Sunday, September 14, 2014

#GamerGate and gaming content

Several years ago, when I played World of Warcraft (WoW) as many hours as I could, there was an interesting phenomenon with respect to the way that your player character dressed. The more armor that was visible on a male character, the better protected they were against the dangers of the game. Conversely; the less armor that was visible on a female character, the better protected she was against the dangers of the game. This phenomenon led to the joke that if you ever saw a female character running toward you wearing only pasties and a g-string, you had better run the other way as fast as you could!

If you assumption of a "gamer" is an adolescent, straight boy, then it could be seen as a reward for your character to become more skimpily dressed the more work you put into them. For others, this isn't the case. Blizzard helped tremendously with this problem by allowing players to change the look of the armor they were wearing to suit their own purpose. Suddenly you could be a female, playing a female character, and not look like a teenage boy's idea of a stripper.

It seems like GamerGate (Wikipedia link) might have started from the dislike of Zoe Quinn (Wikipedia link). It seems like after her game was published, she was accused of sleeping her way to better reviews by her ex-boyfriend. Later, the GamerGate cry expanded to Anita Sarkeesian (Wikipedia link) and her video series Tropes VS Women (feministfrequency YouTube channel) exploring the problems of the way women are treated by game designers. And finally, the GamerGate tags began to point toward game reviewers that weren't publishing reviews that "gamers" liked, such as GameSpot's Dead Rising 3 Review Justifies why we need #GamerGate (article link).

I have spent days reading over the material that people would send me on Twitter from the #GamerGate hash tag, but with few exceptions, it all turns out the same. People that like games don't want to take a risk that they won't be able to laugh at transsexuals or flamboyant gay stereotypes. They won't get to view scantily clad (sometimes dead) women under the guise of a video game. Or, heaven forbid, someone might make games for a broader demographic.

But what they fail to see is that there are more people that like to play games than just them. Some of us are women, or gay, or transsexual, or any other minority group. We want games for us where we aren't forced to look at degrading caricatures of ourselves or those we care about. If the aforementioned gamers really want the zenith of their gaming experience to be shanking a prostitute in Grand Theft Auto, I have no problem with that. But for those of us that want something different from our gaming experience, or simply don't want to feel degraded every time we play a game, we deserve the same consideration, development, and thoughtful reviews as the other gamers.

Everyone might not have been happy with the way that WoW developed over the years. I'm sure some people wanted wall to wall breasts every time they logged into the game. Regardless, Blizzard found a way where, if we couldn't all get along, at least we could all tolerate each other and the game.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

How God Made the Earth: Part 1

How God Made the Earth: Part 1

Hi, and welcome to another edition of modeling scripture. After going over the source material, I'm going to cut this model into two pieces. There is just too much information presented for one long blog post. Even the first part is really long due to it covering the entire chapter of Genesis 1. I do hope that you will read the post, or at least read the notes and get the feel of the order of creation and where we go wrong in reading this particular scripture.

TL:DR

Day 0: Forget your current knowledge.
Day 1: Light and Darkness.
Day 2: Firmament to divide the waters above from the waters below.
Day 3: Gathered waters below, formed land, created plants.
Day 4: Sun, moon, and stars; placing them in the firmament.
Day 5: Flying things and sea creatures (fish, etc...)
Day 6: Land creatures, insects, man, and woman.

It can be really difficult to understand the Bible for what it says instead of what we think it should say. It can be as difficult as leaving out a lifetime of education and taking the Bible at its word. After all, even before many of us started school we had learned the basics of astronomy. I learned about the sun, moon, stars, tilt of the Earth, and seasons long before I ever covered any of those topics in school. And to this day, astronomy is still one of my favorite pastimes.

But we have to forget all of our modern knowledge. They didn't have that knowledge in biblical times. They were brilliant people, but they didn't have our education, or scientists, or books. They didn't even have printing presses at the time. There were no mass produced books to purchase and teachers being paid to educate you simply for showing up at a school building. Every piece of knowledge you knew had to be painfully acquired from either your own experience or someone else that you could convince to teach you. That's one of the things that made the Bible so compelling: it was supposed to be divine knowledge direct from the creator or the world sent to all people without error. If the Bible was correct, you could actually learn real knowledge in bulk for, perhaps, the first time ever.

