Thursday, January 31, 2013

1 Chron 12:32 report, 108: Understanding and working under our call to discipleship through the Great Commission, in light of the Fulness vision in Eph 1 and 4, (and with some resource materials)

A few days ago, I had an interesting email, on discipleship initiatives.

This brought my mind back to the centrality of discipleship to the task in front of us as handed on to us in the Great Commission, and so our need to understand it and address it with adequate capacity and effort in our region.

First, let us recall the Great Commission in the classic text in Matt 28, using the Amplified Bible which tends to bring out shades of meaning that a more smoothly rendered version may not quite capture:
Matt 28:18 Jesus approached and, [a]breaking the silence, said to them, All authority (all power of rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.
19 Go then and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them [b]into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 Teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you [c]all the days ([d]perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion), to the [very] close and consummation of the age. [e]Amen (so let it be). [AMP]
Under the Lordship of the risen Christ, we are tasked to go forth -- actually, this is more assumed -- and as we do so, we are to disciple people from the nations, baptising them and teaching them to walk in the way Jesus taught. This of course implies the four R's of reformation:

We need to bring that out a bit: Discipleship is more of a buzz word than a well worked through strategy and pattern in our live, but that simply highlights how -- for centuries -- we have had a major challenge of drawing together and effectively teaching a coherent, dynamic framework for systematically understanding, being transformed by and living out the gospel in family, church, community and world.  

This has actually made it into our vocabulary, as we can see from how, too often, we miss the subtle force of Acts 11:26b : "The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. " 

That is, discipleship lies at the heart of what it is to be a Christian.

By sharp contrast to our want of emphasis, our Lord gave discipleship pride of place in his great commission to the church,as we already saw.  
 Similarly, when Paul counselled Titus on his task in Crete, he laid out a clear agenda for how such discipleship should transform our lives based on the power of the grace of God manifested in Christ and coming to us through the gospel:
Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.  15 These, then, are the things you should teach . . . [NIV '84]
So, if a central task of the church is to disciple people from the nations -- if we are to understand the church and its task aright -- we must build a systematic, practically useful understanding of discipleship. One, that is tightly integrated with the gospel and which effectively addresses the serious business of how lives can be so transformed by God's grace that in our communities and cultures we ever more and more become "a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good."

In that context, I responded to the email as follows, as clipped and augmented:

>>Our mandate is indeed discipleship, but too often we are unsure of what that is or requires, and we are not being shaped by that perspective and focus. I recall, in the 1984 CONECAR, seeking a clear definition from the leadership assembled. . . .

In subsequent years I have come to hold that Eph 4:9 - 24 [with applications following] defines the operational form of the church's mandate, with the Pauline Mission to Greece -- especially the churches in Corinth and Ephesus -- as a good case study. Subsequently, I have seen the case of the church in Antioch as a prototype. I have especially been impressed by the one year period probably c AD 46 - 8 that marked the transformation of that church through the visit of Barnabas and the fetching of Paul to teach the church. Antioch played a pivotal role for the next several hundred years, starting with becoming the second main base for the church, projecting and supporting the Pauline mission through the prophetic word in Ac 13:1 - 5. 

{The Antioch timeline is:

The key thing to note, is that B to D took about a year. That is, strictly speaking, strengthening a church so that it can support full participation in the global missionary mandate should not take a very long time. That speaks to us, and not so happily in too many cases.}

Eph 1 and 4 as highlighted, point to a fulness theme and vision that indicates that God has purposed in Christ to restore all things under one Head. 
Accordingly, Jesus came, descending and ascending to fill all things, and operationally this works through the sending of Apostles/church planting/renewing missionaries, prophets, evangelists, and pastors-teachers [I think this is a spectrum gift, you cannot be one without some aspects of the other, but but may find oneself at some point along a spectrum]. The church is equipped and mobilised for action as the body of Christ the fulness of him who fills, and as two key characteristics we see unity in love and truth, and an ability to stand in the face of the cumming craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming [Ac 17 and 27 are key cases in point]. 
Thus, members fill their lives, families, work or studies, art, music, entertainment, sports and recreation, community, professions, institution, businesses, politics, media etc -- everything -- increasingly with the grace, blessing, word and glorious power of Christ in love and truth, power and purity.  Thus there is a transforming impact that moves across the four R's of repentance, renewal, revival proper and reformation that impacts the wider culture. Though, there is also usually resistance that must be graciously confronted.
{The text reads:
Eph1: 15 . . .  because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you when I remember you in my prayers.
17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you spiritual wisdom and revelation in your growing knowledge of him, 18 – since the eyes of your heart have been enlightened – so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the incomparable greatness of his power toward us who believe, as displayed in the exercise of his immense strength.
20 This power he exercised in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms 21 far above every rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

22 And God put all things under Christ’s feet, and he gave him to the church as head over all things.

23 Now the church is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all . . . .
4:4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you too were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

