Friday, January 30, 2015

Yes, Virginia, there really was a Jesus of Nazareth

By Donald Sensing

23 Historical Things We Know For Certain About Jesus. | Historical Jesus studies

It is not trivial that many of the historians cited here are not Christians, and in some cases claim no religion at all.

The neo-atheists' claim (not all of them say it) that Jesus is an invented character just doesn't hold up. "Explanations must explain," and denial of one explanation does not itself constitute another explanation. And the thing to be explained is why the Church came into being when it it did, on the basis that it did. For the Church has claimed since the mid-first century that it was founded by the shock and awe of Jesus of Nazareth having been executed then raised from the dead. The skeptics promoting the theory that all of that is a "later legend" invention are still faced with the incontrovertible fact that (a) the Church had a definite beginning in time and place that is not disputed, and (b) that the Church has always claimed its founding was due to one specific thing: the death and resurrection of Jesus.

So the later skeptics do not persuade when they offer no historically rooted explanation of why, absent the resurrection, the Church even started. But I have not seen any such explanation except, perhaps, his disciples tried gamely to carry on with Jesus' ethical and religious work but soon found that there was some extra "oomph" needed to keep it going. And even that lacks historical evidence.

I was talking to a US Marine Corps veteran one time and we briefly discussed the story of the founding of the Marine Corps. Marine lore has it that the Corps was founded in a bar, Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, to be exact. It was there that the first Marine Corps recruitment drive was held.

Now here is the question: Let us suppose that I, playing the part of a skeptic, say that the USMC was not actually founded at Tun Tavern, and that Tun Tavern probably never actually existed in the first place. Yet the USMC undeniably exists.

If I expect anyone to believe me, then wouldn't I also have to explain why would the USMC later make it up, and why? The Corps already would have existed if it had been founded elsewhere, elsewhen. What is gained by suppressing the true founding and inventing Tun Tavern?

And critically, would I not have to provide actual historical evidence of the USMC's real-though-suppressed founding? Otherwise, there's nothing but the smokescreen of an argument clinic.

The same question applies to the stories about the resurrection of Jesus. Later-legend theorists can't just present us with their own counter claim that the resurrection is a later invention. They need to provide what the suppressed reasons were for the founding of the Church, why they were suppressed and why this particular legend was substituted.

And they have to do it all by presenting compelling, historically-rooted proofs. But they don't because they can't.


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Astrobiologist exposes Hype about "Earth-like” Planets

By Donald Sensing

Be Skeptical of the Hype in the Search for “Earth-like” Planets

If your only sources of information on new exoplanet discoveries are news articles like Seth Borenstein’s breathless AP report from November 2013, “Study: 8.8 billion Earth- size, just-right planets,” you will be misled about what it takes for a planet to be habitable. NASA’s Kepler space telescope has yielded a treasure trove of exoplanet discoveries — just over 4,000 at most recent count. As an astrobiologist, I am very excited to have a steady stream of new exoplanet data available to conduct my research on the properties of stars hosting planets.

Observational astronomers like Geoff Marcy estimate the number of potentially habitable (“Earth-like”) planets in the Milky Way galaxy by extrapolating from a small number of roughly Earth-sized planets we’ve found orbiting in the Goldilocks zones around “sun-like” stars. Never mind that these three parameters are often very liberally defined. More importantly, there is a world of difference (pun intended) between “Earth-size” and “Earth-like.” ...
 Research is making it increasingly obvious that habitability depends on far more than a few planetary “ingredients” — the few we usually hear about in the breathless news stories about “Earth-like” planets.
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They killed Sadat; is Al-Sisi next?

By Donald Sensing

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is no friend of Islamism and especially of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928. Very early this year, al-Sisi went to Cairo's Al-Azhar University and verbally attacked Islamism head on.

Al-Azhar University was founded almost 1,200 years ago and is probably the oldest university in the world, as we understand today what makes a university. It is the uncontested center of Islamic studies and scholarship in the world, with a rich curriculum in secular subjects, too.

So when President el-Sisi goes to this renowned arena to call for "religious revolution" to rebut and defeat Islamism, a real line has been drawn in the sand to signal the Muslim Brotherhood and all its Islamist offsrping (which is just about all Islamist groups there are, one way or another).

And now the MB has signaled back that it it is willing to cross the line. In Egypt the MB's members have gone on their own TV channels to call for President el-Sisi to be killed.

