts and printed copies of the Bible that would give the lie to such a censored and falsified Bible?  

Burn them? (By whose "authority" and power?)

Gaol -- starting with slandering as "bigoted" and hate-driven --  those who in defense of conscience, right to worship God and freedom to stand up for what is right by conscience, scripture and reason?

Does he really want to go down that road? (As in: P-E-R-S-E-C-U-T-I-O-N . . . )

Sad to say, we must ask this, for we are now plainly at a terrible threshold.

However, having called for censorship of core Christian morality and foundational documents, Mr Morgan then went on to say: “The debate should always be respectful. It applies to politics, too. The moment it becomes disrespectful and discourteous and then rude and then poisonous, you never achieve anything.”

Evidently, Mr Morgan was utterly unconscious of the irony in his behaviour, especially given how he has been treating other guests at CNN recently.

But the matter is not just one man in isolation spouting from the top of his head.

For, it is obvious that Mr Morgan would never have suggested on international television something like that the Bible is "well intentioned but . . .  basically, inherently flawed"  nor would he have demanded censorship of the foundational scripture and moral teachings of the Christian faith if he was not confident that he would be backed up by CNN's power brokers if it came to a controversy.

Not only so, but he would have to have been confident that the underlying attitude would find significant support in his social-cultural circles.

Such behaviour therefore speaks telling volumes about the balance of power among the secularist elites in our civilisation, and about their onward intent towards those who take the Christian Scriptures seriously, the Scriptures themselves, and the churches that stand by these Scriptures.

In short, we face a deeply rooted, influential and fundamentally dismissive hostility that is brazenly confident not only that the Scriptures can be dismissed as of no merit -- indeed they intend here to sit in judgement on the Word of God and the God who backs them up [who they probably think is imaginary] -- but, they also think that they can now successfully impose their agenda on the civilisation.

Moreover, given the twist-about remarks on civility in the context of an utterly uncivil suggestion of censorship, anyone who stands up firmly and speaks out uncompromisingly in objection to the agenda will be dismissed as angry, hateful and poisonous. (In short the closing sting in the tail talking point was meant to intimidate those who would object.)

All of this goes to what Christian Concern and the Christian legal Centre in Britain -- where Mr Morgan hails from -- has been warning in the aftermath of the Bull and Johns cases there:


It also obviously goes to the credibility of the foundations of the Christian faith such as we have heard dismissed over and over again in recent days, especially around Christmas time and Easter. Specifically and especially, it concerns the resurrection of Jesus.

Such men therefore need to be reminded of Paul's words before the Areopagus Council in Athens in AD 50, as were recorded by Luke in Acts 17. For, this passage records what Paul had to say to the Athenians, who were just as eager for the latest news and ideas as we are today:
Ac 17:19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new. 
 22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription,
‘To the unknown god.’
What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.
24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,  25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for 
                       “‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
    as even some of your own poets have said, 
                         “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’  
 29 Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.
30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”  [ESV.] 
 Of course, had Paul been allowed to continue, he would  doubtless have pointed out that this was vouchsafed as on the ground factual truth by over five hundred witnesses, most of whom were then alive, and by the live transforming miracle working power brought to bear by that same risen Christ.

A power that -- if we are but willing to search, look, listen and treat the evidence reasonably -- is still evident today, in literally millions of lives.

So, fundamentally, we need to face the force of the gospel and the credibility and integrity of the Scriptures that record and report it, having been passed down to us at fearful sacrifice by men and women who would not surrender the truth in the face of intimidation, threats, torture, fire and sword. 

And in so doing, we need to always pay attention to the counsel, correction -- and, not least, genuine hope for rescue and transformation -- that Mr Morgan would dismiss in his haste to censor the Word of God that he so evidently despises:
1 Cor 6: 9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous  will not inherit the kingdom of God?
Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,  10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
11 And such were some of you. 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. [ESV. NB the significance of the twelve step type programme of addiction/life dominating sin recovery pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous.]
As we saw from just one example, the scriptures -- in many places -- are quite clear that homosexual behaviour is sinful, wrongful, destructive and against the creation order for marriage and sexuality. Indeed, Jesus is quite clear about the proper order for marriage from creation that must not be trifled with as Mr Morgan and his ilk would (which order is actually obvious from the complementarity of man and woman in procreation and nurture of the next generation). 

Let us hear our long since risen and exalted Lord:
Matt 19: 1 Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. 2 And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

 3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?”

4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. [ESV]
The creation order mandate could not be more explicit, and if divorce was questionable, how much moreso is the perversion of that order through clever slogans that would pervert marriage through homosexual agendas?