 7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he captured captives; he gave gifts to men.” 
9 Now what is the meaning of “he ascended,” except that he also descended to the lower regions, namely, the earth?
10 He, the very one who descended, is also the one who ascended above all the heavens, in order to fill all things. 
11 It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God – a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature.
14 So we are no longer to be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes.
15 But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head. 16 From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body grows in love. [NET]
Immediately, the apostle applies the fulness theme to the transformation of not only the individual, but by direct implication of a growing number of the transformed, the reformation of the community and culture:
 Eph 4:17 So I say this, and insist in the Lord, that you no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.
18 They are darkened in their understanding, being alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardness of their hearts. 19 Because they are callous, they have given themselves over to indecency for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.
20 But you did not learn about Christ like this, 21 if indeed you heard about him and were taught in him, just as the truth is in Jesus. 22 You were taught with reference to your former way of life to lay aside the old man who is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires, 23 to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and to put on the new man who has been created in God’s image – in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth. 
 25 Therefore, having laid aside falsehood, each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on the cause of your anger. 27 Do not give the devil an opportunity. 28 The one who steals must steal no longer; rather he must labor, doing good with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with the one who has need. 29 You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
31 You must put away every kind of bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling, and evil, slanderous talk. 32 Instead, be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.
5: 1 Therefore, be imitators of God as dearly loved children 2 and live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. 3 But among you there must not be either sexual immorality, impurity of any kind, or greed, as these are not fitting for the saints. 4 Neither should there be vulgar speech, foolish talk, or coarse jesting – all of which are out of character – but rather thanksgiving. 5 For you can be confident of this one thing: that no person who is immoral, impure, or greedy (such a person is an idolater) has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 
 6 Let nobody deceive you with empty words, for because of these things God’s wrath comes on the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them, 8 for you were at one time darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light – 9 for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth – 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For the things they do in secret are shameful even to mention. 13 But all things being exposed by the light are made evident.
14 For everything made evident is light, and for this reason it says:
       “Awake, O sleeper!
       Rise from the dead,
       and Christ will shine on you!” 
 15 Therefore be very careful how you live – not as unwise but as wise, 16 taking advantage of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 For this reason do not be foolish, but be wise by understanding what the Lord’s will is.
18 And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for each other in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. [NET]}
 We need to confront ourselves on where we are today, and where we need to be headed.

Discipleship must not be seen in isolation from community or world.
{That means we have to reckon with the two tidal waves issues, and with our own challenge to be a wave under the commission;

I am convinced that we have to resist the onrushing waves and form centres of refuge, renewal and resurgence, similar to the college of Adullam's cave. 
To equip and mobilise a David generation . . .>>

Just thought I would like to share these clips.

For some resource materials:
Let us reflect on our potential and opportunities, asking ourselves how we may build the required capacity. END

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Rom 1 reply, 33: On responding to the homosexualism challenge as a ministering church

One of the friends of this blog has shared an article on students struggling with same sex attractions in college, and onwards, someone else shared the following video:

This offers some ideas on confronting the radical homosexualist agenda, while seeking to reach out to people caught up in a terrible life-challenge that they are being taught defines their individuality and grants them "rights" to act out their impulses.

Forgive me if I am unable to find just the right balance to express my thoughts and points in a way that is not offensive to you, but I must try to balance the truth with concern that reflects the love of God for a sinful world that led him to send his Son as our suffering servant messiah and Saviour.

I beseech you, be willing to consider that the messages being trumpeted in the media and in the name of science etc, could be wrong.  

On the authority of him who died for our sins according to the prophecies of the scriptures, was buried and rose in demonstration of his status as Son of God with power, risen with healing in his wings, and with 500+ unstoppable witnesses to the fact, sent out with the gospel, the truth is that various kinds of sexual brokenness -- and these days, I must start with porn that is now so easily accessible on the Internet and is so horrific in its impacts far and wide --are simply inconsistent with the transforming grace of that risen Christ.

I cannot -- dare not -- compromise that.

I beseech us all, let us turn to him who is our risen, living Hope!

Worth pondering. END

PS: This online work may be helpful in understanding and responding to the challenge. Likewise, I strongly believe the twelve step, lifelong recovery model is applicable to this case. (It's not just take these two verses, say a couple of prayers and tough it out, see you next Sunday at church.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Capacity focus, 72: Could insect-gut bacteria enzymes be a key to a biofuels breakthrough?

When I composed a draft for the energy policy for Montserrat some years back, one of my major foci for monitoring and initial development of capacity was biofuels

Fuels, derived from plant or other bio-mass. 

Where liquid fuels are by and far away the most cost effective, low mass density, low volume per unit available energy, large scale store for concentrated energy for vehicles of all kinds.  (Batteries are very heavy. Indeed, there is a move to create a liquid fuelled battery for portable appliances such as computers or cameras etc. This is done by creating a fuel cell, an electric battery that works by exploiting the chemistry of a liquid (or, perhaps gaseous) fuel.)

I especially noted on alcohols, biodiesel fuels made through esterification, and butanol

This last is a higher order alcohol than the familiar ethanol, is used in paint thinners etc., and is capable of being used as a direct replacement for gasoline in the familiar, conventional four stroke Otto Cycle engine. 

I had also looked at the possibilities for algae based fuels.

I believed and still believe that liquid fuels are the likeliest technology to succeed the fossil fuels, at least in part (though  Hydrogen may well be the ultimate "fuel," especially on a transition to high efficiency fuel cell electric drive technologies). 

So, I stressed that we should look at some initial exploration and deployments in partnership with other players and support agencies, to develop initial technical capacity.

All of this was several years back.

Then, the other day, I ran across a development that is noteworthy, the use of insect gut bacteria enzymes, to break down lignin (one of the constituents of woods), which would release a lot of the chemical potential in woody materials. (This is similar to Holtzapple's mixed alcohol fuel process -- now branded MixAlco -- that looked to digest woody waste to make fuels. As I recall, there was some talk as well of bacteria from catfish guts in such a fermentation process.)