So let's look at how the author or authors of Genesis thought the Earth was created.

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

So far so good. Notice right from the start there was already water, a void, and darkness.

3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

Now we're making some headway. We now have light and dark. But here is where you have to set some of your knowledge aside. We don't have a sun, moon, or stars yet. This light doesn't have any source. It is just there. And not only is it there, it has been separated from the dark.

6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

Now the preexisting waters from Genesis 1:2 have now been split by a firmament. Some of the water went above the firmament and some of the water went below the firmament. So what in the world is a firmament?


The word "firmament" is used to translate raqia, or raqiya`, a word used in Biblical Hebrew. The connotation of firmness conveyed by the Vulgate's firmamentum is consistent with that of stereoma, the Greek word used in the Septuagint, an earlier translation. The notion of solidity is advanced explicitly in several biblical passages.
The original word raqia is derived from the root raqa, meaning "to beat or spread out", e.g., the process of making a dish by hammering thin a lump of metal. Raqa adopted the meaning "to make firm or solid" in Syriac, a major dialect of Aramaic (the vernacular of Jesus) and close cognate of Hebrew.

So we have this dome-like thing -- probably solid -- that separates the water above from the water below. And this inverted bowl, or dome, he called Heaven.

Now the next day there is a little bit more going on, so we are going to take it in two parts.

9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

We finally have what we think of as Earth. Prior, their might have been a "heaven and earth" but they weren't what we think of as Earth since it had no land.

You have to forget what you learned about a spherical earth with water sitting on the outside. That isn't the model used by the Bible. The Bible seems to have all the dirt and water just sitting out there in the chaos -- or void -- waiting to be made into something. It is almost like raw materials waiting in a bin somewhere for a craftsman to make something out of it.

Now that God created land, he then got busy with putting things on it.

11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.

In the later part of the third day God put all the plants and trees on the Earth. There was light and dark (day and night) from the first day, but there isn't anything causing the day and night. That wasn't an oversight though. We know that our day and night are caused by the rotation of the Earth, but they didn't know that in biblical times. They didn't know that the sun is the source of out light, and without the sun there wouldn't be enough light or heat for anything to survive.

14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,
18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

And now we have the sun, moon, and stars. The sun was created to rule the day, the moon was created to rule the night, and He made stars as well. Now we've had light and dark since the second day, but now we have the sun. Here is another place where you have to leave your present knowledge out of what the Bible says. The sun was created to rule the light. It doesn't have to be the originator of the light and heat that get to the Earth. It is more of a decoration that was put there for signs, seasons, days, and years. Think of it as a signpost telling you what the light and heat are going to do. Don't think of it as the source of light and heat.

The same is true for the moon. Forget your knowledge that the moon is simply reflected light from the sun. The moon was given its own light so that it could rule the night. As far as the stars go; since the sun, moon, and stars are all set in the firmament, the stars are more like little sparkly lights that are placed on a Christmas tree for pure entertainment (oh, and signs etc...). You have to forget the fact that they are the same size or larger than the sun and just farther away. They are hung in the firmament like cellphone charger lights stuck in your ceiling.

And now, on with day five:

20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.

I would like to make a note here about the firmament. The fact that the birds can fly in the "open firmament" tells us that the firmament isn't all that far above our heads. We don't exactly know how thick it is yet, but we know that it isn't all that far up there.

21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.
23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

The fifth day was kind of busy, but it didn't have a lot of description. All the winged fowl and all the creatures of the sea. Since the model put forth in Genesis only includes land and sea, then every creature that lived in the water had to be made on the fifth day.

And now on with the sixth day, which was a lot like the fifth day except for the land instead of the sea.

24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

That was the last part of God's creation. He makes everything that goes on the land. He made all the cattle, beasts, and creeping things. Right at the end of the day -- or at least the end of His creation -- He created man and woman in his image. Creation is now finished. The only thing left to do is give us some directions and place humans in charge as a sort of landlord for the Earth.

