Saturday, September 20, 2008

Xavier and the Evolution of Legendary Miracles

By Touchstone at 8/10/2008 47 comments

I regularly encounter pseudo-skepticism -- reflexive doubt in response to criticism of credulous belief -- on the question of how the legend of Jesus could have developed in the period between Jesus' death and the writing of the synoptic gospels. Many Christians just don't see how or why such fantastic inventions arose from the crushing disappointment of the crucifixion of the man they supposed the Messiah (assuming here, arguendo, the historicity of Jesus and his crucifixion by the Romans at around the time commonly supposed)? "Why would these people die for a lie?" goes a common retort.

That's a fair question, even if it is offered pseudo-skeptically. But I don't think it's nearly as difficult as Christians commonly suppose. Even granting the dubious claims that all of Jesus disciples except John died a martyr's death (and indeed, this is precisely the kind of narrative we might expect as a later bit of legendary embellishment), we need not suppose a deliberate, coordinated conspiracy of lies is demanded of the situation. Rather, we need only look to the social capacity and disposition toward legend-making.

Inevitably, the pseudo-skeptic demands an example. I've suggested the legend and folklore of King Arthur, and pointed to the invention of "Newton's apple" by Voltaire as casual examples of the tendency to mythologize and embellish real people and events that capture our passions and imaginations. Reading a bit about Andrew Dickson White this week, intrigued by his provocative phrase "an asylum for Science", used in reference to his ambitions for Cornell University, a school he co-founded, I came across White's book A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (which title I believe is familiar to me from the words of Bertrand Russell?). In the book, White recounts the case of Francis Xavier, co-founder of the Jesuits, patron saint of missionaries, and the man the Catholic church credits with converting more souls to Christianity than any other since Paul.

White's book (which can be read here, or at Google books complete with footnotes here) has a chapter on Xavier, in which he details the progression and development of legends -- miraculous legends -- about Xavier in the aftermath of his death. Here is why White chose to examine the case of Xavier:

"We have within the modern period very many examples which enable us to study the evolution of legendary miracles. Out of these I will select but one, which is chosen because it is the life of one of the most noble and devoted men in the history of humanity, one whose biography is before the world with its most minute details - in his own letters, in the letters of his associates, in contemporary histories, and in a multitude of biographies: this man is St. Francis Xavier. From these sources I draw the facts now to be given, but none of them are of Protestant origin; every source from which I shall draw is Catholic and Roman, and published under the sanction of the Church. " [1]

White provides his basic claim for the chapter here:

"During his career as a missionary he wrote great numbers of letters, which were preserved and have since been published; and these, with the letters of his contemporaries, exhibit clearly all the features of his life. His own writings are very minute, and enable us to follow him fully. No account of a miracle wrought by him appears either in his own letters or in any contemporary document. At the outside, but two or three things occurred in his whole life, as exhibited so fully by himself and his contemporaries, for which the most earnest devotee could claim anything like Divine interposition; and these are such as may be read in the letters of very many fervent missionaries, Protestant as well as Catholic."[2]

White continues with an example:

"For example, in the beginning of his career, during a journey in Europe with an ambassador, one of the servants in fording a stream got into deep water and was in danger of drowning. Xavier tells us that the ambassador prayed very earnestly, and that the man finally struggled out of the stream. But within sixty years after his death, at his canonization, and by various biographers, this had been magnified into a miracle, and appears in the various histories dressed out in glowing colours. Xavier tells us that the ambassador prayed for the safety of the young man; but his biographers tell us that it was Xavier who prayed, and finally, by the later writers, Xavier is represented as lifting horse and rider out of the stream by a clearly supernatural act. "[3]

(emphasis mine in both quotes above)

According to White, Xavier is both quite keen on identifying diving providence, but claims or even mention of miracles is conspicuously missing from his writings. Not only are miracles absent from Xavier's own accounts, the man who knew Xavier best, fellow Jesuit and historian of the order Joseph Acosta, positively denies the presence of miracles in the Jesuits' missionary enterprise of the time:

"But on the same page with this tribute to the great missionary Acosta goes on to discuss the reasons why progress in the world's conversion is not so rapid as in the early apostolic times, and says that an especial cause why apostolic preaching could no longer produce apostolic results ``lies in the missionaries themselves, because there is now no power of working miracles.'' He then asks, ``Why should our age be so completely destitute of them?'' This question he answers at great length, and one of his main contentions is that in early apostolic times illiterate men had to convert the learned of the world, whereas in modern times the case is reversed, learned men being sent to convert the illiterate; and hence that ``in the early times miracles were necessary, but in our time they are not.''[4]

Over the course of the decades following Xavier's death, admiring biographers and sponsors for Xavier's canonization produced a rapid "evolution" of miracles and supernatural works that got attached to Xavier, increasingly fantastic as time went by. Here, White recalls the situation 70 years after Xavier's death:

"In 1622 came the canonization proceedings at Rome. Among the speeches made in the presence of Pope Gregory XV, supporting the claims of Xavier to saintship, the most important was by Cardinal Monte. In this the orator selects out ten great miracles from those performed by Xavier during his lifetime and describes them minutely. He insists that on a certain occasion Xavier, by the sign of the cross, made sea-water fresh, so that his fellow-passengers and the crew could drink it; that he healed the sick and raised the dead in various places; brought back a lost boat to his ship; was on one occasion lifted from the earth bodily and transfigured before the bystanders; and that, to punish a blaspheming town, he caused an earthquake and buried the offenders in cinders from a volcano: this was afterward still more highly developed, and the saint was represented in engravings as calling down fire from heaven and thus destroying the town.

The most curious miracle of all is the eighth on the cardinal's list. Regarding this he states that, Xavier having during one of his voyages lost overboard a crucifix, it was restored to him after he had reached the shore by a crab.

The cardinal also dwelt on miracles performed by Xavier's relics after his death, the most original being that sundry lamps placed before the image of the saint and filled with holy water burned as if filled with oil.''[5]

This is just a small sample of the inventory provided by White in the chapter. What is striking is not just the breadth and depth of the body of legend associated with Xavier in the years following his death, but the "whole cloth fabrication" of the stories. For most, and possibly all of the miraculous accounts given later, there doesn't even seem to be the "seed" used for later embellishment, but a kind of ex nihilo creation of a miraculum vitae for Xavier (one can feel the account of the crab returning Xavier's crucifix resonating with Paul's miraculous survival of the viper's bite on Malta in Acts).

The import of the example of Xavier, and the spontaneous appearance and evolution of miracles attributed to him should be obvious to the Christian, to the pseudo-skeptic; given a couple decades, and a cult following, the invention and development of miracle accounts -- accounts of fantastic miracles -- isn't implausible, or even novel, and relevant examples are found right inside the history and culture of Christendom itself.

I do note that White's book is now well over a hundred years old, and as science proves, a lot can be discovered over the course of a hundred and more years. I've done some googling on this, but have not found anything that indicates that White's claims in the book have been overturned by the discovery of new evidence from Xavier's writings or reports by his contemporaries that substantiate the miracles later attributed to him. If readers are aware of such a case, I stand to be corrected. But as it is, I commend the case of Xavier and his admirers to the pseudo-skeptic, as a vivid historical example of "legendation" in action, the kind of inventions and embellishments we see accounting for the death of Jesus circa 30CE and the legend of Jesus emerging over the next 50-60 years.

[1] Andrew Dickson White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (Prometheus Books, 1993), lib ii, cap XIII, p. 5.
[2] ibid., p. 6.
[3] ibid., p. 6.
[4] ibid., pp. 9-10.
[5] ibid., pp. 14-15.

Derren Brown

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

21 Grams

[Evans, 1946]

Those who believe that the body becomes lighter [at the moment of death] seem to think that the soul has weight, weight that must of necessity depart with it, and — with that brisk disregard of strict veracity which so frequenly marks discussions of this nature — have claimed that dying men, at the very moment of their decease, have been placed on delicate scales that have recorded their mortuary degravitation. But these persons have never been able to specify in just what ghoulish laboratory this took place, or what private home was so interestingly equipped, or the names and addresses of the relatives who so commendably placed scientific and religious curiosity before sentimental concern for the patient's comfort.

Most of those of a religious bent believe in life everlasting for the faithful, a continuation of the life force that reaches far beyond the limitations of mortal flesh. In such belief systems, death is not an end but a transformation: though people shed their corporeal selves at the moment of demise, that
which made them unique beings lives on to rejoin the Creator. We call this intrinsic personness "the soul," an entity described in the dictionary as "The immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life."

Yet as much as we believe in the concept of "soul," this life spark remains strictly an article of faith. As central as it is to our perception of ourselves, it can't be seen or heard or smelled or touched or tasted, a state of affairs that leaves some of us uneasy. Without the soul, dead is dead. But if it could be proved to exist, a great deal of anxiety over what happens to us when we die would be vanquished.

Enter Dr. Duncan MacDougall of Haverhill, Massachusetts. The doctor postulated the soul was material and therefore had mass, ergo a measurable drop in the weight of the deceased would be noted at the moment this essence parted ways with the physical remains. The belief that human beings are possessed of souls which depart their bodies after death and that these souls have detectable physical presences were around well before the 20th century, but claims that souls have measurable mass which falls within a specific range of weights can be traced to experiments conducted by Dr. MacDougall in 1907.

