Sunday, November 25, 2012

Everyday Manna from Heaven

One of my personally favorite foods is the banana.

A banana is inexpensive, nutritious (a good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Potassium and Manganese, and a very good source of Vitamin B6), tastes good and comes in its own attractive, easily removed wrapper, which is biodegradable and environmentally friendly. It requires no cooking or seasoning.

Atheists will argue that actually the original, wild banana was not that perfect. The wild banana is just a few inches long and consists of 80% edible pulp and 20% seeds while our bananas, thanks to thousands of years of selective breeding, consist of about 96% pulp and 4% seeds.

This echos the argument made nearly 2,000 years ago by the governor of Judaea Quintus Tineius Rufus to Rabbi Akiva ben Joseph, at that time the elderly rabbi emeritus of the Jews, approximately in the year 130 CE.This conversation may have taken place while Rabbi Akiva was in prison, condemned to death by Tineius Rufus for the "crime" of teaching Torah. Apparently Tineius Rufus was interested in matching wits with the condemned prisoner, perhaps assuming that the Jewish scholar would be somewhat docile under the circumstances.

Midrash Tanchuma (Tazria, 5) recounts:

"Once the evil [Roman governor] Turnus Rufus asked Rabbi Akiva, 'Whose deeds are greater - God's or man's?' He replied, 'Man's deeds are greater.' Turnus Rufus asked him, 'Is man then capable of creating heaven and earth, or anything like them?' Rabbi Akiva replied, 'I was not referring to the sphere beyond man's ability, over which he has no control. I refer to those creations of which man is capable.' He then asked, 'Why do you circumcise yourselves?' Rabbi Akiva replied, 'I knew that that was the point of your question, and therefore I answered in the first place that man's deeds are greater than God's.' Rabbi Akiva brought him grains of wheat and some bread, and said: 'These grains of wheat are God's handiwork, and the bread is the handiwork of man. Is the latter not greater than the former?' Turnus Rufus answered him, 'If God wanted you to perform circumcision, why did He not create the child already circumcised while still in the womb?' Rabbi Akiva answered, 'Why do you not ask the same question concerning the umbilical cord, which remains attached to him and which his mother must cut? In response to your question - the reason why he does not emerge already circumcised is because God gave Israel the commandments in order that they would be purified by performing them. Therefore David wrote, 'Every word of God is pure (or, purified).'"

In any case, we see that in many cases God has allowed man to put the finishing touches on a divine masterpiece, and the same is true of the banana.

Let's take a moment and thank God for this gift.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How to Spot Intelligent Design

 Crockfords Casino - they know design  when they see it

About a month ago an article appeared in the news about Phil Ivey an American professional poker player who is regarded by numerous poker observers and contemporaries as the best all-around player in the world today. 

During two nights of card playing in August, Mr Ivey won £7.3 million at  Crockfords Casino in London. 

The casino refuses to pay. 

The casino apparently believes that this could not have occurred through random chance and therefore some sort of cheating (in other words what might be called "intelligent design") must have been involved, even though every move was observed by an inspector as well as having been recorded on ten cameras and no sign of cheating has been found.

The reason for this is obvious: when a great number of improbable events, such as hundreds of winning hands of cards dealt to a certain player in a matter of hours, are all clearly accomplishing a certain purpose, such as making that player very wealthy, then we can assume that those events are not merely good luck but are being controlled by an intelligent designer, such as a cheating card player.

Therefore when we see the immense improbability of the universe possessing the qualities which would make life possible, of life forming from simple chemicals or of more advanced life evolving from simpler life, we clearly understand that an intelligent designer is involved. So many unlikely events would have to happen separately and all of them accomplishing the purpose of forming intelligent life. This is infinitely more improbable than Mr Ivey's winning streak, which the casino is assuming could not be the result of blind chance.