The insect gut bacteria enzyme possibility is well worth headlining, through SciDev.Net: 
About 50 million tonnes of lignin are produced every year worldwide, mostly as waste after the sugar, or cellulose, in a plant has been converted into ethanol. 

Finding a way to process this tough molecule could boost biofuel production and cut the greenhouse gases that are emitted when it is burned as waste.

Insects harbour natural catalysts that could be exploited to convert plant material into biofuels more efficiently, report scientists in a paper in PLoS Genetics this month (10 January). Herbivorous insects often rely on microbes in their guts using these molecules to digest plant materials such as cellulose and lignin.
By comparing the genomes of gut microbes from grasshoppers, termites and cutworm caterpillars, the scientists found that the diversity of gut microbes present and their ability to break down plant materials are linked to what the insects eat. These findings could be used to guide future searches for enzymes for use in the biofuel industry, they say . . . . 

In addition, the researchers found that grasshoppers might be a good target for biocatalyst discovery because their guts harbour enzymes that can break down cellulose. 

The new enzymes could be used to reverse design biorefineries for more efficient biomass degradation, according to Yuan.

Yuan's laboratory has received a US$2.4 million grant from the US Department of Energy to try to use enzymes found in termite guts and microbes to design a way of turning lignin into biofuel. 

"You can make anything but money out of lignin," Yuan says. Yet, so far there have been no good commercial uses for lignin waste, he says.[Research paper, here.]

That last sardonic comment is an apt summary of the story of lignin to date.

But, if a breakthrough can be had on lignin and/or on cellulose, the potential may be highly significant (not least, by transforming geopolitics through breaking the dominance of oil on the global economy). 

Accordingly, we should further note from the article, how:
Li Shi-Zhong, executive director of the MOST-USDA Joint Research Center for Biofuels from Tsinghua University, China, says: "Biofuels are the only practical and competitive large-scale substitute to petroleum."

Let us see, and let us hope, let us work -- and let us pray. END

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Matt 24 watch, 191: Rabbi Jonathan Cahn at the US Presidential Inauguration breakfast, 2013

Let us listen to this Rabbi (HT: reader M), author of the book on judgement of America, on The Harbinger

Notice his introduction, where he says plainly that he:
". . . will not be politically correct, but neither will it be political, instead it will be Biblical, it will be true ... I will not hold back.... and if I offend you, I apologize that I will not apologize for offending you."
Video (updated link, sorry -- lost second time, updated from Vimeo this time):

A Message to America Jonathan Cahn Addresses The Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast from Enoch7th on Vimeo.

[NB: An earlier link was reclassified "private" across Sunday. There is some hint that the presidential seal is being objected to.  THIS COPY HAS REMOVED THE SEAL. After that, the second link lasted to Thursday and was "removed by the user," and we are on no 3 now. The seal at the end is NOT the US Presidential seal.]

Notice his key remark: without repentance, there is no revival. So, let us remind ourselves of the four R's of revival and reformation:

A clear and strong warning. END

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Matt 24 watch, 190: A former Iranian diplomat, Mohammad Reza Heydari, warns that Iran may be within a year of nuclear weapons, and that it has the intention to use such devices if they are acquired; also, points to a Venezuelan role in providing smuggled materials for the bombs in development

Picking up from remarks by former Iran Foreign Ministry officer Ahmad Hashemi yesterday, today we see former Iranian diplomat, Mohammad Reza Heydari -- who also defected to Norway in the context of the 2009 protests and their bloody suppression --warns Israel through a Channel 2 interview. In the interview he also gives a one-year estimate of the time left to acquire the weapons (which may be overly optimistic, Israeli PM Netanyahu highlighted Spring this year as the red line in his UN appearance last September . . . if other parts are in place a bomb can be constructed in a matter of weeks thereafter):
In an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 TV, Mohammad Reza Heydari, the former Iranian consul in Oslo who resigned and obtained political asylum there three years ago, said that "If Iran is given more time, it will acquire the knowledge necessary to build a nuclear bomb within a year.” Asked whether it would use the bomb against Israel, he said: “If Iran gets to the point where it has an atomic bomb, it will certainly use it, against Israel or any other [enemy] country.”

Heydari — who defected soon after he was asked to identify his son in photos taken during the protests that followed the 2009 vote in which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reelected — said the regime in Tehran was aiming to develop two or three bombs. It saw nuclear weapons as “insurance” to guarantee its survival.

Regime leaders “believe that when they acquire a nuclear bomb, [others] will start to behave toward them as they do toward North Korea,” said Heydari. “As a matter of fact, the leading way of thinking in Iran is [devoted to] protecting their own security, and nobody else’s,” he added.

“They are busying themselves with ideological preparations for the arrival of the hidden Imam and are preparing the ground for that in a practical way; for this purpose, they are willing to spill much blood and destroy many countries.” ["Ex-Iranian diplomat warns Israel: If Iran gets the bomb, it will fire on you," Times of Israel, Jan 25th 2013.]
Heydari also remarked on Iran's alliance with Venezuela in that context:
Heydari, ["who was previously stationed at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport as the representative of the Iranian Foreign Ministry" and] who went on to serve as an Iranian diplomat in Georgia, Germany and finally Norway [where he defected], said he knew of civilian airplanes from South America arriving with no passengers but with weaponry and material for the nuclear program. He spoke in the interview of uranium purchased for and transported to Iran by Venezuela.

