Monday, July 30, 2012

Capacity Focus, 54: Walter Bradley shares technical development experience (on possibilities for coconut coir and shells) with hints on what works and what doesn't with development aid

At the recent Engineering and Metaphysics conference at ORU, Walter Bradley shared his experience of working with coconut coir and shells to reinforce plastics for the automotive and similar industries, as a basis for using what was formerly agricultural waste.

Video talk:

He also shared experiences on approaches that worked and didn't work, which are worth pondering.

His thoughts on biodiesel processing in the village raise the question of managing methanol. I wonder if this may become feasible if we move the processing to nodal towns that can then distribute to villages. For that, the 20 litre/ 5 gallon Jerry Can -- originally developed by the German Army as a modular man-handling friendly delivery system for fuel for the blitzkrieg -- may be a very useful item.

Or, maybe Mark Holtzapple's mixed alcohols fuel approach may be a possibility.

Food for thought. END

Sunday, July 29, 2012

In the face of an "active shooter" event: run, hide &/or fight . . .

This video takes significance in the face of the recent movie shooting and focusses on tipping the odds towards survival (there are of course no guarantees):

Of course, one decisive but often overlooked point is that such terrorism or lone madman actions usually end quickly once someone is able to shoot back. If my recall serves, that is why terrorist school shootings stopped in Israel after a critical mass of teachers were armed.

So, it raises the question whether we need to in effect create a civilian marshal corps in sufficient numbers to be a deterrent. Similarly, the Israelis have developed techniques for security to detect suspicious persons before they act. (It seems that most people about to do something extreme will give off subtle cues detectable by a trained and prepared person.)

We need to do some serious re-thinking in a world that seems to be becoming more chaotic. END

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Matt 24 watch, 166: Chick-fil-A targetted for "jamming" because its Christian owner supports the historic, creation order based, naturally evident nature of marriage

The Chick-fil-A logo
One of the common tactics of the uncivil today, is to bully, intimidate and "make an example of" those who do not shut up and go along with the agenda being pushed by radical secularists, neo-pagans and various groups such as the homosexualists. This is clearly meant to jam out counter-messages and to smear objectors, by polarising opinion against them.

As Kupelian pointed out in his The Marketing of Evil, this is part of a three-prong public relations strategy pushed by Kirk, Madsen and co [cf. a discussion of the 1987 proposal here and a summary on what has happened here], that breaks down moral, cultural and social objections to agendas that are often quite bizzare and may be quite destructive:
1: Desensitisation (and sometimes glamourisation though media promotion of celebrities who come "out") that tries to break down the "ick"/"yuck" factor.

2: Jamming of opponents, objectors or questioners that raise concerns about the agenda being pushed, to silence serious debate.

3: Conversion to tolerance or support (or even participation) so that the formerly clearly bizarre and objectionable is now tolerated, seen as a right or even seen as needing protection from the bigots who would dare object to it.
The current storm in a media teacup over a remark supportive of marriage as it has historically been understood (and as is evident from creation order and the natural complementarity of man and woman) is unfortunately all too illustrative of what is going on and where it is headed if we do not recognise the strategy and cut it off clean at the knees when it raises its head.

What triggered the latest media storm in a teacup? It seems, from a report that there was an interview of one of the Cathy family (who founded the fast food chain) with a Baptist newspaper:
“We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that,” [Dan] Cathy said.

In a separate radio interview, Dan Cathy said, “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage. I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think we can try to define what marriage is all about.”
For most of that, there is nothing there but something to say, good for you about, or okay, this man is a Christian and is stating his view (which also happens to be the general consensus of humanity, civilisations and religions across time and culture for the past 5,000 or more years of record, which in turn responds to the obvious complementarity of men and women and the requisites of stability for child rearing).

But the homosexualist activists and their fellow travellers were incensed and were determined to make the Cathy family and their restaurant chain into public examples of the wrath that will descend on any who dare object to their recent and ongoing major attempt to redefine marriage in law and culture.

The Cathy family were denounced as bigots and as discriminatory to homosexuals. There were calls for boycotts. And in a highly significant development, the Jim Henderson Company of the Muppets familiar from Sesame Street etc, publicly severed longstanding ties with the fast food chain.

As the article summarises:
The Henson Co., creator of the Muppets characters, said it no longer would work with Chick-fil-A. The mayor of Boston publicly bashed the restaurant chain. Chicago officials said they would not want the company to operate in their wards. And “kiss-in” protests were announced in front of company outlets on college campuses.
Indeed, city officials have threatened to deny the chain access to their cities to set up franchises. (It seems this is legally quite dubious move, but that such was announced tells volumes about the attitudes at work.)

The matter is sufficiently serious that the Rev Billy Graham, ill and in retirement, has made a public statement of support for the Cathy family and their business:
“I want to express my support for my good friends Truett Cathy and his son Dan Cathy, and for their strong stand for the Christian faith,” he said in a statement released by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
“I’ve known their family for many years and have watched them grow Chick-fil-A into one of the best businesses in America while never compromising their values. Chick-fil-A serves each of its customers with excellence, and treats everyone like a neighbor. It’s easy to see why Chick-fil-A has become so popular across America,” he said.
As a counter, Former Republican Governor and US Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (cf. here) has called for August 1st to be used as a day to publicly support the chain, and Sarah Palin has released photographs of her visit to a restaurant, in which she and her husband bought meals.

But, what is the relevance of all this?