Dr. MacDougall, seeking to determine "if the psychic functions continue to exist as a separate individuality or personality after the death of brain and body," constructed a special bed in his office "arranged on a light framework built upon very delicately balanced platform beam scales" sensitive to two-tenths of an ounce. He installed upon this bed a succession of six patients in the end stages of terminal illnesses (four from tuberculosis, one from diabetes, and one from unspecified causes); observed them before, during, and after the process of death; and measured any corresponding changes in weight. He then attempted to eliminate as many physiological explanations for the observed results as he could conceive:
The patient's comfort was looked after in every way, although he was practically moribund when placed upon the bed. He lost weight slowly at Scale the rate of one ounce per hour due to evaporation of moisture in respiration and evaporation of sweat.

During all three hours and forty minutes I kept the beam end slightly above balance near the upper limiting bar in order to make the test more decisive if it should come.

At the end of three hours and forty minutes he expired and suddenly coincident with death the beam end dropped with an audible stroke hitting against the lower limiting bar and remaining there with no rebound. The loss was ascertained to be three-fourths of an ounce.

This loss of weight could not be due to evaporation of respiratory moisture and sweat, because that had already been determined to go on, in his case, at the rate of one sixtieth of an ounce per minute, whereas this loss was sudden and large, three-fourths of an ounce in a few seconds. The bowels did not move; if they had moved the weight would still have remained upon the bed except for a slow loss by the evaporation of moisture depending, of course, upon the fluidity of the feces. The bladder evacuated one or two drams of urine. This remained upon the bed and could only have influenced the weight by slow gradual evaporation and therefore in no way could account for the sudden loss.

There remained but one more channel of loss to explore, the expiration of all but the residual air in the lungs. Getting upon the bed myself, my colleague put the beam at actual balance. Inspiration and expiration of air as forcibly as possible by me had no effect upon the beam. My colleague got upon the bed and I placed the beam at balance. Forcible inspiration and expiration of air on his part had no effect. In this case we certainly have an inexplicable loss of weight of three-fourths of an ounce. Is it the soul substance? How other shall we explain it?2
MacDougall repeated his experiment with fifteen dogs and observed that "the results were uniformly negative, no loss of weight at death." This result seemingly corroborated MacDougall's hypothesis that the loss in weight recorded as humans expired was due to the soul's departure from the body, since (according to his religious doctrine) animals have no souls. (MacDougall's explanation that "the ideal tests on dogs would be obtained in those dying from some disease that rendered them much exhausted and incapable of struggle" but "it was not my fortune to get dogs dying from such sickness" led author Mary Roach to observe that "barring a local outbreak of distemper, one is forced to conjecture that the good doctor calmly poisoned fifteen healthy canines for his little exercise in biological theology.")

In March 1907 accounts of MacDougall's experiments were published in The New York Times and the medical journal American Medicine, prompting what Mary Roach described as an "acrid debate" in the latter's letters column:
Fellow Massachusetts doctor Augustus P. Clarke took MacDougall to task for having failed to take into account the sudden rise in body temperature at death when the blood stops being air-cooled via its circulation through the lungs. Clarke posited that the sweating and moisture evaporation caused by this rise in body temperature would account both for the drop in the men's weight and the dogs' failure to register one. (Dogs cool themselves by panting, not sweating.) MacDougall rebutted that without circulation, no blood can be brought to the surface of the skin and thus no surface cooling occurs. The debate went on from the May issue all the way through December . . .3
It would take a great deal of credulity to conclude that MacDougall's experiments demonstrated anything about post-mortem weight loss, much less the quantifiable existence of the human soul. For one thing, his results were far from consistent, varying widely across his half-dozen test cases:

1. "[S]uddenly coincident with death . . . the loss was ascertained to be three-fourths of an ounce."

2. "The weight lost was found to be half an ounce. Then my colleague auscultated the heart and and found it stopped. I tried again and the loss was one ounce and a half and fifty grains."

3. "My third case showed a weight of half an ounce lost, coincident with death, and an additional loss of one ounce a few minutes later."

4. "In the fourth case unfortunately our scales were not finely adjusted and there was a good deal of interference by people opposed to our work . . . I regard this test as of no value."

5. "My fifth case showed a distinct drop in the beam requiring about three-eighths of an ounce which could not be accounted for. This occurred exactly simultaneously with death but peculiarly on bringing the beam up again with weights and later removing them, the beam did not sink back to stay for fully fifteen minutes."

6. "My sixth and last case was not a fair test. The patient died almost within five minutes after being placed upon the bed and died while I was adjusting the beam."

So, out of six tests, two had to be discarded, one showed an immediate drop in weight (and nothing more), two showed an immediate drop in weight which increased with the passage of time, and one showed an immediate drop in weight which reversed itself but later recurred. And even these results cannot be accepted at face value as the potential for experimental error was extremely high, especially since MacDougall and his colleagues often had difficulty in determining the precise moment of death, one of the key factors in their experiments. (MacDougall later attempted to explain away the timing discrepancies by concluding that "the soul's weight is removed from the body virtually at the instant of last breath, though in persons of sluggish temperament it may remain in the body for a full minute.")

Dr. MacDougall admitted in his journal article that his experiments would have to repeated many times with similar results before any conclusions could be drawn from them:
If it is definitely proved that there is in the human being a loss of substance at death not accounted for by known channels of loss, and that such loss of substance does not occur in the dog as my experiments would seem to show, then we have here a physiological difference between the human and the canine at least and probably between the human and all other forms of animal life.

I am aware that a large number of experiments would require to be made before the matter can be proved beyond any possibility of error, but if further and sufficient experimentation proves that there is a loss of substance occurring at death and not accounted for by known channels of loss, the establishment of such a truth cannot fail to be of the utmost importance.2
Nonetheless, MacDougall believed he was onto something — four years later the New York Times reported in a front-page story that he had moved on to experiments which he hoped would allow him to take pictures of the soul:
Dr. Duncan MacDougall of Haverhill, who has experimented much in the observation of death, in an interview published here to-day expressed doubt that the experiments with X rays about to be made at the University of Pennsylvania will be successful in picturing the human soul, because the X ray is in reality a shadow picture. He admits, however, that at the moment of death the soul substance might become so agitated as to reduce the obstruction that the bone of the skull offers ordinarily to the Roentgen ray and might therefore be shown on the plate as a lighter spot on the dark shadow of the bone.

Dr. McDougall is convinced from a dozen experiments with dying people that the soul substance gives off a light resembling that of the interstellar ether. The weight of the soul he has determined to be from one-half ounce to nearly an ounce and a quarter.4
MacDougall seems not to have made any more experimental breakthroughs regarding the measurement of the human soul after 1911 (at least, none considered remarkable enough to have been reported in the pages of the New York Times), and he passed away in 1920. Nonetheless, his legacy lives on in the oft-expressed maxim that the human soul weighs 21 grams. (At the moment of death, MacDougall's first test subject decreased in weight by three-fourths of an ounce, which is 21.3 grams.)

What to make of all this? MacDougall's results were flawed because the methodology used to harvest them was suspect, the sample size far too small, and the ability to measure changes in weight imprecise. For this reason, credence should not be given to the idea his experiments proved something, let alone that they measured the weight of the soul as 21 grams. His postulations on this topic are a curiousity, but nothing more.

An interesting counterpoint to this item is another widespread belief of those long-ago times, one which held that the human body gained weight after death — the exact opposite of what Dr. MacDougall was attempting to prove:
More prevalent is the other belief, expressed in the phrase "dead weight," that a body weighs more after death. But it only seems to weigh more. We carry our own bodies about so easily that we are unaware of what an exertion it really requires. And when, in some emergency that forces us to bear the additional weight of another body, we feel a gravitational pull of from two hundred and fifty to three hundred pounds, we are astonished and assume that the other body has somehow acquired additional heaviness. The weight of a corpse, or even of an amputated limb, is startling when felt for the first time. A husky man, flourishing his arms about, has no idea that they weigh as much as twenty-pound sacks of sugar; and a jitterbugging girl doesn't realize that she is throwing a couple of forty-pound legs around as if they were ping-pong balls.1
Sightings: The title of the 2003 film 21 Grams was taken from this belief.

Last updated: 17 July 2007

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Sources Sources:

1. Evans, Bergen. The Natural History of Nonsense.
New York: Vintage Books, 1946 (pp. 129-130).

Iserson, Kenneth V. Death to Dust: What Happens to Dead Bodies?
Tucson, AZ: Galen Press, 1994. ISBN 1-883620-07-4.

2. MacDougall, Duncan. "The Soul: Hypothesis Concerning Soul Substance Together with Experimental Evidence of The Existence of Such Substance."
American Medicine. April 1907.

3. Roach, Mary. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.
New York: W.W. Norton, 2003. ISBN 0-393-05093-9 (pp. 173-175).

The New York Times. "Soul Has Weight, Physician Thinks."
11 March 1907 (p. 5).

The New York Times. "The Human Aura Has At Last Been Photographed."
5 February 1911 (p. SM8).