“Venezuela might buy uranium from another country, and after that, send it to Iran by civil flight,” Heydari said. He suggested that the uranium was bought from “the mafia.”
Heydari has spoken out despite concerns expressed by his family members who are still in Iran, and that is itself a warning to us.

We are being warned, are we listening? END

Friday, January 25, 2013

Matt 24 watch, 189: Failing the George Orwell test (i.e. living and making policy in denial of reality) -- thoughts on the ongoing folly of playing sexual politics with armed forces (and with linked geostrategic questions)

Learning from history and the bitterly bought wisdom that has been distilled from it is a key step to our survival and thriving. But, it is one of the hardest things for us to do.

A Center for Military Readiness January 2013 report points to the underlying problem (one that runs far and wide through our civilisation at this hour), through a 1946 cite from George Orwell:
 " . . . we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield." [In Front of Your Nose, London Tribune (22 March 1946)]
Orwell, author of 1984 and Animal Farm, which both pivot on how delusion can so often substitute for reality until it is too late to prevent ruin, wrote these words just after the disastrous second world war.

The road to that war -- one that Churchill, reflecting, said, would have been ever so easy to avert if sound but unpopular resolute action had been taken in good time --  was paved with the folly of appeasement and denial of the obvious declared intent of Nazi Germany during the 1930's. That state of denial dominated the cultured elites and the political culture in the major powers, isolating Churchill as a lone, lonely voice of protest deemed an outdated relic from a dead past.

And, then, when ruin stood at the door, that same statesman had to stand in the gap even as France fell like a tree rotted from the roots and as Britain came within an ace of falling also,  to try to hold on until the folly of Hitler brought Russia and America into the war.

This line of thinking has come back to my mind over the past few days, as I saw how the outgoing US Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta, has announced -- as a parting shot -- that the regulation in force that blocked women in the US armed forces from official, front-line combat positions would be wiped out with the stroke of a pen.

This is yet another step in the game of playing social engineering and sexual politics with Western militaries, at the potential expense of those who may pay the price in combat and those who may pay the price of lost battles to come. 

Which is the point of Orwell's warning.

This game of playing politics with military readiness (and with the wider society's stability and viability)  has already given us the big push to try to declare that marriage is a mix and match game according to one's sexual habits and preferences; which is a direct threat to the viability of our civilisation.  

Now, the game is heading for the battlefield, the final place of test that Orwell warns us about.

Already, we have seen a successful push to put open homosexuality in the military, which is bound to undermine military efficiency. Now, we see the further step of pretending that women are equal to men in conflict on the battlefield, as though men are not something like at least twice as strong in the upper body than women in an era where infantry routinely are being asked to walk into battle in mountainous zones and fight with over 100 lb of gear as armour returns to the battlefield.

All of this this is against the backdrop of the increasingly evident inattention to and mismanagement of the strategic significance of the rise of militant IslamISM across the Middle East through the naive support for the so-called Arab Spring that has already begun to sour into a radical IslamIST winter.

Commentator and military historian, Victor Davis Hanson has aptly observed, with subtle satire:
One way or another, we have now apparently made a number of assumptions: that in the next war we will see overtly gay men and women fully integrated in small ground units amid firefights and carnage at the front; that this will not affect negatively, but more likely improve, U.S. combat efficacy;and that those intolerant reactionaries who object and feel less safe or simply less comfortable will shun the military — and that the military will not suffer as a consequence of their absence, but more likely improve. If all true, then we are onto the brave new world!
FrontPage commentator Arnold Ahlert is more blunt:
It didn’t take long for the Obama administration to advance a pernicious piece of its promised radical agenda. Two days after the president laid out his far-left vision during the inauguration, senior defense officials announced that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will lift the military’s ban on women serving in combat. The move overturns a 1994 provision that prohibited them from being assigned to ground combat units. Panetta has given the various service branches until 2016 to come up with exemptions, and/or make any arguments about what roles should still remain closed to women. Thus, another bit of gender radicalism has been shoved down the nation’s throat through executive fiat . . . . 

According to a 2009 article in National Defense Magazine, a soldier on a three-day mission in Afghanistan carries approximately 130 pounds of gear, and efforts to lighten that load have not succeeded. This is primarily due to the reality that the essentials of food, water, and ammunition cannot be replaced with lighter items. Other equipment, such as sensors, tripods, cold weather clothing, boots, sleeping bags, flashlights, and protective eyewear, have all been made lighter. But the fact remains that the average soldier is expected to carry enormous amounts of weight, simply to better ensure his chances for survival. Furthermore, a soldier must carry that weight even during periods of intense fighting. The overwhelming majority of women are not capable of meeting such standards. What is the Pentagon likely to do? In New York City, when most female applicants to the Fire Department were unable to meet the strength requirements, feminists filed a successful lawsuit, altering the standards so that a number of otherwise unqualified women could pass the test. Thus it is likely the Pentagon will pursue a similar strategy of “gender-norming” for the entire service that is already part of the Army Physical Fitness Test . . . . 

Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, illuminates the folly of pursuing such double standards. “Revised ‘warrior training’ programs sound impressive, but gender-normed standards emasculate the concept by assuring ‘success’ for average female trainees,” she wrote in 2005, when the Army began a surreptitious program of putting women in smaller, direct ground-combat units. Donnelly then added the critically proper perspective to the mix. “Soldiers know that there is no gender-norming on the battlefield,” she explains.