First, it reflects the signs of our times, the specific theme for this blog series. It also shows us the ways in which radical and questionable agendas are pushed in our world today, as well as how there is a definite push to turn public sentiment against the Gospel, the scriptures, gospel ethics and those who take such seriously. We should not be so naive as to imagine that similar sentiments and agendas are not at work in our region, as the tidal wave from the north of de-christianisation hits us with ever mounting force.

So, the question is how can and should we stand in the face of such an onslaught and its sophisticated public relations tactics?

We know the answer in brief: the truth, in love, purity and power.

The challenge is to counter clever arguments and manipulation designed to undermine the credibility of what is true, good, right, pure, and to discredit, intimidate, silence and drive out from influencing the community those who dare raise objections to radical agendas.

Mr Huckabee has a telling point on that:
“The militant homosexual advocates have launched an all out assault on Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A, pushing for a boycott because the Cathy family has contributed to traditional marriage organizations. The attempts to hurt or destroy Chick-fil-A is nothing short of economic bullying. In the name of ‘tolerance,’ there is an effort being mounted to put pressure on people to stop eating at Chick-fil-A. Even worse is the vilification of the company and its employees. The Christian world view of Dan Cathy is being met with intolerance and vicious hate speech,” Huckabee’s announcement said.
John Hayward of Human Events, adds:
 “The name of the game being played against Chick-fil-A involved ending the discussion, by ruling one side of this important social debate completely out of order, and dismissing their beliefs as unworthy of respect. All resistance to gay marriage is instantly transmuted into personal hatred of gay people. On the other hand, criticism of traditional marriage proponents cannot be viewed as hateful, no matter how angrily it might be expressed. It’s a rigged heads-we-win, tails-you-lose game,” he said.

Cathy isn’t allowed to encourage reverence and support for the traditional family, or even worse, put his money where his mouth is.  He’s not allowed to say that he finds moral or practical value in the time-honored definition of marriage, without feeling animosity towards gay people.  His ideas and principles are automatic thought crimes, no matter how gently and constructively they might be presented.

Hayward bitingly continues, naming and shaming "Boston mayor Thomas Menino":

. . . who brings the power of government into the equation.  “Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population [-->there is no evidence of discriminatory policies or practices of the firm; but moral objections to the twisting of marriage into the shape preferred by an agenda are being smeared with this scarlet label].  We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion,” he told the Boston Herald.

Referring to the proposed location of a Chick-fil-A restaurant, Menino thundered, “That’s the Freedom Trail.  That’s where it all started right here.  And we’re not going to have a company, Chick-fil-A or whatever the hell the name is, on our Freedom Trail.”  He promised that getting permits for restaurant construction “will be very difficult… unless they open up their policies,” by which he means the company abandoning its financial support for traditional marriage groups. [--> which includes support for a group that seeks to rescue and renew marriages and families that are in trouble]

What a bracing dose of Newspeak!  Menino’s all about making Boston an “open” city “at the forefront of inclusion,” except for people who believe in the traditional definition of marriage.  Those people get “excluded” as viciously as possible, but such exclusion is necessary to prove how inclusive the Mayor is.  Up is down, day is night, “freedom” requires submission to a political agenda, and “open” minds are welded firmly shut.  Hopefully the people of Boston won’t mind sacrificing some jobs, and culinary choices, in the name of the absolute ideological rigidity expected from an “open” city.

That is, at certain times, when assaults like this surface, we will need to expose the hostility, intimidation, manipulation, "he hit back first" turnabout false accusation  rhetoric and deceptive, destructive agendas that are at work in our day across the world and in our region. 

We should also take opportunity of such incidents to expose the underlying tactics and call for a return to civility, moral clarity, common good sense, decency and soundness. 

Last (but by no means least), such time are also opportunities to help our neighbours see the way sin enmeshes, deceives and destroys, then bring forth the truth , the intellectual and ethical credibility and relevance of the gospel and of its call to godly discipleship as a basis for salvation of souls, renewal of minds, hearts and lives,  and how it is a reasonable and trustworthy basis for positive transformation of societies. END

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Matt 24 watch, 165: Prophecy author, Joel Richardson and Iran Alive ministries remark on a Gospel revival reportedly sweeping Iran -- yes, IRAN

The pseudonymous prophecy author "Joel Richardson" (he has received Islamist death threats) who is the author of Mideast Beast, joins  Iran Alive Ministries in its  remarks that a Gospel revival is sweeping Iran. According to a WND article:
 Richardson, who was initially scheduled to travel to Tehran this summer to present a paper at the eighth annual International Conference of Mahdism Doctrine, had an opportunity to appear on Shabekah7 after the conference was canceled.
“Although I was truly looking forward to traveling to Iran and speaking to a few hundred Iranian religious scholars … I had the chance to speak directly to between 3 and 6 million Iranians. I was able to speak directly to the people, sharing my testimony, God’s love for the Iranian people and most importantly the gospel,” said Richardson. “It was an amazing blessing and truly one of the most wonderful opportunities of my life. This would have been illegal if I was actually in the country. The present regime is terrified of the transformative power of the Gospel among the Iranians.” . . . . 

“Despite tremendous resistance, the church in Iran right now is growing at a rate of 20 percent per year. Conservative estimates claim that there are presently between 2 to 7 million Christians in Iran. Most of these are newer converts. At the rate the present revival is spreading, in just a few years, that level of growth could be truly explosive,” sources reported.

Richardson concurred.

“Isn’t it better to believe for much and shoot high, than to take a pessimistic approach and aim low?” he asked.
If these numbers are anywhere near the truth, or even if they are ten times too high, this is a highly significant event.

Here is Richardson on Iranian Christian satellite TV "Channel" Seven:

(Part 2, part 3.)