4. The New York Times. "As to Picturing the Soul."
24 July 1911 (p. 1).

5. The New York Times. "Picturing the Soul."
25 July 1911 (p. 6).

6. The New York Times. "Aura and Soul."
28 August 1911 (p. 6).

The New York Times. "He 'Weighed Human Soul.'"
16 October 1920 (p. 13).

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Documentary Hypothesis - an introduction

Keep in mind while reading this that Christian apologists are not biblical scholars and they make many ridiculous assertions (about the DH and other things) that are not backed up by facts. The most common assertion is that the DH is losing ground in the academic world. I am part of the academic world and let me tell you that is not the case. There are no academic journals that make a case against the DH and the only websites you will find that make any claims against the DH are also websites that take the creation accounts in the Bible are literally true (I mean, give me a break, Theistic Evolution FTW). The DH is the most popular and plausible way to explain apparent contradictions and doublets (sometimes triplets) in the Bible. The DH gives the Old Testament new and clearer meaning. This is especially true when you learn more of the history and archaeology behind the events. For people who are worried about the DH effecting their theology, it doesn't. The DH talks about how the written sources that comprise the Torah were edited together. There is nothing in the DH about whether or not the supernatural events that happen in the stories contained in those sources are true. The DH makes no claims, for example, about whether or not there was a Flood survived only by Noah and his family. It only makes claims about how the two stories of the Flood were edited together to make a single account - not whether or not those stories are actually true. I personally think that the DH is the best defense against apparent contradictions in the Bible.

The Documentary Hypothesis

The Documentary Hypothesis (DH) is a scholarly framework that seeks to explain the compilation of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) as an editing together of several disparate sources, generally known as J, E, D, and P.
This framework specifically contradicts the traditional conservative view that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch.
The DH is based on textual analysis of the Pentateuch, and as such is inherently independent of other lines of evidence often considered in Biblical studies. It should be noted that other lines of evidence, such as archaeological evidence, are consilient with the DH.

The DH splits most of the Torah (and much of the post-Torah Deuteronomic History) into four sources.
'J' - or Jahwist.
'E' - or Elohist.
'P' - or Priestly.
'D' - or Deutronomic.

This split is done by a number of criteria.
1) Linguistic style and development.
2) Emphasis on particular themes (including the times at which different names are used for God).
3) Duplication of stories.

1) Theological Interests

a) Name of God - The multiple sources all use both Yahweh and Elohim (the claim that the DH splits the text between text that uses one name and text that uses the other is another strawman). However, if we look at all the J texts, they are consistent in that people started to call God Yahweh right from the beginning (Gen 4:1 and Gen 4:26). The P and E texts, however, are both consistent in that people only started to call God Yahweh when he revealed his name to Moses (Ex 6:2-3). Additionally, whilst the J author does call God Elohim, he only ever does this whilst narrating events - he never has a character refer to God as Elohim.

b) Nature and Role of Priests - In all the P text, priests of the line of Aaron are the only people with access/communication to God. There are no angelic visitations, dreams, talking animals, or anything else like that. All the other sources include God communicating with people via these means. E and D both repeatedly refer to prophets and prophesy. Neither P nor J ever does (P uses the word once - metaphorically - to refer to Aaron himself). P never mentions judges - only allowing Aaronid priests to mediate. P also does not classify non-Aaronid Levites as priests, and only allows the Aaronids have access to the Urim and Tummim. P only allows atonement for sins via sacrifices brought to Aaronid priests. In short, in P sources, the Aaronid priests and only the Aaronid priests have access to God. In D, on the other hand, all Levites are considered priests.

c) Nature of God - in P, as I have mentioned, the only contact with God is through priests. God never appears in person. He is never referred to as merciful or kind - indeed, the words "mercy", "kindness", "grace" and "repentence" are never used in P. The God described in P is implacable and all stories about him refer only to his wrath and justice; never to positive character traits. All the stories with positive (and more human) character traits of God are in J and E. In J, on the other hand, God makes frequent personal appearances. He walks in the garden in Eden, personally makes Adam and Eve's clothes, personally closes the door of the Ark, and so on. In E as well, God wrestles with Jacob and appears personally to Moses. In P, on the other hand, God never makes a personal appearance.

d) The Tabernacle is mentioned more than two hundred times. All except three of these are in P (where it recieves huge amounts of attention). E and J never mention it once.

e) J often refers to the Ark of the Covenant. E never mentions it once.

f) The Urim and Tummim, divining items that the High Priest holds, are mentioned only in P.

g) In E, it is only ever Moses's staff that performs miracles. In P, it is only ever Aaron's staff that performs miracles.

2) Doublets and Triplets

There are more than 30 cases of repetition of stories and/or laws in the Torah. Often the two (or occasionally even three) versions will be slightly different. There are also many apparent contradictions. When the Torah is split stylistically into the J, E, P and D sources; all these every single one of these repetitions ends up with the two or three different versions being in different styles and from different sources. I won't bother listing them all here. Similarly, the vast majority of the apparent contradictions disappear since the contradictory text is split between different sources.

3) Linguistic Evidence

In the same way that one can easily tell Chaucer from Shakespeare, Shakespeare from Dickens, and Dickens from modern authors by the changes in the English language that have taken place over the centuries, we can also distinguish between different ages of the Hebrew language used in the Bible.

a) The Hebrew used in both J and E is early Hebrew.

b) The Hebrew used in P is from a later development of the language, but still earlier than the Exilic period.

c) The Hebrew used in D is from a later still development of the language, from the Exilic period.

4) Narrative Continuity

a) We can take each of the four sources individually, and reading only the text that is stylistically assigned to that source in isolation we get a continuous narrative in more than 90% of the text breaks. For example, the J text taken individually - skipping over all non-J text - it shows a consistent narrative flow as if it were a single written document&183;

b) Additionally, the J and E texts show narrative flow when combined together. They also show ideosyncratic phrases at their joins as if they were combined by an editor who left traces of their handiwork as they stitched the two sources together.

c) Similarly, the places where J and E are joined to P show phrases that indicate traces of a (different) editor.

4) Similarity to other parts of the Bible

a) The language and terminology of D is very similar to the language and terminology of the book of Jeremiah. None of the other sources are.

b) The language and terminology of P is very similar to the language and terminology of the book of Ezekiel. None of the other sources are.

c) The book of Hosea quotes and/or refers to sections of the Torah. It only ever does so with regard to sections assigned to the E and J sources, however; not the P and D sources.

d) The Court History of David (most of 2 Samuel), as well as much of Joshua, Judges and 1 Samuel, is very similar in language and terminology to the J source - to the extent that some scholars believe it was written by the same hand.

5) Miscellaneous Stylistics

a) J and P both refer to Mount Sinai repeatedly. E and D refer to it as Mount Horeb. There are no exceptions to this.

b) The phrase "in that very day" is not found in any source other than P.

c) The phrase "with all your heart and with all your soul" only ever occurs in D.

There are a couple of dozen examples like these of phrases used only in one source and never in others. Again, I won't bother listing them all here.

Of course, if we wanted to go into detail, we can actually infer much more about exactly where and when each of the documents was written - but that is way beyond the scope of this current essay.

Evidence that Moses did not write the majority of the Torah

(Note: The biggest piece of evidence that Moses did not write the Torah is the archaeological evidence that there was no Exodus or Conquest, and therefore that it is incredibly unlikely that Moses ever existed. However, for the sake of argument, I am assuming in this thread that Moses did exist, and therefore my evidence and arguments here do not presuppose that he was merely a legendary figure.)

1) Evidence of multiple authors

The text of the Torah is clearly written in a variety of styles and in language of a variety of ages. This is clearly not the work of a single person, as has been explaind in the preceding sections.

2) Lack of any authorial claim

Nowhere in the Torah do any of the authors actually identify themselves. This, in itself, is not surprising. The authors of most texts do not go out of their way to introduce themselves.

3) The Point of View of the Text

The Torah does not talk from the point of view of Moses.

Firstly, the text never talks from the first person perspective when talking of Moses. It always refers to him in the third person.

Secondly, the Torah refers to states of events that occur during the narrative, and then says that they are like that "to this day". This is a clear indication that the writer is talking about events that happened in the past, not events that are happening as they write.

Thirdly, the text talks about what Moses did "across the Jordan". Since the text is clear that Moses died before ever getting chance to cross the Jordan and enter what would become Israel, then someone talking about what Moses did "across the Jordan" would necessarily be on the other side of the Jordan to where Moses was - i.e. the Israel/Judah side - and therefore could not have been Moses.

4) Anachronisms

Moses lived - according to the Bible - from about 1660 BCE to 1440 BCE. However, as spin has already pointed out, the Torah makes many references to people and places that simply did not exist at that time. Therefore, whoever wrote about them must have lived at a later time, when they did exist.

As a side note, the time when these people and places did exist is a good match to the time periods that the Hebrew used in the different DH sources can be dated to - yet more consilience.

(Note: There are many other anachronisms in the Torah that would indicate it was written much later than the time of Moses - but to go into detail about them would derail this thread into yet another argument about archaeology and the accuracy of dating techniques.)

5) The book reports Moses's own death

This is a good indicator that he didn't write it. Of course, apologists over the centuries have often claimed that Moses could have written about his own death because he was a prophet - but this does not match the text. The Hebrew Bible is full of the utterings of prophets, and the text that includes Moses's death is not in the style of someone prophesying. It is in the matter-of-fact narrative style of the rest of the story of his life.