There is also nothing that will eliminate the natural differences between men and women that play out in a number of other ways. Few things are more important for enduring the rigors of combat than morale and combat unit cohesion. It is ludicrous to believe that mixed units will be immune to the potentially de-stabilizing effects of sexual attraction . . . ["Obama Ignores Deadly Risks to Women in Combat," FrontPage, Jan 24, 2013.]
In a follow up article today, Ahlert cites how Donnelly adds:
“Secretary Panetta is making this move on his way out the door, cutting Congress, and the American people out of the decision-making process…Congress…should schedule long-overdue hearings that examine the full consequences of imposing gender-based ‘diversity metrics’ on infantry battalions . . . ”
Clever rhetoric can make it out that the tail of a sheep is a fifth leg, but such rhetoric simply cannot transform the tail to do the job of a leg.

Worse, we also face unit cohesion issues, in a context where it is known that such issues can be among the most deadly causes of defeat in an army:
Few things are more important for enduring the rigors of combat than morale and combat unit cohesion. It is ludicrous to believe that mixed units will be immune to the potentially de-stabilizing effects of sexual attraction . . . . It stretches the bounds of credulity to believe that sexual tension, regardless of the legitimate or illegitimate motivation behind it, would be lessened under front line, life-threatening combat conditions. Nor is it inconceivable to think that close personal relationships of a sexual nature would make some soldiers take the kind of unnecessary risks to save a lover that might not only endanger themselves, but their entire unit.
So, we see a playing with fire at tactical level that matches the playing with fire at geo-strategic levels that has been going on for years now.

What am I talking about?

Simple: in our day, we see the IslamISTS making open preparations across the Middle East and Africa for global subjugation under Allah, Allah's prophet, laws and warriors. 

Jihad, in one word. 

Yes, Jihad.

It is folly to refuse to take off the filters of post colonialist anti-Western narrative and forget the significance of the Jihadi agenda of global conquest. But, by and large, we are in such deep denial that we cannot even accept that the predominant meaning of Jihad, in the Quran and other founding documents of Islam, and across 1400 years of history, is war to advance the cause of Islam, leading to the ultimate subjugation of the world under the Mahdi, the pivotal Islamic end of days figure

In recent days, we have seen the countries of North Africa fall to them. 

Through the blunders of a feckless American President, in 1979 [in a situation that was remarkably similar to what recently played out in Egypt and led to the deposing of a somewhat Westernised regime and the rise of an IslamIST regime in its place . . . . ], Iran fell to a somewhat different flavour of radical IslamISTS, and is now on the very threshold of nuclear weapons.

But, because of our denial, too often we cannot recognise the sort of plans implied in the following map of intent across the century we have already entered for a decade now, for what it is:

Indeed, a captured 1982 global plan of the Muslim Brotherhood to carry out just such a global 100 year conquest, is largely unknown to us. The same holds for the HLF trial discovery document on Settlement Jihad.

Instead of going on and on, I point to this previous KF comment, and to the following video on what we need to know:

My immediate concern is that we are evidently in denial and are busily making decisions with armed forces and wider society alike that will not stand sound scrutiny. 

It is time to think seriously about where our civilisation is headed, before it its too late.

In case you do not understand what I mean by "too late," let me clip from a Times of Israel article by an Iranian dissident who formerly worked in Iran's Foreign Ministry, Ahmad Hashemi, now living in exile in Turkey:
Ahmad Hashemi (centre) with Ahmadinejad
and an official visitor
During my four and a half years as an employee of the Iranian foreign ministry, I learned beyond doubt, that my country’s participation in talks is purely a stalling tactic. Having fled to Turkey to seek political asylum, I know that I’m far from the first Iranian to try and warn the world of Tehran’s determination to obtain weapons of mass destruction.
It was almost a decade ago that the People’s Mujahedin, Iran’s leftist opposition in exile, first revealed the clandestine nuclear activities carried out by the regime, providing the exact addresses of some of the facilities, and letting the world know about the Islamic theocracy’s true ambitions for acquiring nuclear bombs. Since then, Iran has attended dozens of negotiating rounds merely to convince na├»ve politicians and dewy-eyed peaceniks that it is telling the truth. Within this context, Tehran maintains that it is trying to use diplomatic means to prove that Iran is merely working to harness nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in order to meet increasing domestic energy demand as it runs out of fuel. Iran likewise exploits the matter at home, whipping up populist nationalism with leftist-style demagoguery that depicts its nuclear program as a cardinal matter of national pride . . . . 

While at the Iranian foreign ministry, I served as interpreter for visiting dignitaries, diplomats and officials. I paid close attention to public proclamations and official statements. And I was present at inner-circle conversations in which a number of high-profile Iranian officials made no secret of their intention to go atomic. [He then goes on to give examples, cf. here. "Don’t be fooled: Iran wants the bomb," Times of Israel, Jan 17, 2013.]
You had better believe that Iran intends to develop and if required use such bombs for intimidation or for terrorist bombings or as outright military weapons to back a global revolution by the Mahdi, whom they believe will be the re-emerging 12th Imam of Shia Islam, after over 1,000 years of seclusion. 

We may think that such beliefs are little better than fairy tales, but that is the mentality we are dealing with and must take seriously.

If you doubt me, think on what happened to those who failed to take seriously the dangers posed by the sort of Aryan Man myth ideology that swept Germany in the 1930's, and paid a terrible price in the 1940's..