Apparently, satellite dishes are illegal but widespread across Iran and satellite TV is a viable means of outreach. This can be highly effective in a situation where the Mullahs and the extremism of the radical Islamist regime joined to evident corrupting influences of power, has largely undermined the 1979 revolution.

Food for thought on the power of modern media to do good -- or evil. It looks like satellite TV is a viable means to bring the gospel to keystone sections of the 10/40 window such as Iran. And, the gospel most definitely has the power to bring revival and God-blessed transformation to thirsty souls. END

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Rom 1 reply, 12: Walter Bradley of Baylor U (and co-author of The Mystery of Life's Origin;the key technical book that launched the modern ID movement), on cosmological evidence pointing to an "Intelligent Creator" of the universe

Prof Walter Bradley, co-author of the key 1984 book that launched the modern Intelligent Design school of thought, TMLO, presents the case for an intelligent Creator of the observed universe in a keynote speech for the Engineering and Metaphysics conference recently held at ORU:

The pivotal issue, here, is that ever since the 1920's observational evidence of a red-shifting of light spectra for galaxies that indicates an expanding universe pointed to an origin that is currently thought to be some 13.7 BYA. Since the 1940's, that has been spoken of as the Big Bang theory. Then, from the 1950's on, it has been increasingly seen that the physics of our cosmos seems finely tuned in many, many ways for the existence of Carbon-Chemistry, aqueous medium, cell-based life. 

Indeed, if we look at just the first four most abundant elements, Hydrogen (H), Helium (He), Carbon (C) and Oxygen (O), with the one that is fifth for our galaxy (N) and we can see:

1 --> H gets us to stars and galaxies in our cosmos

2 --> He gets us to the periodic table of elements, as the first composite atomic nucleus that is distinct from H

3 --> C gets us to organic chemistry, as the "modular connector" element. Its abundance and that of O, are rooted in a nuclear resonance that with other evidence led the life-long agnostic and Nobel-equivalent Prize-holding astrophysicist Sir Fred Hoyle to talk in terms of a put-up job with a super intellect monkeying with the physics of the cosmos.

4 --> O forms H2O with H, i.e. water, an astonishing molecule that has so many unique properties vital to life on an earth-like planet that are tied into the fundamental physics of the cosmos that it looks suspiciously like another of Sir Fred Hoyle's put up jobs.

5 --> Add in N, and we are at proteins and enzymes.

All of this should open our minds to ponder the implications of a cosmos that credibly had an origin at a finitely remote point in the past: that which has a beginning, logically, is causally dependent on an "on/off switch" factor. That is, there are circumstances that have to be in place for it to begin and to continue, much as the way we turn on a light.

This brings us to the more complicated way of saying that: we live in a contingent cosmos. 

Just like a fire needs to have heat, oxidiser [such as Oxygen], fuel and a heat generating chain reaction, there are factors that have to be in place for our cosmos to begin and continue. But also, if something now is, something always was, that does not have those on/off factors. Something with power to cause an enormous, energy-rich cosmos to exist, one that is fine-tuned for life. Something that in the end -- multiverse speculations just push this back a few steps -- had no beginning, is not dependent on anything else for existence, and cannot go out of existence. Something that is immaterial, as matter is plainly contingent.

Something like a Mind capable of conceiving, purposing and creating a universe.

And, the attempted notion that you can pull a cosmos out of nothing founders on what a true nothing is: what rocks dream of, in Aristotle's words.

But, rocks have no dreams!


Nothingness is that which has no existence, no reality.

It consequently has no power to cause anything.

There is no hat to pull the rabbits out of.

And so, we are left to ponder the signposts that point to an intelligent architect and maker of the universe. END

F/N: For more details, cf. here and here, including a backgrounder on astronomy, cosmology and timelines, and discussion of multiverses etc. as well as onward links.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Rom 1 reply, 11: Examining the digitally coded, functionally specific, complex programming of life and what that should tell us about the causal roots of life (and our own roots)

The video:

Of course, there is a hot -- and too often quite uncivil -- controversy surrounding the inference to design on empirically tested signs such as complex, functionally specific organisation and associated information, or irreducibly complex functional organisation. 

However, much of that controversy is not driven by the actual balance on the merits but by the determination of institutionally dominant evolutionary materialist factions to retain their (now fast-crumbling) hold on science, the academy, education, most mass media, public policy and the public square. Sometimes, even the pulpit.

If you doubt the accuracy of this summary but genuinely want to find out without wading through the muck of the various fever swamps, why not work your way through the 101 from here on? (And if you are interested in the worldview level issues and agendas that have shaped our civilisation's path for the past 150 years [sometimes doing a lot of damage], why not look here on in context?)

Brace for some shocks, on what they didn't tell you in your High School or College science textbooks, or on Discovery or National Geographic Cable TV channels, etc. (And now you know why there are evolutionary materialist fever swamp hate sites that target me.) END

Matt 24 watch, 164: Mike Wallace interviews Israeli PM Netanyahu on events in Syria, the "loose" chemical weapon danger, the attack in Bulgaria (with connexions from Hezbollah to Iran and the latter's nuke weapons programme) etc.

The Interview:

Food for thought as we see the ME spinning deeper into chaos. 

What would we as a region do if chemical weapons go on the loose and the Iranian brinkmanship precipitates a nuke threshold war in the Persian Gulf, with attempts to block the Straights of Hormuz,  and oil spiking to what -- US$ 300 - 400? -- a barrel?  (Don't forget, oil price quadrupled in the oil crises of the 1970's.)