In fact, the style of the writing about Moses's death is such a good match for the style of the previous writing that it also makes the other common apologetic for this - that Moses wrote the majority of the Torah and then Joshua added a postscript about Moses's death - also improbable.

The following are pairs of verses which contradict one another in
the books of the Jews: (This is just a quick list to demonstrate the DH)

2 Samuel 8:4(7 HUNDRED horsemen)
1 Chronicles 18:4(7 THOUSAND horsemen)

1 Chronicles 21:12(THREE years famine)
2 Samuel 24:13(SEVEN years famine)

Deuteronomy 2:19 & Deuteronomy 2:37(Moses deprived land of
Joshua 13:24-25(Moses gives land of Ammon as inheritance)

2 Samuel 24:9(800,000+500,000)
1 Chronicles 21:5(1,100,000+470,000)

2 Chronicles 36:9(EIGHT years, three months +10 days)
2 Kings 24:8 (EIGHTEEN years, three months)

2 Samuel 10:18(700, 40,000 HORSEMEN)
1 Chronicles 19:18(7000, 40,000 FOOTMEN)

1 Kings 7:26(TWO thousand baths)
2 Chronicles 4:5(THREE thousand baths)

2 Samuel 6:23(Michal had NO children)
2 Samuel 21:8(Michal had FIVE sons)

Genesis6:3(mankind shall not live past 120 years)
Genesis 11:10-32 (500,438,433,464,...etc.)

2 Chronicles 9:25(4,000 stalls)
1 Kings 4:26(40,000 stalls)

Isaiah 40:28 (God does not FAINT nor WEARY)
Exodus 31:17 (God RESTED, and was REFRESHED.)

Genisis 1: (God creates Plants, THEN animals, THEN man and
Genesis 2: (God creates man, THEN plants, THEN animals, THEN

Ezekiel 45 and Ezekiel 46 (DOCTRINES of offerings and sacrifices)
Numbers 28 and Numbers 29 (CONTRADICTORY DOCTRINES of
offerings and sacrifices)

1 Chronicles 8:29-38 (One list of NAMES)
1 Chronicles 9:35-44 (A CONTRADICTORY list of NAMES)

2 Samuel 5 and 2 Samuel 6 (David brought the ark AFTER fighting
the Philistines)
1 Samuel 13 and 1 Samuel 14 (David brought the ark BEFORE
fighting the Philistines)

Genesis 6:19-20 (Noah was to bring onto the ark "of EVERY living
thing of all flesh, TWO of EVERY sort shalt thou bring into the ark,
to keep them alive ....male and female....of fowls....of cattle....of every
creeping thing of the earth...").
Genesis 7:2-3 (Noah was to bring onto the ark "Of every CLEAN
beast thou shalt take to thee by SEVENS, the male and his female:
and of beasts that are NOT CLEAN by TWO, the male and his
female. Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the

2 Samuel 8:1 ("David took METHEGAMMAH out of the hand of
the Philistines").
1 Chronicles 18:1 ("David...took GATH and her towns out of the
hand of the Philistines").

2 Samuel 8:8 ("And from BETAH, and from BEROTHAI, cities of
Hadadezer, king David took exceeding much brass").
1 Chronicles 18:8 ("Likewise from TIBHATH, and from CHUN,
cities of Hadarezer, brought David very much brass").

2 Samuel 8:10 ("Then Toi sent JORAM his son unto king David")
1 Chronicles 18:10 ("He sent HADORAM his son to king David")

2 Samuel 8:12 ("Of SYRIA, and of Moab, and of the children of
Ammon, and of the Philistines, and of Amalek").
1 Chronicles 18:11 ("from EDOM, and from Moab, and from the
children of Ammon, and from the Philistines, and from Amalek.

2 Samuel 8:13 ("And David gat him a name when he returned from
smiting of the SYRIANS in the valley of salt, being eighteen thousand
1 Chronicles 18:13 ("And he put garrisons in EDOM; and all the
EDOMITES became David's servants").

2 Samuel 8:17 ("and SERAIAH was the scribe")
1 Chronicles 18:16 ("and SHAVSHA was scribe")

1 Kings 15:33-16:6 ("In the THIRD year of Asa king of Judah began
Baasha the son Ahijah to reign over all Israel in Tirzah, TWENTY
FOUR years..... So Baasha slept with his fathers, and was BURIED
in Tirzah"). 3+24=27.
2 Chronicles 16:1 ("In the THIRTY SIXTH year of the reign of Asa,
Baasha king of Israel came up against Judah"). But he died in the
twenty seventh year!. Was he resurected?. So how did he invade
Judah 10 years after his death?.

Ezra 2:6 (2812)
Nehemiah 7:11 (2818)

Ezra 2:8 (945)
Nehemiah 7:13 (845)

Ezra 2:12 (1222)
Nehemiah 7:17 (2322)

Ezra 2:15 (454)
Nehemiah 7:20 (655)

Ezra 2:19 (223)
Nehemiah 7:22 (328)

Ezra 2:28 (223)
Nehemiah 7:32 (123)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Brothers Grim

Nicholas Grunke, the son of Methodist minister Kerry Grunke, enlisted his twin brother Alex, and friend Dustin Radke, to help him score with a girl he'd seen only in a newspaper photo - in her obituary. The three boys, then all 20, first went to Wal*MART to buy condoms and then to the cemetery to dig her up. They planned to take her home. Fortunately, they failed to break into the concrete vault enclosing her coffin.

The state of Wisconsin, where the crime occurred, did not have a law against necrophilia, so tried to convict the trio on sexual assault, as the lady in question was unable to consent. The charges have since been dropped, and the state has banned sex with dead people.

You might recall that earlier this year two homeskooled boys in Texas, Matthew Richard Gonzalez and Kevin Wade Jones, dug up the body of an 11-year-old boy buried in 1921 to fashion a bong from his skull.

What's up with white boys and dead people? Is it a lack of socialization? Too much DIY? Is it some strange conflation of world religions and multiculturalism - maybe the Mormon practice of baptizing the dead and an earth-friendly green practice of not letting anything go to waste?

Alfred Kinsey suggested, in Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, that men denied socially acceptable sexual oulets, like consensual sex with humans, were more likely to engage in strange practices like beastiality, not explicitly prohibited by their parents or church. So parents, don't assume your kids know they shouldn't have sex with donkeys (or the dead) - it makes an "ass" out of "u" and "me".

Just some fun!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Neanderthals, modern humans share ancestor, scientists say

By Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 9, 2008

Neanderthals and modern humans shared an ancestor that lived about 660,000 years ago, according to scientists who have pieced together the first complete sequence of maternal DNA from humanity's closest cousins.

The DNA evidence also verified that the two species did not interbreed during the 10,000 to 20,000 years they coexisted in Europe and western Asia after humans migrated there from Africa. The last of the Neanderthals died out about 30,000 years ago, though some scientists speculate that at least a few of their genes live on in humans.

"Neanderthals made no lasting contribution to the modern human [maternal] DNA gene pool," a team of German, American, Croatian and Finnish researchers wrote in Friday's edition of the journal Cell.

The team focused on mitochondrial DNA, a relatively short string of 16,565 As, Ts, Cs and Gs that spell out 13 genes for controlling the energy sources of cells. Unlike nuclear DNA, which is unique for every person, mitochondrial DNA is passed virtually unchanged from mother to child.

Members of the research group are engaged in a two-year effort to decode the roughly 3 billion letters of nuclear DNA contained in a 38,000-year-old Neanderthal bone fragment discovered in a Croatian cave.

In the process, they collected enough maternal DNA to sequence that genome with a high degree of certainty, said lead author Ed Green, a postdoctoral scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

Comparison of the Neanderthal sequence to 10 human sequences suggests that the species diverged 520,000 to 800,000 years ago -- earlier than the 400,000 years scientists had previously estimated using fossil finds.

Scientists have sequenced maternal DNA from thousands of people around the world to study the history of human migration out of Africa. All of them are distinct from the Neanderthal version, Green said.

Most scientists accept the view that there aren't any Neanderthal genes in the human genome, but evolutionary geneticist Jeff Wall of UC San Francisco said that only "large amounts of high-quality Neanderthal nuclear DNA sequences" will resolve the issue once and for all.

I've been gone but here is the Mangrove Killfish!!

Link to original article!

It's one of the golden rules of the natural world ? birds live in trees, fish live in water.

The trouble is, no one bothered to tell the mangrove killifish.

Scientists have discovered that it spends several months of every year out of the water and living inside trees.

Hidden away inside rotten branches and trunks, the remarkable creatures temporarily alter their biological makeup so they can breathe air.

Biologists studying the killifish say they astonished it can cope for so long out of its natural habitat.

The discovery, along with its ability to breed without a mate, must make the mangrove killifish, Rivulus marmoratus Poey, one of the oddest fish known to man.

Around two inches long, they normally live in muddy pools and the flooded burrows of crabs in the mangrove swamps of Florida, Latin American and Caribbean.

The latest discovery was made by biologists wading through swamps in Belize and Florida who found hundreds of killifish hiding out of the water in the rotting branches and trunks of trees.