Will we act before it is too late, or will we have to learn the hard way, on the battlefield, yet again?  END

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Rom 1 reply, 32 f/n: Answering the "but we only know about HUMAN intelligence" objection . . .

As a follow up issue, this hardy perennial talking point popped up.

My response:


>> We have been studying things that are intelligently caused, things that are caused through mechanical necessity and things that are caused through chance, for thousands of years. We have identified certain characteristic signs, and thus can distinguish the three:
1] mechanical necessity, under similar starting conditions, leads to regular outcomes, e.g. a dropped heavy object near earth tends to fall at 9.8 N/kg. Low contingency.
2] chance tends to give rise to stochastic processes that often may be characterised on a statistical distribution and underlying model, e.g. if the above object is a fair die, it will tend to tumble and settle so that its uppermost face is in accord with a flat random distribution.
3] intelligence tends to express purposefulness, and so it tends to give functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information, such as the text in this post or the one just above it.
Now, just above, G tried to confine our reasoning on intelligence to humans in action.

That is a mistake.

First, for say a computer or a computer program, it is by no means enough that one is human to be able to design, the correlates are skill, intelligence and purpose, as well as opportunity. Motive, means and opportunity in short as any detective or courtroom drama novel fan can tell you.

Beaver Dams, note the arch and the straight gravity
dams, depending on the stream flow to be addressed
Second, let us consider beavers, which adapt their dam designs to all sorts of circumstances in ways that show intelligence. Derivative and genetically passed along so it is instinctual not learned, doubtless, but intelligence all the same.

For that matter our own intelligence is similarly derived though it is more flexible, i.e. we can learn and carry out new things that go well beyond mere instinct.

The underlying point is, we have no good reason to confine designing intelligence to human intelligence. Being human is neither necessary nor sufficient to be intelligent and designing, whether in limited and built in or more flexible ways.

The implied objection fails.

And, in failing, it points to how we can look at objects that do not come from human manufacture, and if we see similar sins in them, we would easily and uncontroversially identify such as intelligently produced. Our space battle ships on Mars and the Asteroid belt would be good thought exercises for this. There is no way that, were such discovered, there would be an objection that we cannot project the term intelligent beyond the human circle, nor that we cannot understand or recognise artifacts of another intelligence.

That then points to the biggest object we know, the cosmos we observe.

As we know from Sir Fred Hoyle and others since the 1950′s, its physics is sitting at a finely tuned, complex operating point that makes it habitable for the sort of life we have. Relatively small shifts in parameters, or balances of quantities etc, would render the result radically inhospitable to such life, starting with the resonance responsible for the abundance of C and O. 

That sort of apparently co-ordinated pattern strongly seems to point to purpose and renders it seriously arguable that the cosmos we live in is designed, and set up to be a habitat for the sort of life we enjoy.

That is why Sir Fred Hoyle spoke of monkeying with physics and put-up jobs.

He had no difficulties whatsoever pointing to intelligent action beyond the human sphere, and I see no reason why we should.

The humans-only objection is specious . . . >>

 I think that gives a flavour of the sort of issues that come up, live. END

Rom 1 reply, 32: Is Intelligent Design reasoning little more than a smokescreen or a disguise -- as in Barbara Forrest's "Creationism in a cheap tuxedo" -- for pushing fundamentalist, theocratic religion into and seizing control of science?

One of the commonly used tactics in dealing with intelligent design arguments in a scientific or educational context, is to assert that it is "Creationism in a cheap tuxedo," in the words of professor Barbara Forrest (who also happens to be a member of the new Orleans Humanists, i.e. atheists).

Motive-mongering, in short, can go both ways.

But we are not locked up to ultimately useless polarisation games.

Overnight at UD, an objector to ID raised the issue of the underlying scientific credibility of design theory, so I addressed him. I think it helpful to clip that here, as it will help us put origins science in a more balanced context:


>>Time to return this thread to its proper focus, a simple test case on reliable empirical detection or recognition of design (with possibilities of identifying a metric model and from that devising a quantitative test).

It seems to me, first of all, that the Big vs Little ID distinction being advanced above [the way the accusation that ID is an illegitimate movement is being made by one particular objector] is useful only for rhetorical and distractive reasons. The best way to answer it is to go back to basics, in light of the underlying history of ideas and issues of empirically grounded scientific warrant.

So, secondly, we need to focus on the fundamental challenge of empirical warrant.

Where, since C18, science has increasingly sought to reconstruct the past based on signs in the present; using approaches that boil down to inference to best explanation on processes shown, observed — or, assumed — to be causally adequate to produce and characteristic of such signs in the present.

This, for instance, is more or less how Lyell argued for uniformitarian Geology. In that context, Darwin extended the approach to biology. About a hundred years ago, that also was extended to astrophysics, with as a precursor the suggestions on how a solar system could be created by condensing disks vs pulling out a filament from a star by a brush with another nearby star.

That is how the old world, old life picture that so dominates our contemporary view was built up.
In parallel with this, we have had the increasing rise of the view that natural — blind/purposeless processes of mechanical necessity and chance from plausible initial circumstances should be the primary or sole means of explanation used in science. Indeed we find today statements to the effect that this is the definition of scientific methods and even of science.

This is a step too far, as it is a gateway for injection of a priori materialist ideology that subverts science from being an open minded open ended empirical evidence led pursuit of the credibly warranted truth about our world, including in the remote and unobserved past. That last point is also an important epistemological limitation: we did not observe nor do we have generally accepted records from the remote past, all is reconstruction on a model timeline cumulatively built up and accepted by consensus rather than any truly direct comparison with the actual facts that happened.