Where also, Chavez's Venezuela is an ally of Iran, the leading terrorism sponsor in the world today? 

And where, through the Petrocaribe scheme, many of our countries are in ever deepening debt to Chavez's regime? END

Matt 24 watch, 163: An interview on "Islamophobia" vs Islamist supremacism featuring Robert Spencer and Pam Geller, on the new Aramaic Broadcasting Network (ABN) show, Jihad Watch

Courtesy Youtube, we can watch a ninety-minute interview of Ms Geller by Mr Spencer as captioned, on "Islamophobia":

 Food for thought (forgive occasional promotion, partisanship and shrillness . . . these are not trained, polished media talking heads), in response to a disturbing trend to shut down discussion of serious points of concern by labelling those who raise objections to controversial agendas, that to question is to be irrational or fearful and hateful, or racist, or against "rights," etc. 

In fact, if someone proposes a radical change to society, to law, or to institutions such as marriage it is the proponent of change who properly bears a serious burden of warrant. In that light, the now all too common attempt to tag, demonise and dismiss those who ask pointed questions about radical agendas is rude and uncivil. (Cf. Alinski's rules for radicals. Also, the comments on Phillips' book made several days ago.)

Indeed, it raises the question, as to whether the radical agendas can stand on their merits, or have to resort to divide, demonise and dominate tactics precisely because they are ill-founded and detrimental. END
F/N: Note how Skype chatting or conferencing is being used to develop and present the interview, a hint at the potentialities of these technologies. Including for education.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Matt 24 watch, 162 (& Rom 1 reply, 10): Responding to the Colorado Batman movie mass shooting, with ex-grad student James E Holmes as prime suspect, and to attempts by Cathy Cooper et al to twist it into an indictment of the Christian Faith and church attendance or involvement

Over the past few days, there has been a considerable web buzz on the Colorado mass shooting at a Batman movie tragedy, with aspects that are worth commenting on here at KF (especially since some are already trying to use this to blame the Christian faith as the prime suspect went with his family to a Lutheran church in his youth).

Before saying anything else, we must express condolences to the victims, families, and the bewildered family of the prime suspect.

As I have indicated, there is considerable speculation, and some are already trying to spin this sad case to serve an agenda.

In particular, I see from an atheistical blogger, a Ms Cathy Cooper, that:
My hypothesis, which is not new by the way, as I have pointed out numerous times, the great Christian philosopher Pelagius pointed out long ago, that if you promulgate the notion that people are born bad, and cannot help but to sin, but will still gain entrance into paradise as long as they "repent"-- they are more likely to sin, repent, sin, repent--and repeat when necessary.  Pelagius was wise, and realized that this belief would lead to "moral laxity"--which is quite evident in our predominantly Christian society, and amongst Christians in particular . . . when Christians are taught they are "born sinners" and cannot help but to sin, as they are taught it is not possible for them to be perfect, and that they are nevertheless given the "free gift" of salvation, they will have more of a tendency to act immorally, or, when Christians are taught they live in a world that is dominated by Satan, that it leads to immorality.  Either way, it leads to immorality and chaos, and Christianity provides believers with a basis for the belief that they are absolved from taking responsibility for their own bad behavior.  Jesus does that for them.
This is rubbish, and the fact that Cooper highlights a well known heretic, Pelagius, as a "great Christian philosopher," should be warning on that.

Here instead, as I pointed out in a UD blog thread, is a good slice of what the relevant, foundational prime source documents teach on the subject of salvation by grace through faith and its organic link to a life of growing in grace, truth, love, doing good and purity:
Eph 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
1 Jn 3:7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.
11 This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
1 Cor 6:9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Eph 4:17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.
20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”[d]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. [NIV '84]
It is clear that the scriptures teach a sin-recovery model, that does not expect perfection in this world, but penitence, progress and substantial righteousness. With a 2,000 year track record of substantial success that is accessible to those willing to look for it and acknowledge the evident facts, out of respect for truth and fairness.

For, we are all obviously finite, fallible, morally fallen and struggling, and far too often gullible or ill-willed and even addicted to evil and deception. That is why C S Lewis said that the sinful fallen-ness of man is the Christian doctrine that can be proved from the newspapers.

This is the context of a close parallel to the Alcoholics Anonymous, twelve step recovery approach. I would argue that this sort of repentance and recovery process from addictive, life-dominating sins is a significant aspect of sound discipleship and spiritual growth.

But that is not all.

Over the weekend, I think some significant details have emerged that allow a rather tentative suggested explanation of what may have happened to the young man at the heart of this tragedy. 

(The tentatively inferred pattern is sufficiently significant that even if in the end it is not exactly correct for the case, it is sufficiently relevant to a real problem that we need to ponder it. )

So, I clip from a further comment in the UD thread:

>> . . . amidst the fog of back-forths and institutions told to keep mum, we have at least one key clue (in addition to the fact that he abused his grad student status to order hazardous materials and bought arms in advance):
. . . the owner of a gun range told the AP that Holmes applied to join the club last month [i.e. June 2012] but never became a member because of his behavior and a “bizarre” message on his voice mail.
He emailed an application to join the Lead Valley Range in Byers on June 25 in which he said he was not a user of illegal drugs or a convicted felon, said owner Glenn Rotkovich. When Rotkovich called to invite him to a mandatory orientation the following week, he said he heard a message on Holmes’ voice mail that was “bizarre — guttural, freakish at best.”
He left two other messages but eventually told his staff to watch out for Holmes at the July 1 orientation and not to accept him into the club, Rotkovich said . . .
Plainly, something was not right here, and it was brewing for months, taking in the time in which the materials etc were acquired.