The fish had flopped their way to their new homes when their pools of water around the roots of mangroves dried up. Inside the logs, they were lined up end to end along tracks carved out by insects.

Dr Scott Taylor of the Brevard County Environmentally Endangered Lands Programme in Florida admitted the creatures were a little odd.

"They really don't meet standard behavioural criteria for fish," he told New Scientist magazine.

Although the cracks inside logs make a perfect hiding place, conditions can be cramped. The fish ? which are usually fiercely territorial ? are forced to curb their aggression.

Another study, published earlier this year, revealed how they alter their bodies and metabolism to cope with life out of water.

Their gills are altered to retain water and nutrients, while they excrete nitrogen waste through their skin.

These changes are reversed as soon as they return to the water.

Previously their biggest claim to fame was that they are the only known vertebrate ? animal with a backbone ? to reproduce without the need for a mate.

Killifish can develop both female and male sexual organs, and fertilise their eggs while they are still in the body, laying tiny embryos into the water.

They are not the only fish able to breathe air. The walking catfish of South-east Asia has gills that allow it to breathe in air and in water.

The climbing perch of India can suffocate in water unless it can also gulp in air.

Friday, August 1, 2008

High IQ turns academics into atheists

By Rebecca Attwood

Intelligence is a predictor of religious scepticism, a professor has argued. Rebecca Attwood reports

Belief in God is much lower among academics than among the general population because scholars have higher IQs, a controversial academic claimed this week.

In a forthcoming paper for the journal Intelligence, Richard Lynn, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Ulster, will argue that there is a strong correlation between high IQ and lack of religious belief and that average intelligence predicts atheism rates across 137 countries.

In the paper, Professor Lynn - who has previously caused controversy with research linking intelligence to race and sex - says evidence points to lower proportions of people holding religious beliefs among "intellectual elites".

The paper - which was co-written with John Harvey, who does not report a university affiliation, and Helmuth Nyborg, of the University of Aarhus, Denmark - cites studies including a 1990s survey that found that only 7 per cent of members of the American National Academy of Sciences believed in God. A survey of fellows of the Royal Society found that only 3.3 per cent believed in God at a time when a poll reported that 68.5 per cent of the general UK population were believers.

Professor Lynn told Times Higher Education: "Why should fewer academics believe in God than the general population? I believe it is simply a matter of the IQ. Academics have higher IQs than the general population. Several Gallup poll studies of the general population have shown that those with higher IQs tend not to believe in God."

He said that most primary school children believed in God, but as they entered adolescence - and their intelligence increased - many began to have doubts and became agnostics.

He added that most Western countries had seen a decline of religious belief in the 20th century at the same time as their populations had become more intelligent.

Andy Wells, senior lecturer in psychology at the London School of Economics, said the existence of a correlation between IQ and religiosity did not mean there was a causal relationship between the two.

Gordon Lynch, director of the Centre for Religion and Contemporary Society at Birkbeck, University of London, said that any examination of the decline of religious belief needed to take into account a wide and complex range of social, economic and historical factors.

He added: "Linking religious belief and intelligence in this way could reflect a dangerous trend, developing a simplistic characterisation of religion as primitive, which - while we are trying to deal with very complex issues of religious and cultural pluralism - is perhaps not the most helpful response."

Alistair McFadyen, senior lecturer in Christian theology at the University of Leeds, said that Professor Lynn's arguments appeared to have "a slight tinge of intellectual elitism and Western cultural imperialism as well as an antireligious sentiment".

David Hardman, principal lecturer in learning development at London Metropolitan University, said: "It is very difficult to conduct true experiments that would explicate a causal relationship between IQ and religious belief. Nonetheless, there is evidence from other domains that higher levels of intelligence are associated with a greater ability - or perhaps willingness - to question and overturn strongly felt intuitions."

Monday, July 21, 2008

Symmetry Of Homosexual Brain Resembles That Of Opposite Sex, Swedish Study Finds

ScienceDaily (June 18, 2008) — Swedish researchers have found that some physical attributes of the homosexual brain resemble those found in the opposite sex, according to an article published online (June 16) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Some psychological tests have shown differences between men and women in the extent to which they employ the brain’s hemispheres in verbal tasks. Other research has hinted that homosexuals may exhibit the tendencies of the opposite sex in brain behavior unrelated to sexual activity.

Ivanka Savic and Per Lindström, of the Department of Clinical Neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, now report that the brains of heterosexual men and homosexual women are slightly asymmetric—the right hemisphere is larger than the left—and the brains of gay men and straight women are not.

Positron emission tomography (PET) scans taken by the researchers also show that in connectivity of the amygdala (which is important for emotional learning), lesbians resemble straight men, and gay men resemble straight women. The researchers analyzed the brains of 90 subjects, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess brain volume and PET data partly gleaned from previous olfactory studies.

One possible interpretation of the connectivity pattern in straight men and lesbians is that the amygdala is wired for a greater fight-or-flight response, the authors say.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

More dumb religious people...

Chrisitans are better than Muslims?

Remember when Muslims threw a fit because a Dutch newspaper printed images of Mohammad?


Hyderabad(IANS) Christian groups Sunday attacked the offices of Telugu daily ‘Sakshi’, owned by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s family, to protest the publication of a blasphemous picture of Jesus Christ. The daily’s Sunday edition carried a picture showing Jesus with a beer mug in one hand and a cigarette in the other. The chief minister’s family, which practices Christianity, has tendered an apology.

The chief minister’s son and newspaper owner Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy and the chief minister’s wife tendered an apology to the Christian community for the faux pas.

Protesting the publication of the picture, Christian groups attacked the newspaper offices in Prakasam, Srikakulam, Vijayawada, Nizamabad and other towns. Raising slogans against the newspaper, they barged into the offices and ransacked the furniture.

In Hyderabad, the police arrested a group of Christians holding protest in front of ‘Sakshi’ head office.

Following the incidents, security was beefed up at the newspaper offices across the state.

Jaganmohan Reddy, who is also the managing director of the newspaper, apologised for the major faux pas and said the newspaper would carry the apology on the front page Monday.

He said the newspaper had highest regard for Jesus Christ and recalled that the daily was launched on Easter.

Chief minister’s wife Vijayalakshmi, in a statement, apologised to the Christian community and said the newspaper would ensure that such mistakes were not repeated in future.

The newspaper management said it was a mistake on part of the sub-editor concerned who had downloaded the picture from the Internet.

An official journal of a Catholic diocese in Kerala had published the same picture, evoking strong protests from Christian community.

“Vachana Jyotis”, the magazine published by diocese of Neyyattinkara in Thiruvananthpuram, carried the picture on the cover page of its June issue.

‘Sakshi’ was launched in March this year by Jagati Publication of which Y.S. Jaganmohan is the chairman. The first Telugu daily with all pages in multi-colour is being printed from 23 centres, including New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

New Video and Transcript!

INQOINF's Challenge to Christians!

Can you prove the veracity of the Bible?

There have been many gods, many saviors, and many holy books that all claim to be true, so, How would you know, with the Bible as your only authoritative source, if it is true?

How do you know that people didn't just "make up" Christianity? L. Ron Hubbard made up Scientology and today has millions of followers and even famous people like Tom Cruise are among their members. People have made up religions all throughout history and still do so today. How do you know this wasn't the case with Christianity?

If the Bible has been accurately translated and the information devoid of errors then why are there hundreds of English translations and why are they disputed between Christians. Which, in your opinion, is the best Bible translation and why?

The Dead Sea Scrolls are used to prove the reliability of scripture and Enoch is amongst the texts that were found. Enoch is quoted several times throughout the Bible. Can Enoch be considered Biblical? Why or why not? Keep in mind this is a text that was used by the writers of the New Testament and many early church fathers, such as, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origin and Clement of Alexandria. The Gospel of St. Peter was also a favorite among early church fathers but was lost before the Bible was canonized and, therefore, was never up for consideration. Today we have found copies of this text, Can it be trusted scripturally? The early Christian fathers thought it could.

Who really wrote the gospels? With out the gospels is there really any eye-witness evidence? Luke in the first chapter and verse admit that he is not an eye-witness and John cites in text that he did not "bare witness," so if the authorship of the gospels is ambiguous then how would you know that it's true? Keep in mind that Paul never met Jesus and never mentions most of the events from the gospels, including the virgin birth.

Please avoid using the Bible to prove the Bible because this is circular reasoning. This would be like me saying "I know Gandalf really lived because "The Lord of the Rings" details his life. It is just dumb. Muslims use the Koran to prove the Koran but you quickly dismiss them as being wrong. So, lets avoid this type of argument because you must first prove the veracity of the Bible.

Consider the fact that no original manuscript of any Biblical book has survived and that some Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek words occur only once in the Bible, but are found no where else in literature, so their exact meanings are unknown, and some Biblical phrases are ambiguous, with more than one possible meaning. For example in Genesis 21:9, the Hebrew word for mocking. can also be translated as; fondling, or making sport. All of which have very different meanings. Again, How do you know that your translation is the correct translation?

Early Christian writers scoured the Hebrew scriptures for references to and prophecies of Jesus. It would seem they even turned Psalms into prophetic literature, Psalms is not prophecy it's poetry. How would you know if the prophecies were really fulfilled? How would you know that these authors didn't lie and say Jesus fulfilled these prophecies?