In short, we see here how origins science can easily be subverted in support of materialist ideology, which ideology has been an increasing factor over the past two centuries as well.

At the same time, we also know that design exists in the world, and that it tends to leave characteristic, observable traces. That needs not be the case, but it is often the case. So, it is relevant to ask questions along lines pointed out by Plato in his The Laws, Bk X, on signs of causation by nature [blind chance + necessity] vs by ART. Where the ART-ificial may leave signs that reliably point to its action.

HMS Dreadnought; contrast this to a pile of rocks!
That is where WJM’s battleship vs a pile of rocks, presumably full of iron ore, comes from.

There is an obvious, even blatant difference.

What is it?

Apart from the processing that has transformed the ore into specific Iron based alloys — note, meteoritic iron alloys “fallen from the sky” exist, but controlled composition and co-ordinated processing that yield specific useful properties is a matter of high art — the battleship shows massive contrivance. For, it is functionally organised in highly specific and complex ways, towards a purpose or goal that may be evident from its structure and function. Just like Paley’s watch on the heath vs a stone.

By extension, too, if we were to come across an avalanche on mars, and at its foot, what is evidently a spacecraft, with heavy armour plating, weapons turrets and magazines, with co-ordinating control centres, propulsion systems etc, we would immediately infer that we were looking at a space-faring version of the same basic concept, a battleship.

But, again, what would make these different from, say, a pile of meteoritic iron blobs?

Functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information, pointing to contrivance.
But, but, but, that leaves out an absolutely important issue, namely that living systems reproduce, and can mutate giving rise to evolution!

Thus surfaces one of the longest standing strawman talking points in this whole field of investigation and discussion.

What do you mean by that?

I am of course pointing out how there is a lot of discussion on how Paley blundered by failing to address a key disanalogy between machinery and living forms. This is wrong, grossly and culpably wrong. In fact, by Ch II of his 1806 work (and notice, this is a generation AFTER Hume so it would have been reasonable to have expected Paley to answer the disanalogy argument, and any fair review of Paley should therefore address this . . . ], we may simply read how he extended his watch example through an in-principle thought exercise:
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.
Paley of course was at least a generation too early to have advantage of Babbage’s work and over a century too early to have had that of von Neumann’s work on kinematic self replicating automata. But he nailed the heart of the matter: self replication is a further instance of contrivance, not a disanalogy to it. We may then multiply this insight by using one of the results from von Neumann et al, namely, that the stored information controlling the universal constructor is a pivotal issue that has to be explained, in the context of the implied irreducibly complex system.

This of course brings the origin of life conundrum for a priori materialist blind chance and mechanical necessity driven paradigms to centre stage. And no, this cannot be artificially severed from the onward development of life forms that requires explanation of further increments of such information. We here deal with the root of Darwin’s famous tree of life. (In context, it is highly instructive to me that the only illustration in Darwin’s Origin, the Tree of Life, would have no tracing back to the obviously required root. No root, no shoot and no branches, period.)

In short the disanalogy argument fails and has failed ever since 1806, but has been propped up through a strawman tactic that counted on the inaccessibility of Paley’s actual onward argument in Ch II as outlined.

That brings us to the issue firmly put on the table by Wicken and Orgel in the 1970′s as results and challenges for OOL research, not soundly answered from an a priori materialist perspective to this day, a full generation later:
ORGEL, 1973: . . . In brief, living organisms are distinguished by their specified complexity. Crystals are usually taken as the prototypes of simple well-specified structures, because they consist of a very large number of identical molecules packed together in a uniform way. Lumps of granite or random mixtures of polymers are examples of structures that are complex but not specified. The crystals fail to qualify as living because they lack complexity; the mixtures of polymers fail to qualify because they lack specificity. [[The Origins of Life (John Wiley, 1973), p. 189.]
WICKEN, 1979: ‘Organized’ systems are to be carefully distinguished from ‘ordered’ systems. Neither kind of system is ‘random,’ but whereas ordered systems are generated according to simple algorithms [[i.e. “simple” force laws acting on objects starting from arbitrary and common- place initial conditions] and therefore lack complexity, organized systems must be assembled element by element according to an [[originally . . . ] external ‘wiring diagram’ with a high information content . . . Organization, then, is functional complexity and carries information. It is non-random by design or by selection, rather than by the a priori necessity of crystallographic ‘order.’ [[“The Generation of Complexity in Evolution: A Thermodynamic and Information-Theoretical Discussion,” Journal of Theoretical Biology, 77 (April 1979): p. 353, of pp. 349-65. (Emphases and notes added. Nb: “originally” is added to highlight that for self-replicating systems, the blue print can be built-in.)]
Thus, pace the objections above and elsewhere, we see the central importance of functionally specific, complex organisation and/or associated information [FSCO/I] in understanding distinguishing characteristics of life forms. (We also see where the term comes from — citation of Wicken in TMLO — and also a historic root of the more general term often used by Dembski et al, Specified complexity and/or complex specified information. Note WmAD has emphasised that in biological systems, the specification is cashed out in terms of function, in various ways. So, FSCO/I, and onwards particularly digitally coded functionally specific complex information, dFSCI, are where the crux of the matter lies.)

Disanalogy arguments, from Paley to von Neumann, cannot properly be used to sweep FSCO/I off the table.