Something else in the linked report, from his family and its home church:
The pastor for the family of the suspect also recalled a shy boy who was driven to succeed academically.
“He wasn’t an extrovert at all. If there was any conversation, it would be because I initiated it, not because he did,” said Jerald Borgie, senior pastor of Penasquitos Lutheran Church. Borgie said he never saw the suspect mingle with others his age at church.
[NB: --> Not exactly the picture Cooper et al want to paint of an active, deeply engaged church member acting out the deep flaws of the Christian Faith as it invariably leads to life destruction, social chaos and violence wherever it goes. (BTW, that sounds a lot to me like she has been reading and absorbing major one-sided New Atheist litanies and diatribes against the Christian faith. I suggest a read here on as a balance.)]
Holmes told the pastor he wanted to attend a University of California school and pursue graduate studies. Borgie, who last spoke with Holmes about six years ago, doesn’t remember the suspect being more specific about his goals.
“He had some goals. He wanted to succeed, he wanted to go out, and he wanted to be the best,” Borgie said. “He took pride in his academic abilities. A good student. He didn’t brag about it.”
The family has belonged to the church for about 10 years, Borgie said. The suspect’s mother, Arlene, attends services every week and volunteers her time . . .
If you have a bright, somewhat shy academically inclined kid of a family in your church, who is pursuing university studies for an advanced degree, it would be reasonable that a pastor would try to keep in touch. That suggests that the lack of interaction basically since Holmes went off to college was probably because the young man drifted from church involvement, which was already inadequate. (It is not normal for a young person actively involved in a church not to have visible friends at church. But, that is what the senior pastor reported. [The attempts by Cooper et al to blame the Christian Faith, look ever more tacky, in this light.])

Multiply that by the evolutionary materialistic scientism milieu of neuroscience and the top candidate explanation is that this young man was moving to the sort of worldview that dominates this field and similar fields. Which is the expected ideology. And indeed, the bright kid from church not prepared for the issues and rhetoric of the college campus going off to college with the Bible on the top of his clothes in his suitcase and coming back home with it under the bottom — or outright dumping it across his first year — is a stock story.

If we do not “own” and seriously ground our beliefs and values, in an aggressively atheistical climate, they will be vulnerable to collapse. Sometimes, with serious consequences. (Cf. here on in context.)

It looks like this young man was bright through the undergrad phases, from remarks on being able to take classes, just listen in — no notes — and hit the A range. Maybe, there were some poor study skills at work there, but that will come out later.

He had to try for the PhD level for the field, and seems to have gone to a direct PhD programme, a big jump from undergraduate studies. He was so promising that he got NIH funding.

After it looks like a year and a bit more, he hit a wall and quit after apparently doing poorly in comprehensives in the “spring.” 

In that window, he would have been in trouble and would have known it if he was heading for a disastrous first year assessment (especially if he had been preparing inadequately). I would normally recommend a Master’s programme for at least a year, then an upgrade to a PhD if there is some showing of the ability. But then, I believe strongly in creep then walk before you run, and run before you fly.

It would have been expected that someone as bright as this kid, if he hit the wall, would try again. But, he quit — notice, despite the gag order at the school, it has come out that his quitting was a surprise. 

This may well have been his first serious encounter with academic failure, and it may have blown up his probably fragile sense of self-worth; which was likely to be wrapped up in his persona as a bright and academically promising kid. He also probably had very little social and counselling support, in a context where a solid line to a good pastor, priest or Rabbi would be worth its weight in gold. I have known of suicide attempts or outright suicides triggered under those circumstances. Or, “nervous breakdown,” and the like.

This may be a case of even more spectacular breakdown. And, he may indeed have gone insane in the criminally relevant sense.

Obviously, a very sketchy explanation, but one that I would take as the one to beat based on what we are likely to find for now. 

For, it is not exactly uncommon for something like the above to happen, save that the degree of breakdown is not normally that spectacular. If violence happens in such cases, most often it is against oneself, i.e. a suicide attempt, maybe disguised to look like an accident. In some cases, it is by courting an accident, without even articulating this to oneself. Depression is a subtle, devious and destructive disease.

So, whether or not this is the actual best explanation when the dust settles, the pattern is one we do need to pay attention to.>>

In short, in an aggressively materialistic age, college can be a dangerous place, and increasingly high school, TV, the internet and so forth. 

One of the obvious steps is that we need to explicitly equip our young people to understand at some significant level, the two tidal wave threats that are hitting our region:

Two spiritual tidal waves now impacting our region with ever-mounting force
Then, we need to equip them to stand, giving good grounds for their faith and path of discispleship. We will need to keep an eye out for and seek out then help the wandering sheep also before they get into trouble way over their ability to handle.

Finally, I would suggest that as a direct programme of study or a supplement to other studies, our young people need something like the AACCS programme, and especially the sort of things that are covered in the theology survey and street issues courses. With of course solid grounding in basic discipleship, and engagement in a discipleship and service building cell group programme (which can be built on a Sunday School or a Youth fellowship programme).

So, I come back to the relevance of the proposed AACCS programme.

I think something like this should be a key part of the "college bridge" studies our young people undertake.