How do you explain blatant contradictions and errors in the Bible? The genealogy of Jesus is different in Matthew and Luke and even if you attribute one to Mary this still makes Mary over 200 years older than Joseph. None of the Gospels agree on what happened before Jesus was born in Bethlehem nor what happened afterwards and Mark fails to mention the Nativity Story. Matthew dates the birth of Jesus around 4 B.C.E. and Luke dates his birth around 6 C.E. This is at least a 10 year difference. They also do not agree on what happened at Jesus Baptism. After Judas betrayal one story states that Judas purchased land with the money he had been payed for betraying Jesus and in another story it says that he returns the money to the high priests. Why does each gospel confuse how many times the cock crows in relation to Peter's denials of Christ? In one gospel before Jesus crucifixion he is put on trial before Pilate and then Herod but does not speak. In another he is anything but mute. Why is John's account of the crucifixion so different than the other gospels? Why do they each claim Jesus said something different before he died? Why are the stories at the tomb so different? The number of angels, women, appearances, and much more is completely different from one gospel to the next. If these texts were divinely inspired or if these authors were actually eye-witnesses then these stories would not be as different as they are. This is just a quick and simple but critical analysis of 4 books in the Bible. Imagine a critique of the whole Bible.

How do you know that the Bible's story of a savior who triumphed over death is any different than the claims made by the followers of; Osiris, Horus, Attis, Mythra, Sol Invictus, and many others? How can we know your savior is the true savior, with the Bible as your only evidence, and these are fake?

The extra-biblical sources are just as vague as the Gospels when concerning the historicity of Jesus. Josephus, Pliny the Younger, Tacitus, and Suetonius all mention people who follow Jesus but none actually mention Jesus as a living breathing, miracle working man. Even if we did accept their references as being true it still only counts as hearsay.

Some people claim that Early Christians were never refuted. If this were so then why did Justin Martyr say this to early skeptics. "when we say that Jesus Christ was produced without sexual union, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended to heaven, we propound nothing new or different from what you believe regarding those whom you call the sons of Jupiter. "

Remember that the number of people who follow a religion has no bearing on it's verisimilitude and just because someone would die for what they consider truth does not make it true. For example, There are almost as many believers in Islam as there are Christians. There are Muslim extremists that blow themselves up because they believe so fervently in the Koran, but does that make it true?

Is the Holy Bible the Word of God? All of us need to know. A person’s very salvation can depend upon it.

These video's are not my sources for this video but they do contain a lot of the same information and may elaborate more on some of my points. I highly recommend watching these video's before making a video response to my video. This will allow you to see what other kinds of opinions are out there and if your point has already been completely refuted by someone else.

azsuperman - Tough Questions for Christians

Paul Harrison - Anathema

God Is Imaginary
- Why won't god heal Amputees? - GIIVideo Channel


Errors and Contradictions
More Errors and Contradictions

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Exorcism protected by 1st Amendment, Texas high court rules


The Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colleyville church Friday saying that church members involved in a traumatic exorcism that ultimately injured a young woman are protected by the First Amendment.

In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled that the Pleasant Glade Assembly of God’s efforts to cast out demons from the Laura Schubert presents an ecclesiastical dispute over religious conduct that would unconstitutionally entangle the court in church doctrine.

In a 1996 lawsuit against the church, Schubert described a wild night involving the casting out of demons from the church and two separate attempts to exorcise demons from her.

The 2002 trial of the suit never touched on the religious aspects of the case, and a Tarrant County jury found the church and its members liable for abusing and falsely imprisoning Schubert, who was 17 at the time. The jury awarded Schubert $300,000 for mental anguish, but the 2nd Court of Appeals in Fort Worth shaved $122,000 from the verdict for loss of future income.

But the church raised the question of whether the Fort Worth appeals court erred when it said Pleasant Glades’ First Amendment rights regarding freedom of religion do not prevent the church from being held liable for mental distress triggered by a "hyper-spiritualistic environment."

A majority of the court agreed, with Justice David Medina writing that while Schubert’s secular injury claims might "theoretically be tried without mentioning religion, the imposition of tort liability for engaging in religious activity to which the church members adhere would have an unconstitutional 'chilling effect’ by compelling the church to abandon core principles of its religious beliefs."

Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson was among the justices that disagreed with the majorities ruling, and in a dissenting opinion states that a church will simply have to claim a religious motive to deny a church member from bringing a claim against it.

"This sweeping immunity is inconsistent with United States Supreme Court precedent and extends far beyond the protections our Constitution affords religious conduct," Jefferson wrote. "The First Amendment guards religious liberty; it does not sanction intentional abuse in religion’s name."

Schubert testified in 2002 that she was cut and bruised and later experienced hallucinations as a result of the church members’ actions in 1996. She also said the incident led her to mutilate herself and attempt suicide. Schubert eventually sought psychiatric help.

But the church’s attorneys told a Tarrant County jury that Schubert’s psychological problems were caused by traumatic events she witnessed while with her parents who were serving as missionaries in Africa.

The church contended Schubert had "freaked out" about following her father’s life as a missionary and that she was acting out to gain attention.

After the 2002 verdict, Pleasant Glade merged with another congregation in Colleyville.
MAX B. BAKER, 817-390-7714

Friday, June 27, 2008

Va. Pagans Advertise Through Falwell-Secured School 'Backpack Mail'

A Pagan group in Albemarle County, Va., was recently given permission to advertise its multi-cultural holiday program to public school children - and they have the Rev. Jerry Falwell to thank for it.

The dispute started last summer when Gabriel and Joshua Rakoski, twins who attend Hollymead Elementary School, sought permission to distribute fliers about their church's Vacation Bible School to their peers via "backpack mail." Many public schools use special folders placed in student backpacks to distribute notices about school events, and sometimes extra-curricular activities, to parents.

School officials originally denied the request from the twins' father, Ray Rakoski, citing a school policy barring "distribution of literature that is for partisan, sectarian, religious or political purposes."

A Charlottesville weekly newspaper, The Hook, reported that Rakoski "sicced the Liberty Counsel on the county," and the policy was soon revised to allow religious groups to use the backpack mail system. Liberty Counsel is a Religious Right legal group founded by Mathew Staver and now affiliated with Falwell.

It wasn't long before other religious groups decided to take advantage of the newly opened forum. A group of Pagans who attend Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church, a Unitarian-Universalist congregation in Charlottesville, created a onepage flier advertising a Dec. 9 event celebrating the December holidays with a Pagan twist. They submitted it to the public school and had it distributed through the backpack system.

"Have you ever wondered what 'Holidays' refers to?" read the flier. "Everyone knows about Christmas - but what else are people celebrating in December? Why do we celebrate the way we do?"

The flier invited people to "an educational program for children of all ages (and their adults), where we'll explore the traditions of December and their origins, followed by a Pagan ritual to celebrate Yule."

It concluded, "Come for one or both parts and bring your curiosity."

A local parent who was involved in the effort later explained to Americans United that it was done partly to educate the community about the principle of fair play. Many members of the congregation are strong supporters of church-state separation who don't believe public schools should promote any religion. But they were also unwilling to cede the field to Falwell and his fundamentalist allies. Falwell opened the backpack forum, and the Pagans were determined to secure equal time.

The reaction from Christian conservatives in the area was predictable. They wanted access to the schools for their religion but not others.

Jeff Riddle, pastor of Jefferson Park Baptist Church in Charlottesville, wrote on his personal blog, "This kind of note adds weight to the argument that it is high time for Christians to leave public schools for reasonable alternatives (homeschooling and private Christian schools)."

Another conservative Christian blogger in the county complained about finding the Pagan flier in her child's folder. Apparently unaware of Falwell's role in bringing it about, the blogger who goes by the name Cathy, noted disclaimer language at the bottom of the flier stating that the event is not connected to the school and wrote, "They [the school officials] aren't endorsing or sponsoring this? Then it shouldn't have been included in the Friday folders. The Friday folders have never been used for any thing other than school work and school board and/or County sanctioned/sponsored programs."

She then fumed that a "pagan ritual" is "an educational experience my children don't need."

Parents in the county have asked Americans United to help the school system draft a new policy governing distribution of religious fliers. That task may be complicated by an opinion from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Ruling in a case from Montgomery County, Md., the appellate court struck down a policy giving school officials unilateral ability to exclude certain private groups from the backpack system.

Copyright Americans United for Separation of Church and State Feb 2007
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved

Thursday, June 26, 2008

More Apes (not monkeys dumbass, they have tails)

This is a wonderful series and goes along with a post from a few days ago.

This is the video clip I will be using for the Intro to my Vlogs on Youtube. I made it in Adobe After Effects.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Pastor arrested on child sex charge

FORT WORTH, Texas — A pastor has been arrested on accusations that he sexually assaulted a teen girl who attends his church.

James "Jay" Virtue Robinson IV, pastor of Southwood Baptist Church, surrendered at the Tarrant County Jail on Wednesday evening in response to an arrest warrant accusing him of sexual assault of a child, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. He was released after posting $20,000 bail.

Robinson has denied having a relationship with the girl. A phone listing for him was disconnected. His attorney, Cheyenne Minick, didn't immediately return a phone call Thursday from The Associated Press.