But also, we see just how deeply destructive the "marriage equality" agenda recently endorsed by the US President Obama is, for the plain intent here is to violate freedom of conscience, freedom of worship, freedom of expression and freedom to stand up for such rights, once they cut across the homosexualist agenda.

All that is bound up in the declared intent to censor the Christian scriptures and faith.

Where also, in case you have been led to imagine that this is backed up by "science," you may find the reading here a good place to begin clarification. For as Neil and Briar Whitehead advise:
The West has been subject to such a campaign of misinformation and disinformation in the last 20-30 years that its public institutions, from legislatures and judiciaries to the church and mental health professions widely believe that the homosexual orientation is innate—in the sense of biologically imprinted—and therefore unchangeable.  
The implications of this are that anyone who makes the scientifically true statements below is considered the one who is misinformed.
• sexual orientation is not inborn but develops over some years in response to an individual’s response to life events— as many human predicaments do
• homosexual orientation can change, i.e half the homosexual population naturally moves towards heterosexuality over time (without any therapeutic interventions), and further and
faster with counselling and support
• The same-sex attracted are not 10% of the population but (including bisexuals) much closer to 2.5%
The West has lost its way on this issue, and today we are seeing the outcome . . . 

Those are quite strong words, but they are backed up. Clipping the summary from Ch 1 in the 2010 online downloadable version (and of course, there is much more, with a lot of details; especially note the rebuttals to common myths):

No mainstream geneticist is happy with the idea that genes dictate behaviour, particularly homosexual behaviour.
• Genetically dictated behaviour is something that has so far been discovered only in very simple organisms.
• From an understanding of gene structure and function there are no plausible means by which genes could inescapably force SSA or other behaviours on a person. Genes create proteins not preferences.
• No genetically determined human behaviour has yet been found. The most closely genetically-related behaviour yet discovered (aggression in Dutch males) has shown itself remarkably responsive to counselling.
• If SSA were genetically dictated, it would have bred itself out of the population in only several generations, and wouldn’t be around today.
• Generally, geneticists settle for some genetic influence of rather undefined degree, most agreeing that many genes (from at least five or six to many hundreds) contribute to any particular human behaviour.
• A genetically dominated SSA caused by such a cluster of genes could not suddenly appear and disappear in families the way it does. It would stay around for many generations. So SSA is not produced by many genes.
• The occurrence of SSA in the population is too frequent to be caused by a chance mutation in a single gene. So a single gene is not responsible for SSA. Nor would many genes all mutate at once.
• SSA occurs too frequently to be caused by a faulty pre-natal developmental process, so it is not innate in that sense either.
• The widespread age-range of first homosexual attraction is very unlike the narrow time-spread of genetically driven phases of human life, e.g gestation time, puberty, menopause, making homosexuality very unlikely to be genetically driven.
The histone system which controls genetic expression is strongly affected by the environment, e.g nurturing, making searches for individual genes responsible for certain behaviours, mostly pointless.
• Same-sex attraction could be about 10% genetically influenced and opposite sex attraction about 15%. But this is weak and indirect, e.g genes making a man tall don’t also produce basketball players.
• SSA falls more naturally into the category of a psychological trait
In short the homosexualist agenda is questionable both morally and scientifically, but is seeking to seize the political agenda and have itself given false colours of legitimacy under law to the point where freedom of conscience, religious freedom and freedom of expression are beginning to be trampled. Now, to the point where Mr Morgan of CNN feels safe in openly dismissing the gospel and its call for penitence from sin, indeed he is outright calling for censorship of the Bible.

Well, it has been said that a lion does not need to be defended, just to be let loose.

 So, let us now conclude with a word from the prince of prophets, and with a second word from the Apostle Peter as he faced martyrdom for the same gospel we proclaim today:
Isa 5:      18 ​​​​​​​​Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood,
        who draw sin as with cart ropes,
      19 ​​​​​​​​who say: “Let him be quick,
        let him speed his work
        that we may see it;
        let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near,
        and let it come, that we may know it!”
      20 ​​​​​​​​Woe to those who call evil good
        and good evil,
        who put darkness for light
        and light for darkness,
        who put bitter for sweet
        and sweet for bitter!
      21 ​​​​​​​​Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
        and shrewd in their own sight! [ESV]


2 Peter 1: 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty . . . .

. 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation.

21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.  [ESV]

We can hardly say that we have not been counselled in good time, in those very same Scriptures that Mr Morgan would now censor to his convenience.

Let us trust that Mr Morgan will pause, reflect and heed the counsel to repent and turn from the wrong tot he right, in light of that set day of Judgement, of which we have proof by the resurrection from the dead. END