In closing, again: condolences to all affected by the sad events in Colorado. END

Friday, July 20, 2012

Matt 24 watch, 161 & Rom 1 reply, 9: Making sense about a world turned upside down as in Isa 5:20 - 21, with help from the well-known UK Journalist, Melanie Phillips

The cover
The well known UK Journalist Melanie Phillips -- yes, double-l -- has published a book a few years ago that is worth taking note of, to make sense of the bizarre twists and turns that seem to have overtaken public policy and intellectual talk and actions in our day. Namely, The World Turned Upside Down. (And yes, that is the Amazon page. The hint is obvious. You won't regret taking it!)

Here is a clip from her blurb:
In what we tell ourselves is an age of reason, we are behaving increasingly irrationally. A loss of religious belief has led the West to replace reason and truth with ideology and prejudice. The result has been a kind of mass derangement, as truth and lies, right and wrong, victim and aggressor are all turned upside down. There is widespread belief in ludicrous conspiracy theories, such as the 9/11 terrorist attack being an American plot.

The basic cause of all this unreason is the erosion of the building blocks of western civilisation. We tell ourselves that religion and reason are incompatible, but in fact the opposite is the case. It was Christianity and the Hebrew Bible that gave us our concepts of reason, progress and an orderly world—the foundations of science and modernity. [--> NB: Cf Nancy Pearcey on this, here.]

The loss of religious belief has meant the West has replaced reason and truth with ideology and prejudice, which it enforces in the manner of a secular inquisition.
The result has been a kind of mass derangement, as truth and lies, right and wrong, victim and aggressor are all turned upside down. In medieval-style witch-hunts, scientists who are skeptical of global warming are hounded from their posts; Israel is ferociously demonized; and the United States is vilified over the war on terror—all on the basis of falsehoods and propaganda that are believed as truth . . .
 The picture she paints is disturbingly familiar to one acquainted with the Saul Alinski rules for radicals, and I think the book is well worth the buying and reading. And, if she sounds 100% off course or even absurd to you, perhaps you should consider whether you doubly need to read the book.

BTW, I came by this through the back-door of looking at a review online.

That review has some choice snippets from the book and some interesting commentary from of course CMI's Young Earth creationist view: 
Although not a scientist, Phillips makes a commendable effort to understand the arguments marshalled against a belief in God and creation, and exposes them as nothing more than scientific materialism. Unmasking the circular nature of the atheists’ claims, she deftly lays bare their folly: “The fact that science cannot answer questions of ultimate purpose proves to them that there is no such thing as ultimate purpose. The fact that science cannot prove the existence of God proves to them that God does not exist” (p. 78). In reality, as the Oxford University mathematician and philosopher of science Professor John Lennox points out, the assertion that science provides the only means of discovering truth is not itself deduced from science—it is a statement about science for which there is no evidence (p. 79). This blind acceptance of scientism, Phillips opines, has actually led to an astonishing degree of irrationality. Dawkins’ view that matter probably arose from nothing, she considers, is nothing more than a belief in magic, and his view that life on earth may have been seeded by aliens, she describes as a fetish . . . . 

of particular interest to many Christians, is the attitude of many politicians and academics towards the Middle East. Israel, she writes, is portrayed as a bully, hell-bent on oppressing the Palestinians, and is equated with Nazism and apartheid. The reality, she claims, is that Israel is the historic victim of the Arabs, and its behaviour, although not perfect, is generally reasonable, given that it is fighting for its existence. This, she believes, is tragic, as the State of Israel is the free world’s front line defence against the Islamist assault on Western civilisation (p. 408) . . . . 

In the UK, a Christian registrar who refused to carry out gay ‘weddings’ was forced to resign. Grandparents of two children who were given up for adoption to a gay male couple were told that if they didn’t drop their opposition they would never see their grandchildren again (p. 101). The British Association for Adoption and Fostering described people who oppose gay adoption as “retarded homophobes” (p. 102). An elderly evangelical preacher, Harry Hammond, was convicted of an offence because he carried a poster calling for an end to homosexuality, lesbianism and immorality. In fact, he had been the victim of a physical attack, but only he was prosecuted (p. 289). Self-designated ‘victim groups’ have turned right and wrong, victim and aggressor inside out. Their ‘right’ not to be insulted or discriminated against has become the basis for discrimination and injustice against the representatives of majority values . . . . 

Today’s governing assumption, Phillips argues, is that religion and reason are incompatible, and all faiths are no more than superstitious beliefs of a bygone age of myth and bigotry. However, rather than this leading to increased objectivity and freedom, it has resulted in a retreat from reason and suppression of free speech. Truth, logic and objectivity have been replaced by ideology, and any dissent from the ‘correct view’ is confronted with a ‘secular inquisition’ . . . . 

According to Phillips, what is happening in the UK and Europe is nothing less than a deliberate and carefully planned attack, by the intelligentsia and self-styled progressives, on Western civilization . . .  Amongst others, she quotes the Gay Liberation Front who declared in their manifesto, “We must aim at the abolition of the family,” which was founded upon the “archaic and irrational teachings” of Christianity (p. 290 [--> Them's fighting words, cf here and here for starters]). She also cites Dr. Brock Chisholm, the first director of the World Health Organization, who believed that the most persistent barrier to civilized life was the concept of “right and wrong.” Children, he argued, needed to be freed from cultural and religious prejudices forced on them by parents, and sex education should be introduced from the age of nine, eliminating “the ways of the elders—by force if necessary” (p. 291). Daniel Dennett1 is quoted as extolling Darwin’s “dangerous idea” as a “universal acid,” dissolving traditional ideas about religion and morality (p. 308), and Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg2 as arguing that “[t]he world needs to wake up to the long nightmare of religious belief … [A]nything we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done, and may in fact be our greatest contribution to civilization” (p. 318).
Food for thought indeed.  Especially, if one is prepared to reflect on Jesus' warning in the heart of his great, justly famed Sermon on the Mount (cf. commentary here and site here); which should be a part of the mental furniture of any truly educated person:
Mt 6:22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
Of course, denizens of the various hate-sites who monitor KF to find points to twist into hateful pretzels are doubtless working themselves into a frenzy by now.  And, their repeated, long sustained bully-boy fascist-like behaviour that seems rooted in conscience-benumbing rage against any who dare differ with their scientism, village corner atheism and materialism, is itself ample demonstration of the force of Ms Phillips' point.