This cannot be dismissed by arguing "Well, if God did it, then who created God." anymore than Mr Ivey's attorney can argue "Well, if Mr Ivey cheated, then who created Mr Ivey?" The question doesn't make sense. Nor can one argue "Well, some sort of cards had to be dealt. It could have been these as well as any other." because we know that specifically those cards were dealt which served the purpose of enriching Mr Ivey and this implies intelligent design, not mere chance.

Monday, November 12, 2012

God is Not a Delusion

The Heroin Diaries by Nikki Sixx chronicles each day of Nikki’s life, from December 25, 1986 to December 23, 1987 based upon a diary which he kept at that time.

Nikki Sixx is an Italian American guitar player and song writer. He was born in 1958 (named originally Frank Feranna). In 1981 he was a founding member of the hard rock band Motley Crue. Having acquired new management in 1983, Motley Crue began achieving major success in 1984 and reached its peak in 1990. In 1987, the period covered by this book, they released the Girls, Girls, Girls album.

In his book, Nikki describes his consumption of huge quantities of alcohol, cocaine and heroin. He often suffered from cocaine induced paranoia, frequently locking himself in his closet (page 19). He seldom bathed (page 104). He was very rude, neglecting to visit his grandmother during her terminal illness or attend her funeral (page 145) and refusing to speak to his mother and sister (page 305). At one point he was arrested for throwing a bottle of whiskey on a crowded train (page 373). He performed innumerable sex acts with women who were total strangers. He was also an extreme atheist, and when a friend mentioned God, Nikki pulled down his pants, pointed his two middle fingers in the air in an obscene gesture and screamed “F--- you God! If you’re so real, strike me down.” (page 355)

In any case, he was so ill and self abusive, it appeared as if he would not survive very much longer (page 383).

Yet he is still alive today, and still performing. In fact, he has since married twice and fathered four children, with whom he seems to have a strong relationship.

On page 384, Nikki describes how he overdosed on heroin and had a near death experience. When he woke up in the hospital two days later, he wrote “maybe there is a God”. That was the turning point of his life. It was a very long hard road to recovery from there, however today he has been clean and sober for eight years. He now describes drug use as “retarded” . Well, better late than never.

The fact that belief in God can have such a powerful, life saving therapeutic effect, would seem to validate that God is in fact real, not a delusion. After all, do we ever find a situation where believing in something completely false could have such a beneficial effect and help people to function, rather than hinder them?

Monday, November 05, 2012

What Everyone Thinks Can Be Totally Wrong

The god of Imperial Rome - hot or not?
Of course we know logically that the appeal to the people is a logical fallacy. It is silly to argue that "If many believe so, it is so."

Nevertheless, it is perhaps instructive to see a remarkable example of this from ancient history.

If we were living in the year 150 CE, an apostate Jew would have boasted to a loyal Jew, that it's obvious that those who worship Jupiter are right while Jews who persist in worshipping their invisible God are wrong.

After all, Jupiter was the main deity of the Roman Empire.

The Roman empire was vaster than any seen in previous history and few seen since.

The Romans had brutally destroyed the Jewish community in Judea.

Rabbis were tortured to death by the victorious Romans.

Jerusalem was wiped out and replaced by a Jew free Roman city dedicated to Jupiter and a temple to Jupiter occupied the Temple Mount.

Jews were singled out to pay a special tax to the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus in Rome.

What could have been more blindingly obvious than the fact that Jupiter was real and he was succeeding while Judaism was finished? No doubt thousands of weak Jews indeed accepted that argument. (This is a sort of natural selection you might say. Throughout history, the worst Jews are constantly dropping out while the best gentiles convert and drop into the Jewish community.)

Well, where is Jupiter today? I don't believe he has had one worshipper in perhaps 1,500 years while probably a majority of mankind believes in Jewish based monotheism in some form.

And tens of thousands of people still pour over the words of those martyred rabbis.

This should remind us today how all the latest ideolgies, however popular, will surely sooner or later land in the dustbin of history while we will still be here.