El-Sisi is no dummy, of course. He knows that Islamists connected with the Muslim Brotherhood assassinated former President Anwar Sadat in 1981 for making peace with Israel. (They also killed 10 others in the public-venue attack.) That killing had been preceded by a fatwa calling for his death, issued by Omar Abdel-Rahman, who was later convicted in the US for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

If there was ever a time for the Obama administration to show some of that "smart diplomacy" it's been bragging about for six years, this would be it. Whatever can be done to buttress el-Sisi's defiance of Islamism should be done.

But the American administration has no truck with anyone in Egypt right now, on any side. First, the administration denies that Islamism has anything to do with Islam (denies, in fact, that there is even such a thing as Islamism).

Second, el-Sisi signaled clearly six months ago that he has no respect for the American president or his secretary of state, so don't look for anything useful to come out of Washington about this development.

Update: As predicted, "Open Jihad Declared in Egypt Following State Dept. Meeting with Muslim Brotherhood-Aligned Leaders"
The Muslim Brotherhood called for “a long, uncompromising jihad” in Egypt just days after a delegation of the Islamist group’s key leaders and allies met with the State Department, according to an official statement released this week.

Just days after a delegation that included two top Brotherhood leaders was hosted at the State Department, the organization released an official statement calling on its supporters to “prepare” for jihad, according to an independent translation of the statement first posted on Tuesday.

The State Department meeting was attended by a deputy assistant secretary for democracy, human rights, and labor and other State Department officials.

The Muslim Brotherhood statement also was issued just two days before a major terror attack Thursday in Egypt’s lawless Sinai region that killed at least 25.

“It is incumbent upon everyone to be aware that we are in the process of a new phase, where we summon what is latent in our strength, where we recall the meanings of jihad and prepare ourselves, our wives, our sons, our daughters, and whoever marched on our path to a long, uncompromising jihad, and during this stage we ask for martyrdom,” it states.
The Brotherhood’s slogan is, “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Quran is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.” There is no reason to believe that they do not mean it.

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Seattle taxman going after garbage

By Donald Sensing

Seattle government now going through citizens’ trash for public shaming, revenue

Let me tell you how it will be.

It is now against the law to throw away food scraps in Seattle. If you exceed the maximum food-garbage allowance of 10 percent (by weight? by volume? they don't say) then you will be fined.

Which, one suspects, is really the main motivation behind the whole rule. Cui bono, "follow the money" and all that.

Let me tell you how it will be
There's one for you, nineteen for me
Cos I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman

Should five per cent appear too small
Be thankful I don't take it all
Cos I'm the taxman, yeah I'm the taxman

If you drive a car, I'll tax the street
If you try to sit, I'll tax your seat
If you get too cold I'll tax the heat
If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet

Cos I'm the taxman, yeah I'm the taxman

Don't ask me what I want it for (Aahh Mr. Wilson)
If you don't want to pay some more (Aahh Mr. Heath)
Cos I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman

Now my advice for those who die
Declare the pennies on your eyes
Cos I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman

And you're working for no one but me

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Out: Islamophobia. In: Christianophobia!

By Donald Sensing

Sociologists: 'Christianophobia,' Anti-Christian Hostility Infects Powerful Elite Subculture
A small, but elite group of Americans demonstrate signs of anti-Christian hostility, sociologists David Williamson and George Yancey claim in their new book, So Many Christians, So Few Lions: Is There Christianophobia in the United States? ...

In the minds of many of the respondents Christians are ignorant, intolerant and stupid individuals who are unable to think for themselves. The general image they have of Christians is that they are a backward, non-critical thinking, child-like people who do not like science and want to interfere with the lives of everyone else.

But even worse, they see ordinary Christians as having been manipulated by evil Christian leaders and will vote in whatever way those leaders want. They believe that those leaders are trying to set up a theocracy to force everybody to accept their Christian beliefs. So, for some with Christianophobia, this is a struggle for our society and our ability to move toward a progressive society. Christians are often seen as the great evil force that blocks our society from achieving this progressive paradise.
In other words, they are completely typical progressives (that is, Leftists) who, in their characterization of Christians described above, perfectly summarize progressive orthodoxy enforces on its own side (see Chait, Jonathan). Moreover,
...unlike other types of intolerances, those who exhibited Christianophobia do not tend to think that they are intolerant. Usually those who do not like blacks or Muslims admit that they are intolerant but simply try to justify their intolerance. Those with Christianophobia tend to deny that they are intolerant but rather that they are fairly interpreting social reality. Envisioning themselves as fair and free of intolerance allows them to blame those they detest rather than recognize how their emotions have distorted their intellectual judgments.
You know, they call themselves the "reality-based community."