And, the OOL context, where there was no pre-existing code based, information controlled replication system, is shown to be pivotal.

Indeed, that is the exact context where these issues emerged, once the molecular biology results had come in from the early 1950′s to 70′s.

And, the explanation of the root of the tree of life will then be pivotal to explaining the onward branching and diversification across body plans.

So, the issue we are looking at is absolutely pivotal and potentially revolutionary.

This is no mere backwater side issue that can be brushed aside as irrelevant and useless.

Now, let us extend our space battleship thought exercise.

It is 2080, and we are in initial stages of exploring the Asteroid belt, now with a global space consortium under UN auspices, say.

A nickel-iron asteroid with a cluster of close by heavy metal and rare metal asteroids is discovered. In exploring it, we see a similar battleship, and suddenly we begin to understand the robotic instrumentation in certain parts of the previous ship, for here we find a wrecked ship that was in the process of replicating itself and evidently was using a von Neumann self replication mechanism. Right next to the wreck, which has an obviously targetted hole through it, we find a partially completed vessel of obviously similar design, and ewe find idled robots that had been at work. Tracing back, we find advanced programming systems and information storage units that guided the robots in accordance with a blueprint. there are even foundry facilities that seem to make exotic alloys and materials using nanotechnologies.

Now, you tell me that under these circumstances, the scientists involved in the exhibition will draw the conclusion that the space ships were now proved NOT to have been designed, as the existence of a self replicating mechanism proves that they must somehow have spontaneously evolved from meteoric materials as a strange life form, and that the origin of the complex functional form can be explained on survival of the fittest.

Do you see how hollow disanalogy arguments sound to people with an engineering or applied science background, once we see the issue of FSCO/I coming to bear?

That is why Denton’s point in his Evolution, a theory in crisis, from 1985 is still so relevant:
To grasp the reality of life as it has been revealed by molecular biology, we must magnify a cell a thousand million times until it is twenty kilometers in diameter [[so each atom in it would be “the size of a tennis ball”] and resembles a giant airship large enough to cover a great city like London or New York. What we would then see would be an object of unparalleled complexity and adaptive design. On the surface of the cell we would see millions of openings, like the port holes of a vast space ship, opening and closing to allow a continual stream of materials to flow in and out. If we were to enter one of these openings we would find ourselves in a world of supreme technology and bewildering complexity. We would see endless highly organized corridors and conduits branching in every direction away from the perimeter of the cell, some leading to the central memory bank in the nucleus and others to assembly plants and processing units. The nucleus itself would be a vast spherical chamber more than a kilometer in diameter, resembling a geodesic dome inside of which we would see, all neatly stacked together in ordered arrays, the miles of coiled chains of the DNA molecules. A huge range of products and raw materials would shuttle along all the manifold conduits in a highly ordered fashion to and from all the various assembly plants in the outer regions of the cell.
We would wonder at the level of control implicit in the movement of so many objects down so many seemingly endless conduits, all in perfect unison. We would see all around us, in every direction we looked, all sorts of robot-like machines . . . . We would see that nearly every feature of our own advanced machines had its analogue in the cell: artificial languages and their decoding systems, memory banks for information storage and retrieval, elegant control systems regulating the automated assembly of components, error fail-safe and proof-reading devices used for quality control, assembly processes involving the principle of prefabrication and modular construction . . . . However, it would be a factory which would have one capacity not equaled in any of our own most advanced machines, for it would be capable of replicating its entire structure within a matter of a few hours . . . .
Unlike our own pseudo-automated assembly plants, where external controls are being continually applied, the cell’s manufacturing capability is entirely self-regulated . . . .
[[Denton, Michael, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Adler, 1986, pp. 327 – 331.]
The bottomline is that, on billions of test cases, without good counterinstance, we know the characteristic cause of FSCO/I. Design. Unless and until it has been shown that blind chance and mechanical necessity can effectively give rise to such systems, we have every epistemic right to infer that FSCO/I is a reliable signs of design as cause.

And, the strategy of applying sampling theory to give us a threshold of complexity beyond which the explicit or implied info in an object could not credibly have come about by chance, is then a reasonable model and metric:

Chi_500 = I*S = 500, bits beyond the solar system threshold.

Where we can give some biological results in light of the Durston et al results, discussed in the just linked:
RecA: 242 AA, 832 fits, Chi: 332 bits beyond
SecY: 342 AA, 688 fits, Chi: 188 bits beyond
Corona S2: 445 AA, 1285 fits, Chi: 785 bits beyond
Finally, observe: at no point in my discussion has there been an inference to the supernatural, just to intelligence. That is, the “injecting the [irrational and chaotic] supernatural into science” talking point is a strawman, laced with ad hominems and often set alight with further incendiary remarks about right wing theocratic conspiracies aimed at imposing fascism. (But, BTW, fascism is actually a STATIST — thus leftist — ideology [one pivoting on the emergence of a nihilistic Nietzschean superman political messiah gifted and anointed to deliver the victim group in the face of allegedly unprecedented crisis . . . ], as can be seen from the thought roots of Mussolini and the very name of the analogue in Germany, the National Socialist German Workers Party.)

That strawman, too, needs to be laid to rest.

So, now, can we deal with the pivotal issue on the table, on its scientific merits?>>

Whatever ideological and philosophical debates one wants to engage, there is a serious scientific point being made by the Intelligent Design thinkers and scientists. END