The girl, now 18, was 16 when she and Robinson, then the youth minister, struck up more than just a friendship, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. The relationship escalated to sexual touching, occurring about 10 times at the church, the affidavit states.

By the time she was 17, the relationship progressed to sexual intercourse. Robinson would pick her up from school and take her to his home, where they would have sex, the affidavit states.

The Fort Worth Police Department's crimes against children unit began investigating the case in March after the girl's father called police.

Police and church members say that after one Sunday evening service, the pastor addressed the congregation, saying that the girl and her parents were being manipulated by former church members whom he described as "wolves in sheep's clothing"

"We now have reason to believe that the preacher may actually be himself a wolf using the pulpit to prey on the sheep he's been charged to protect," said Lt. Paul Henderson, a police spokesman.

Story Link

Study: Chimps calm each other with hugs, kisses

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer Mon Jun 16, 9:16 PM ET

WASHINGTON - For most folks, a nice hug and some sympathy can help a bit after we get pushed around. Turns out, chimpanzees use hugs and kisses the same way. And it works. Researchers studying people's closest genetic relatives found that stress was reduced in chimps that were victims of aggression if a third chimp stepped in to offer consolation.

"Consolation usually took the form of a kiss or embrace," said Dr. Orlaith N. Fraser of the Research Center in Evolutionary Anthropology and Paleoecology at Liverpool John Moores University in England.

"This is particularly interesting," she said, because this behavior is rarely seen other than after a conflict.

"If a kiss was used, the consoler would press his or her open mouth against the recipient's body, usually on the top of the head or their back. An embrace consisted of the consoler wrapping one or both arms around the recipient."

The result was a reduction of stress behavior such as scratching or self-grooming by the victim of aggression, Fraser and colleagues report in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Frans de Waal of the Yerkes Primate Center at Emory University in Atlanta said the study is important because it shows the relationship between consolation and stress reduction. Previous researchers have claimed that consolation had no effect on stress, said de Waal, who was not part of Fraser's research team.

"This study removes doubt that consolation really does what the term suggests: provide relief to distressed parties after conflict. The evidence is compelling and makes it likely that consolation behavior is an expression of empathy," de Waal said.

De Waal suggested that this evidence of empathy in apes is "perhaps equivalent to what in human children is called 'sympathetic concern.'"

That behavior in children includes touching and hugging of distressed family members and "is in fact identical to that of apes, and so the comparison is not far-fetched," he said.

While chimps show this empathy, monkeys do not, he added.

There is also suggestive evidence of such behavior in large-brained birds and dogs, said Fraser, but it has not yet been shown that it reduces stress levels in those animals.

Previous research on conflict among chimps concentrated on cases where there is reconciliation between victim and aggressor, with little attention to intervention by a third party.

Fraser and colleagues studied a group of chimps at the Chester Zoo in England from January 2005 to September 2006, recording instances of aggression such as a bite, hit, rush, trample, chase or threat.

The results show that "chimpanzees calm distressed recipients of aggression by consoling them with a friendly gesture," Fraser said.

Consolation was most likely to occur between chimpanzees who already had valuable relationships, she added.

The research was supported by the Leakey Trust.

The Mystery of Mass Extinctions Is No Longer Murky

The Mystery of Mass Extinctions Is No Longer Murky
Wednesday, June 18, 2008 :: infoZine Staff
Science & TechnologyEbb and flow of the sea is the primary cause of the world's mass extinctions over the past 500 million years

Washington, D.C. - infoZine - If you are curious about Earth's periodic mass extinction events such as the sudden demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, you might consider crashing asteroids and sky-darkening super volcanoes as culprits.

But a new study, published June 15, 2008, in the journal Nature, suggests that it is the ocean, and in particular the epic ebbs and flows of sea level and sediment over the course of geologic time, that is the primary cause of the world's periodic mass extinctions over the past 500 million years.

"The expansions and contractions of those environments have pretty profound effects on life on Earth," says Shanan Peters, a University of Wisconsin-Madison assistant professor of geology and geophysics and the author of the new Nature report. In short, according to Peters, changes in ocean environments related to sea level exert a driving influence on rates of extinction, which animals and plants survive or vanish, and generally determine the composition of life in the oceans.

Since the advent of life on Earth 3.5 billion years ago, scientists think there may have been as many as 23 mass extinction events, many involving simple forms of life such as single-celled microorganisms. Over the past 540 million years, there have been five well-documented mass extinctions, primarily of marine plants and animals, with as many as 75-95 percent of species lost. For the most part, scientists have been unable to pin down the causes of such dramatic events. In the case of the demise of the dinosaurs, scientists have a smoking gun, an impact crater that suggests dinosaurs were wiped out as the result of a large asteroid crashing into the planet. But the causes of other mass extinction events have been murky, at best.

"No matter what the ultimate driving extinction mechanisms might be at any one time, Professor Peters brings the repeated and resultant extinction on oceanic shelves front and forward where it belongs," says National Science Foundation (NSF) Program Manager Rich Lane. "This breakthrough speaks loudly to the future impending modern shelf extinction due to climate change on Earth."

Paleontologists have been chipping away at the causes of mass extinctions for almost 60 years, according to Peters, whose work was supported by NSF. "Impacts, for the most part, aren't associated with most extinctions. There have also been studies of volcanism, and some eruptions correspond to extinction, but many do not."

Arnold I. Miller, a paleobiologist and professor of geology at the University of Cincinnati, says the new study is striking because it establishes a clear relationship between the tempo of mass extinction events and changes in sea level and sediment: "Over the years, researchers have become fairly dismissive of the idea that marine mass extinctions like the great extinction of the Late Permian might be linked to sea-level declines, even though these declines are known to have occurred many times throughout the history of life. The clear relationship this study documents will motivate many to rethink their previous views."

Peters measured two principal types of marine shelf environments preserved in the rock record, one where sediments are derived from erosion of land and the other composed primarily of calcium carbonate, which is produced in-place by shelled organisms and by chemical processes. "The physical differences between these two types of marine environments have important biological consequences," Peters explains noting differences in sediment stability, temperature and the availability of nutrients and sunlight.

In the course of hundreds of millions of years the world's oceans have expanded and contracted in response to the shifting of the Earth's tectonic plates and to changes in climate. There were periods of the planet's history when vast areas of the continents were flooded by shallow seas such as the shark and mosasaur infested seaway that neatly split North America during the age of the dinosaurs.

As those epicontinental seas drained, animals like mosasaurs and giant sharks went extinct, and conditions on the marine shelves where life exhibited its greatest diversity in the form of things like clams and snails changed as well. The new Wisconsin study, Peters says, does not preclude other influences on extinction such as physical events like volcanic eruptions or killer asteroids, or biological influences such as disease and competition among species. But what it does do, he argues, is provide a common link to mass extinction events over a significant stretch of Earth history.

"The major mass extinctions tend to be treated in isolation by scientists," Peters says. "This work links them and smaller events in terms of a forcing mechanism, and it also tells us something about who survives and who doesn't across these boundaries. These results argue for a substantial fraction of change in extinction rates being controlled by just one environmental parameter."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Law Sanctifies Child Homicide in Name of Faith
Memorialize 11-Year-Old Madeline by Removing Faith Exemption

March 28, 2008
As a memorial to the painful, frightening and needless death of Madeline Kara Neumann, the Wisconsin Legislature needs to finally show some gumption, and remove from the statutes its exemption sanctifying child homicide in the name of faith.

Statement by Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor
Freedom From Religion Foundation Co-Presidents

The death of an 11-year-old child from illness is always tragic, but what puts Madeline Kara Neumann's death last Sunday in a different class is that it is unforgiveable. Madeleine's long descent into diabetic ketoacidosis was unnecessary, preventable and the result of willful negligence on the part of her bible-believing parents.

It's one thing for an adult to choose prayer over medicine. But it is sheer child sacrifice to permit parents to eschew medical diagnosis and treatment of ill offspring. Parents do not own their children, much less have the right to endanger their children's lives by callously disregarding medical needs in the name of religion.

What's even more appalling is the ambivalent reaction: "Ethicists say case unclear," reports the Wausau Daily Herald. The Herald quoted bioethicist Dr. Norman Fost of the University of Wisconsin Medical school warning that it's important not to be moralistic or pass judgment on parents who think they can heal a child through prayer: "They believe they're helping their child; they love their child, and they believe prayer has an effect."

However deluded the parents may be, the rest of us need not countenance or indulge that dangerous delusion.

Dean Zuleger, the administrator of the Village of Weston, was quoted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel saying, "There is a general sense of grief and sadness. Because I know the family a bit, there is a great deal of concern for their well-being." The parents' well-being?

"Death draws out difficult issues" read a headline in the Journal Sentinel. While Madeline's drawn-out death, involving nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst, weight loss and weakness, is very difficult to read about, there is nothing difficult at all about deciding where the blame lies. "The prayer of faith will heal the sick," according to James 5:15. The fault lies in society's laudatory attitude toward a "holy book" which teaches superstition and faith-healing, whose passages are latched onto by bible literalists, and whose obedience to such injunctions has been given a pass in the criminal statutes of many states.