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Prominent Atheist Professor says Intelligent Design is Plausible

By Donald Sensing

Prominent Atheist Professor of Law and Philosophy Thomas Nagel Calls Intelligent Design Scientific and Constitutional to "Mention" in Science Classes

Prof. Thomas Nagel has published an important essay entitled, "Public Education and Intelligent Design", in the Wiley InterScience Journal Philosophy & Public Affairs, Vol. 36, issue 2, on-line at <>  His paper is a significant because it encourages all intelligent, educated, informed individuals to consider that intelligent design may be a valid scientific approach to understanding how DNA and the complex chemical systems of life came to attain their present form. Prof. Nagel's article is well worth the price (fee for access US $29.95).  He is a self-declared atheist who earned his PhD. in philosophy at Harvard, has been a professor at U.C. Berkeley, Princeton, and for the last 28 years at New York University, and has published ten books and more than 60 articles.

Prof. Nagel tells us that he "has for a long time been skeptical of the claims of traditional evolutionary theory to be the whole story about the history of life" (p. 202). He reports that it is "difficult to find in the accessible literature the grounds" for these claims.

Moreover, he goes farther. He reports that the "presently available evidence" comes "nothing close" to establishing "the sufficiency of standard evolutionary mechanisms to account for the entire evolution of life" (p. 199).

He notes that his judgment is supported by two prominent scientists (Marc Kirschner and John Gerhart, writing in the Oct. 2005 book Plausibility of Life), who also recognized that (prior to offering their own theory, at least) the "available evidence" did not "decisively settle[]" whether mutations in DNA "are entirely due to chance" (p. 191). And he cites one Stuart Kauffman, a "complexity theorist who defends a naturalistic theory of emergence," that random mutation "is not sufficient" to explain DNA (p. 192).
This is basically the same rationale that the 20th century's leading philosophical atheist, Antony Flew, used finally to reject atheism and declare he was a deist. He said,
There were two factors in particular that were decisive. One was my growing empathy with the insight of Einstein and other noted scientists that there had to be an Intelligence behind the integrated complexity of the physical Universe. The second was my own insight that the integrated complexity of life itself—which is far more complex than the physical Universe—can only be explained in terms of an Intelligent Source. I believe that the origin of life and reproduction simply cannot be explained from a biological standpoint despite numerous efforts to do so. With every passing year, the more that was discovered about the richness and inherent intelligence of life, the less it seemed likely that a chemical soup could magically generate the genetic code. The difference between life and non-life, it became apparent to me, was ontological and not chemical. The best confirmation of this radical gulf is Richard Dawkins' comical effort to argue in The God Delusion that the origin of life can be attributed to a "lucky chance." If that's the best argument you have, then the game is over. No, I did not hear a Voice. It was the evidence itself that led me to this conclusion.

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State Dept.: Beheadings not "religious"

By Donald Sensing

It is becoming impossible to satirize this administration any more because it keeps outpacing my satiric abilities. For example:

Meanwhile, the new Saudi King Salman apparently did not get that memo: "Three more beheaded under new Saudi king"
Riyadh (AFP) - Saudi Arabia on Tuesday beheaded two more of its citizens and a Pakistani, continuing the strictest punishment under new King Salman.

Omar bin Yahya bin Ibrahim al-Barkati was tried and convicted of incest, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

"He was executed as punishment for his crime and as a lesson to others," the ministry said, adding that authorities carried out the sentence in southwestern Asir region.

In a separate case, Yassir bin Hussein al-Hamza was executed in northwestern Jawf region after his trial and confession for smuggling amphetamine pills, the ministry said.

A third convict, Latif Khan Nurzada, a Pakistani, was executed for trafficking heroin into the kingdom. He was executed in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, the ministry said in another statement.

According to an AFP tally, their executions bring to 16 the number of Saudis and foreigners put to death this year under the kingdom's strict version of Islamic sharia law [italics added].
Get that? They were "put to death under ... Islamic sharia law." Quick, send that Islamic scholar and authority Rick Stengel to Riyadh to educate those stupid Muslim judges there how Islam has nothing to do with the sentences they adjudged because of Islamic law!

As I posted last week, we are still wondering, "Does Islam Have Anything to do With Islam?" Apparently not, at least in the cloud cuckoo land of the US State Department.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Incredible Drone Video of Auschwitz Today

By Donald Sensing

Auschwitz: Drone video of Nazi concentration camp

Drone video shows the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp as it is today - 70 years after it was liberated by Soviet troops. The camp in Poland is now maintained as a World Heritage Site and is visited by thousands of tourists and survivors every year. Auschwitz was the largest camp established by the Germans during World War II. More than a million people - the vast majority of them Jews - died there between 1940, when it was built, and 1945, when it was liberated by the Soviet army.