So, let me speak instead to the reasonable onlooker: I find CMI to have some interesting reportage on science and related cultural topics, and I reserve my thoughts on whether or not their YEC views are biblically sound or justifiable. But, regardless of debates over those views, they have some good reporting on science and culture topics that I find can give us a breath of fresh air. Such as in this case where we are plainly beginning to live in a topsy-turvy Romans 1 world.

Oh, yes, Isa 5:

Isa 5:18 Woe to those who draw sin along with cords of deceit,
    and wickedness as with cart ropes,
19 to those who say, “Let God hurry,
    let him hasten his work
    so we may see it.
Let it approach,
    let the plan of the Holy One of Israel come,
    so 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 clever in their own sight.
[NIV '84]

Perhaps, we need to do some serious re-thinking about the unquestioned conventional wisdoms of our day that are promoted in schools, the media and even in courtrooms? END

Matt 24 watch, 160: PM Netanyahu on the recent terrorist bombing of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria

Prime Minister Netanyahu has some strong words:

The wave of Iranian terrorist attacks is clearly ratcheting up the growing crisis over Iran's push to acquire nuclear weapons. END
F/N:  In a probably unrelated event a gunman has shot up a movie theatre that was screening the latest Batman movie in Colorado, killing 12 and injuring it seems like 50. He seems to have surrendered to the police, but his apartment was apparently booby trapped, probably with explosives or incendiaries and it is being gingerly probed by investigators. Unfortunately, media talking heads at ABC have raised speculations that the perpetrator may have been a Tea Party affiliated man with the same name as released. However it seems the gunman is a 24 year old graduate student in neuroscience and the Tea Party member is a man of 52. There is a considerable discussion in some quarters on irresponsible journalism seeking to smear certain groups, while others are given a pass.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Capacity focus, 53: Pulling together ideas for the AACCS cybercollege proposal -- are we like sheep[le] or like agoutis?

I have now pulled together the cluster of ideas for developing a cybercampus based, microcampus centre delivered Associate Degree programme designed to develop our capacity to be effective and productive, and to stand up in the face of the two spiritual tidal waves that are hitting the region very hard:

The two spiritual tidal waves that exploit our weaknesses
 The question in my mind, is whether we are going to  be like sheep[le] or like agoutis.

I will explain.

Across the road from where I sit, a neighbour has a small sheep pen. The sheep there usually have their heads down in the guinea grass, and do not have their eyes on anything beyond the next clump of grass. Their focus is so narrow that even when I did the experiment of a loud hand-clap, only one or two even lifted their heads. Next time, none did. My thought was, a sheep with the narrowest focus on the next clump of grass is not alert to who might be coming up to grab him and turn him into goat water (the local national dish, a stew of apparently Irish derivation that often uses sheep not goat).

By contrast, agouties sometimes come to the guava trees in the backyard.

They will sit on their haunches, just like a man, and will hold a guava in their "hands" and eat it, much as we would a fruit. But, they are always alert. Every few seconds, they pause and look around, wiggling ears. Any sound or sign of danger, and, guava dropped, they are off -- headed for safe cover.

They know that they are prey animals, and they take precautions.

The guava might be sweet, but life is sweeter and there will always be another guava, if you are alive to get it.

Now, of course, the scriptures commonly compare the people of God to sheep, and talk of the need for shepherds and warn against wolves, whether out in the open or in stolen sheep's clothing. To that, we can add the sad further case: wolves in shepherd's clothing.

That is the problem: if we follow wrong leadership or wrong influences or are so pre-occupied with the next bit of profit or consumption that we are not alert to our situation and the signs of our times, we set ourselves up to be shorn or a lot worse than merely shorn. 

Hence the neo-logism: SHEEPLE.

There is another tricky part: we can be tempted into the wrong kind of skepticism, where we learn to cynically dismiss unwelcome truth by making specious objections, instead of learning how to think for ourselves under God, having first grounded ourselves in "that which is of first importance."

For instance, how many of us can show the warrant for the gospel, and for our trust in the scriptures? Have we mastered the basics of studying, living by and teaching the Word of God? Could we tell whether a TV preacher or the person in our own pulpit or standing in front of our Sunday school class is going astray? Or, handle the sort of street level issues that are now increasingly common in a day where Dan Brown, Discovery Channel, History Channel and ever so many atheistical fever swamp web sites spew forth specious objections and false claims against the scriptures? Could we answer the ten [highly loaded] questions for intelligent Christians that are being toured all over the Internet by skeptics? Or, handle the likes of the street-corner atheist rants on something like the Evil Bible web site?

Or, have we been ever so concerned to be soothed or entertainingly distracted from our troubles as we look for the next clump of sweet grass to consume or gain as profit?

Do I dare say words like: greed? living by our impulsive senses rather than wisdom from God? Resulting short-sightedness? shallowness? laziness? worldly lusts? worldliness? failing to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness?

Sound leaders don't pretend to be immune, but having had to struggle with these, I think such will be in a position to help others overcome in that daily spiritual struggle.