The mother, Leilani Neumann, of Weston, Wis., publicly announced: "We need healing. We are going through the healing process." What about the healing process her daughter required? This helpless dependent of a middle-class family had last seen a doctor at the age of three, and recently had been pulled out of public schools for religious home-schooling, possibly to cover up symptoms of her illness, which, according to medical experts, would have surfaced at least six months ago.

Legally, the question will revolve over whether the family recognized the seriousness of the illness. A chronology has emerged which belies the family's claim that they did not realize how sick Madeline was, including logs of their calls around the country to relatives (who notified authorities just before her death that Madeline was seriously ill) and to David Eels, whose Unleavened Bread Ministries operates Eels, of Pensacola, Fla., admitted he prayed for Madeline the day before she died, and that the family phoned him Sunday, as they followed an ambulance with their dead daughter to the hospital, asking him "if I would pray that the Lord would spare her and raise her up, which I did."

Leilani Neumann told reporters she and her husband are not worried about an investigation because "our lives are in God's hands. We know we did not do anything criminal. We know we did the best for our daughter we knew how to do."

Their "best" was not good enough. Nor is the religious exemption provided for by Wisconsin statutes, similar to what many states have adopted under pressure of the Christian Science lobby. What they don't realize is that doing nothing to help their daughter is parental negligence, which is criminal. The parents can still be charged, at least with some form of negligence or child abuse. But more action is required.

As a memorial to the painful, frightening and needless death of Madeline Kara Neumann, the Wisconsin Legislature needs to finally show some gumption, and remove from the statutes its callous exemption sanctifying child homicide in the name of faith.
Freedom From Religion Foundation • PO Box 750 • Madison, WI 53701 • (608) 256-8900 • contact us
© Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Six 'uniquely' human traits now found in animals

* 17:11 22 May 2008
* news service
* Kate Douglas

To accompany the article So you think humans are unique? we have selected six articles from the New Scientist archive that tell a similar story. We have also asked the researchers involved to update us on their latest findings. Plus, we have rounded up six videos of animals displaying 'human' abilities.

1. Culture

Art, theatre, literature, music, religion, architecture and cuisine – these are the things we generally associate with culture. Clearly no other animal has anything approaching this level of cultural sophistication. But culture at its core is simply the sum of a particular group's characteristic ways of living, learned from one another and passed down the generations, and other primate species undoubtedly have practices that are unique to groups, such as a certain way of greeting each other or obtaining food.

Even more convincing examples of animal cultures are found in cetaceans. Killer whales, for example, fall into two distinct groups, residents and transients. Although both live in the same waters and interbreed, they have very different social structures and lifestyles, distinct ways of communicating, different tastes in food and characteristic hunting techniques – all of which parents teach to offspring.

Read the original article: Culture shock (24 March 2001)

Hal Whitehead, Dalhousie University writes:

"Since our 2001 review, people have often considered culture as a potential explanation of the behavioural patterns that have turned up in their studies of whales and dolphins.

"Our own work has concentrated on the non-vocal forms of sperm-whale culture. The different cultural clans of sperm whales, although in basically the same areas, use these waters very differently, and are affected very differently by El Niño events. They also have different reproductive rates.

"In sperm whales, and likely other whales and dolphins, culture has the potential to affect population biology, and so issues as diverse as genetic evolution and the impacts of global warming on the species."

2. Mind reading

Perhaps the surest sign that an individual has insight into the mind of another is the ability to deceive. To outwit someone you must understand their desires, intentions and motives – exactly the same ability that underpins the "theory of mind". This ability to attribute mental states to others was once thought unique to humans, emerging suddenly around the fifth year of life. But the discovery that babies are capable of deception led experts to conclude that "mind-reading" skills develop gradually, and fueled debate about whether they might be present in other primates.

Experiments in the 1990s indicated that great apes and some monkeys do understand deception, but that their understanding of the minds of others is probably implicit rather than explicit as it is in adult humans.

Read the original article: Liar! Liar! (14 February 1998)

Marc Hauser, Harvard University, writes:

"The tamarin work didn't pan out, but there are now several studies that show evidence of theory of mind in primates, including work by Brian Hare, Josep Call, Mike Tomasello, Felix Warneken, Laurie Santos, Justin Wood, and myself on chimps, rhesus monkeys and tamarins. There is nothing quite like a successful Sally-Anne test, but studies point to abilities such as seeing as a form of knowing, reading intentions and goals."

3. Tool use

Some chimps use rocks to crack nuts, others fish for termites with blades of grass and a gorilla has been seen gauging the depth of water with the equivalent of a dipstick, but no animal wields tools with quite the alacrity of the New Caledonian crow. To extract tasty insects from crevices, they craft a selection of hooks and long, barbed tapers called stepped-cut tools, made by intricately cutting a pandanus leaf with their beaks. What's more, experiments in the lab suggest that they understand the function of tools and deploy creativity and planning to construct them.

Nobody is suggesting that toolmaking has common origins in humans and crows, but there is a remarkable similarity in the ways in which their respective brains work. Both are highly lateralised, revealed in the observation that most crows are right-beaked – cutting pandanus leaves using the right side of their beaks. New Caledonian crows may force us to reassess the mental abilities of our first toolmaking ancestors.

Read the original article: Look, no hands (17 August 2002)

Gavin Hunt at the University of Aukland, writes:

"The general aim of our research on New Caledonian crows is to determine how a 'bird brain' can produce such complex tools and tool behaviour. Since the New Scientist article appeared in 2002, our team has focused on continuing to document tool manufacture and use in the wild (New Zealand Journal of Zoology, vol 35 p 115), the development of tool skills in free-living juveniles, the social behaviour and ecology of NC crows on the island of Maré, experimental work investigating NC crows' physical cognition and general intelligence, and neurological work.

"Some of this work is being undertaken collaboratively with laboratories in Germany (neurology) and New Zealand (genotyping). A very similar study is also being carried out independently at the University of Oxford. This parallel research has produced findings that are both confirmatory and conflicting."

Alex Kacelnik, University of Oxford, adds:

"We now know for sure that genetics is involved in the tool-making abilities of new Caledonian crows. We raised nestlings by hand and found that chicks that had never seen anybody handle objects of any kind started to use tools to extract food from crevices at a similar age to those who were exposed to human tutors using tools (Animal Behaviour, vol 72, p 1329). Clearly, observing others is not necessary for the tool use. However chicks exposed to tutoring exhibit a greater intensity of tool-related activity. Not surprisingly, genes and experience show a complex interaction.

"We have also developed a new technique, consisting of loading tiny video cameras on free-ranging birds, so as to see what they see and document the precise use of tools in nature. We have discovered that they use tools in loose soil, that they use a kind of tool not previously described (grass stems), and that they hunt for vertebrates (lizards). All of this, together with laboratory analysis of their cognitive abilities is forming a richer picture of what the species can do."

4. Morality

A classic study in 1964 found that hungry rhesus monkeys would not take food they had been offered if doing so meant that another monkey received an electric shock. The same is true of rats. Does this indicate nascent morality? For decades, we have preferred to find alternative explanations, but recently ethologist Marc Bekoff from the University of Colorado at Boulder has championed the view that humans are not the only moral species. He argues that morality is common in social mammals, and that during play they learn the rights and wrongs of social interaction, the "moral norms that can then be extended to other situations such as sharing food, defending resources, grooming and giving care".

Read the original article: Virtuous nature (13 July 2002)

Marc Bekoff, University of Colorado, writes:

"Work published this year showed that animals are able to make social evaluations and these assessments are foundational for moral behaviour in animals other than humans. Francys Subiaul of the George Washington University and his colleagues showed that captive chimpanzees are able to make judgments about the reputation of unfamiliar humans by observing their behaviour - whether they were generous or stingy in giving food to other humans. The ability to make character judgments is just what we would expect to find in a species in which fairness and cooperation are important in interactions among group members (Animal Cognition, DOI: 10.1007/s10071-008-0151-6)."

5. Emotions

Emotions allow us to bond with others, regulate our social interactions and make it possible to behave flexibly in different situations. We are not the only animals that need to do these things, so why should we be the only ones with emotions? There are many examples of apparent emotional behavior in other animals.

Elephants caring for a crippled herd member seem to show empathy. A funeral ritual performed by magpies suggests grief. Was it spite that led a male baboon called Nick to take revenge on a rival by urinating on her? Divers who freed a humpback whale caught in a crab line describe its reaction as one of gratitude. Then there's the excited dance chimps perform when faced with a waterfall – it looks distinctly awe-inspired. These days, few doubt that animals have emotions, but whether they feel these consciously, as we do, is open to debate.

Read the original article: Do animals have emotions? (23 May 2007)

6. Personality

It's no surprise that animals that live under constant threat from predators are extra-cautious, while those that face fewer risks appear to be more reckless. After all, such successful survival strategies would evolve by natural selection. But the discovery that individuals of the same species, living under the same conditions, vary in their degree of boldness or caution is more remarkable. In humans we would refer to such differences as personality traits.

From cowardly spiders and reckless salamanders to aggressive songbirds and fearless fish, we are finding that many animals are not as characterless as we might expect. What's more, work with animals has led to the idea that personality traits evolve to help individuals survive in a wider variety of ecological niches, and this is influencing the way psychologists think about human personality.

Read the original article: Critters with attitude (3 June 2001)

For an update on animal personalities and how research in this area is throwing light on human behaviour read The personality factor.