Railway tracks into Auschwitz-Birkenau - Trains filled with victims from throughout occupied Europe arrived at the camp almost every day between 1942 and the summer of 1944.

Ruins of wooden huts at Birkenau - Birkenau (or Auschwitz II) was erected in 1941 solely as a death camp, the wooden huts are now in ruins with only brick fireplaces and chimneys remaining.

Entrance to Auschwitz I -The wrought-iron sign over the entrance bears the words Arbeit Macht Frei - "Work sets you free".

Auschwitz I - The brick-built buildings were the former cavalry barracks of the Polish Army.

Courtyard between blocks 10 and 11 at Auschwitz I - Block 11 was called "the Block of Death" by prisoners. Executions took place between Block 10 and Block 11 and posts in the yard were used to string up prisoners by their wrists.

Auschwitz Birkenau is now a museum run by the Polish Culture Ministry, and a Unesco world heritage site.

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But century-long climate modeling is still perfect

By Donald Sensing

The National Weather Service says it will evaluate how it models forecasting after its blown forecast for the big storm in the Northeast.

But don't worry, the computer models used to forecast the climate over the entire Earth for periods of a century or more are flawless and without error.

"It was a storm of hysteric proportions" -- Peter Shalen
"What we lack in accuracy about weather we make up for in certainty about climate" -- Jeffrey Satinover

Monday, January 26, 2015

The blizzard is televised

By Donald Sensing

Update, Jan. 27: NYC snow shutdown a bust: "There Is Basically No Snow In New York — But, Absurdly, The Entire City Is Shut Down"

From last evening: Here is a grab from NBC's live snow cam. This is 7 p.m. Jan 26. I'll post comparo pix tomorrow morning.

Here is the comparo pic, grabbed at 9.20 a.m. Jan 27:

And here is a grab from a live stream set up by a weather photographer in Queens, same time stamp.

And here is this morning's grab, 9.25 EST. Definitely a bigger accumulation there:


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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Friday, January 23, 2015

Does Islam Have Anything to do With Islam?

By Donald Sensing

I have posted recently why Muslim "moderates" fail to persuade me with their disclaimers that Islamist terrorism and murders have nothing to do with Islam,  (I use scare quotes because what Muslim moderate really means  is, "doesn't kill people" when such nonviolent Muslims may be as absolutist and dedicated to total Islamic triumph as the most die-hard, sword wielding ISIS jihadis).

See here and here, for example.

Pat Condell comes to the logical conclusion that what we are being asked to believe is that Islam has nothing to do with Islam, actually.

In August 2002 I posted that "Islam is what Muslims do" (no longer online) because Islam is exclusively a religion of deeds - deeds of merit or condemnation. Sayyid Qutb, Egyptian author, educator, Islamic theorist, poet, and the leading member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s and 1960s, put it this way:

The basis of the Islamic message is that one should accept the shari’ah without any question and reject all other laws, whatever their shape or form. This is Islam. There is no other meaning of Islam.
Sharia is Islamic law. It is the code of conduct that encompasses every aspect of human life and society. Living faithfully as a Muslim means, as Qutb wrote, doing what sharia requires and not doing what it forbids. That is all. There is nothing else to Islam. Islam is not a "personal religion" as Christianity is, according to Muslim jurist Sam Solomon. A Muslim's feelings or intellect matter not a whit in being justified before Allah. Allah is a sort of cosmic Yoda: "Try not. Do or do not. There is no try."

Professor Bala Ambati, writing in Duke University's "Chronicle" newspaper, later echoed my point:
Religions are defined not only by ideals but by realities, not just by their deepest and most beautiful insights, but by their adherents' behavior. . . . When moderate Muslims state terrorist attacks are disconnected from Islam, they ignore the reality that Islamic fundamentalist imperialists act in the name of Islam and Muslims, claiming "true Islam's" mantle from conspicuously absent moderates. . . . Until the realization that theocracies cannot be democracies dawns throughout the Islamic world, saying terrorism is disconnected from Islam is a smokescreen employed to abdicate responsibility to face reality.
Unless the "moderates" can present a more compelling case to 1.3 billion Muslims worldwide on what they mean by true Islam, they will lose the ideological, hence behavioral, war. And right now they are losing.

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