Likewise, as C21 moves well into its second decade, how many of us are thinking beyond being able to do basic math [with a calculator . . . make sure the batteries don't go dead], use rudimentary English language skills, and IT -- aka, how to use MS Office -- to do "look back in the file and follow" work? 

How many of us have acquired independent productive skills so we do not depend on someone else to hire us, whether a government office or a businessman or some activist enterprise or the like?

And, are our churches getting into the equipping business so that our people will be able to stand together in the days ahead where compromise with evil and poison will be demanded as the price of a job? 

Or, do we think that the text:
Rev 13:16 He [the beast from the earth] also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, 17 so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast [from the Sea] or the number of his name . . . [NIV '84]

. . . was only written for those who are "left behind" after "The Rapture"?

I am 100% sure the devil is trying to get as much of that beast-mark system of dependency on wolves in shepherd's clothing in place in our time, right here in the Caribbean as he can, because that is a way to pull people into the fatal compromises that lead them to sell their souls and spiritual birthright for a mess of pottage to relieve their immediate hunger.

Let us learn: Any compromise between good and evil will be: evil. One between food and poison will be: deadly. (I forget the source.)

Or, do you think Esau who sold his birthright for a bowl of red stew was a hero of faith? 

(As for his scheming, conniving brother Jacob, he was a wolf in sheep's clothing at that point. His one and only virtue was that he did see the importance of the spiritual and was somewhat open to respond to God in faith. He had to go through some hard and painful lessons to learn to be a real godly sheep!)

Part of why I raise this, is my shock at seeing young people in our schools shy away from studying "academic" subjects like accounting, chemistry, physics and biology, etc. 

Somehow, it has not dawned on many that accounting is the heart of the management information system of any business or organisation so accounting and bookkeeping are vital reserve job or enterprise start-up skills. As for the sciences that underlie the technologies we so eagerly consume, we sit in rooms full of items that point to the importance of such knowledge and technologies and we are not even aware of how the technologies work.

No, it is not by magic!

And no, what we have between our ears is of no worse basic quality than those who are researching, developing, inventing, building, selling, supporting and maintaining the systems. Just, they made sure to learn and acquire strategic skills.

As to the notion that it is just "bright" people who can master such, rubbish!

At primary and secondary levels, absent major handicaps, most of us, properly motivated and equipped with a sound baseline knowledge, can acquire the knowledge and skills to do just about any subject on the curriculum. Our grades in school by and large are NOT measuring who is "brighter," but who is better prepared, more disciplined and motivated.

Unfortunately, our regional culture is increasingly distractive from and in opposition to getting that baseline for success in studies. Even, give the kids PCs and there are ever so many games, video, social networking and worse sites to draw them away from sound knowledge and skill building. 

"That's BORING!"

End of story . . .

Nope, education, knowledge and ethical-logical thinking towards wisdom are an acquired taste. One that requires serious and positive intellectual and cultural leadership by genuine shepherds. (Enough already, of wolves in shepherds' clothing!)

No-one has to teach kids to like sweets and salty-fatty junk food.

But loving veggies and balanced meals, that is very much an acquired taste.

So is the taste for sound learning and wisdom. here, is Sophia herself, wisdom personified by Solomon, crying aloud:
Prov 1:20 Wisdom calls aloud in the street,
    she raises her voice in the public squares;
21 at the head of the noisy streets[c] she cries out,
    in the gateways of the city she makes her speech:
22 “How long will you simple ones[d] love your simple ways?
    How long will mockers delight in mockery
    and fools hate knowledge?
23 If you had responded to my rebuke,
    I would have poured out my heart to you
    and made my thoughts known to you.
24 But since you rejected me when I called
    and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand,
25 since you ignored all my advice
    and would not accept my rebuke,
26 I in turn will laugh at your disaster;
    I will mock when calamity overtakes you —
27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm,
    when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind,
    when distress and trouble overwhelm you.
28 “Then they will call to me but I will not answer;
    they will look for me but will not find me.
29 Since they hated knowledge
    and did not choose to fear the Lord,
30 since they would not accept my advice
    and spurned my rebuke,
31 they will eat the fruit of their ways
    and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.
32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,
    and the complacency of fools will destroy them;
33 but whoever listens to me will live in safety
    and be at ease, without fear of harm.”[NIV '84]
By Ch 4, Solomon counsels (speaking in the name of his father, David who poured into Solomon what he had learned, having seen what happened with his older sons who went astray . . . ):
Prov 4:When I was a boy in my father’s house,
    still tender, and an only child of my mother,
he taught me and said,
    “Lay hold of my words with all your heart;
    keep my commands and you will live.
Get wisdom, get understanding;
    do not forget my words or swerve from them.
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;
    love her, and she will watch over you.
Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom.
    Though it cost all you have,[a] get understanding.
Esteem her, and she will exalt you;
    embrace her, and she will honor you.
She will set a garland of grace on your head
    and present you with a crown of splendor. ” [NIV '84]
In short, we now have to stand up in the face of a culture of folly and say: NO!

Or, in terms of the little parable of the sheep and the agoutis, we have to break out of the sheeple trap, and get smart like agoutis.

(And don't get me started on those who exploit our ignorance of civics and straight thinking, the better to enmesh us in their rhetorical webs. To their advantage, not ours. )

 All of which is why the proposed AACCS is so important

Here are some collected posts on this proposal [u/d Jul 19]:

Capacity Development -- the AACCS

The issue is to now get this moving. 

So, let us again ask, why not now, why not here, why not us? END