28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.
31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

And there you go; creation in a nutshell. Even though the entire creation is covered in one chapter containing just thirty-one verses, it is still insanely difficult for me to keep my present knowledge from contaminating the clear directions from Genesis. As soon as I quit thinking about it my mind fills in the sun as the source of light and heat, water only being available on the land instead of half of it over a firmament, land coalescing first prior to liquid water, stars that are gigantic yet so far away that they look like dots and some farther than we can see, a reflective moon instead of a moon with its own light, and the list goes on.

Regardless of how difficult it is to keep straight, Genesis chapter 1 has all the raw material to assemble into our model of creation, which we will get to in How God Made the Earth: Part 2.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The "You've Got To Be Kidding Me" God

The "You've Got To Be Kidding Me" God

There are some arguments that get so old, but they just won't go away. I don't know how many times I have been told that I have a god, and that my god is probably science. This argument is so wrong that it is insulting: it is insulting to me, it is insulting to them, and it is insulting to their god.

It often starts out something like this:

They say, "Everyone has a god, yours is just science."

And I say, "I don't have a god. Science is just a process of getting to the truth."

They say, "Whatever is most important to you in your life is your god."

I say, "That just defines away every form of atheism and agnosticism. We should agree on what a god is first."

They say, "OK."

I say, "I see gods as supernatural beings, incredibly powerful, and capable of affecting the material world."

They say, "That's it."

I say, "Science is nothing like that."

They say, "I thought we were talking about my god."

I say, "If that is the definition of your god, I will accept it."

They say, "But that's not your god. Your god is whatever you put first in your life."

I laugh, and say, "That's like saying rainbows are just like watermelons except one of them is fruit."

They say, "You don't understand."


Ah, but I think I do understand. I just think that they are wrong.

Let's change the object of the discussion a little bit to make it more clear.

They say, "Everyone has a favorite magazine."

I say, "I don't have a favorite magazine. I don't like magazines."

They say, "Sure you do. Whatever magazine you keep in your bathroom is your favorite magazine."

I say, "First let's determine what we are calling a magazine. It is a periodical publication. It contains articles and illustrations. It typically covers a particular subject or area of interest."

They say, "That's it. That's what a magazine is."

I say, "I don't have any magazines in my bathroom."

They say, "Then what do you keep in your bathroom?"

I say, "All I keep in my bathroom is a plunger."

They say, "Then that plunger is your favorite magazine."

It is the nonsense that religious people believe that make discussions difficult. They can't seem to see past the blinders that they have placed on themselves. They insist that everything has to fit into a framework that they provide. Regardless of how many times they insist they are the same, a plunger just isn't the same thing as a magazine any more than the most important thing in your life has to be a god.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Introducing Islam

As part of my continuous education, I have to take an eight hour course on Islam. Despite what some of my relation might think, I am actually happy to be taking this course.

The first part is an introduction from an old Geocities site that is no longer available. Since it was provided to me free of copyright information, I will repost it here as I found it.

NOTE: If there is an active copyright on this work, please let me know and I will remove it.

Introducing Islam
Source:
http://www.geocities.com/WestHollywood/Park/6443/Islam/Introducing.htm
I. Islam and Muslims
The name of this religion is Islam, the root of which, Silm or Salam, means peace. Salam is also part of the greeting of peace among Muslims. In addition, one of the beautiful names of God is As-Salam, meaning "The Peace." The word, however, means much more than just "peace." It means submission to the One God, as well as to live in harmony with other people and with the environment. A Muslim is, therefore, any person, anywhere in the world, whose obedience, allegience and loyalty are to God, Lord of the Universe, and who strives to live in accordance with God's laws.
II. Muslims and Arabs
The followers of Islam are called Muslims. We should not confuse Muslims with Arabs. Muslims may be Arabs, or they may be Turks, Persians, Indians, Pakistanis, Indonesians, Europeans, Africans, Americans, Chinese, or any other nationality. Islam is not limited to any nationality or race.
Arabs, also, are not limited to only one religion. An Arab may be a Muslim, a Jew, a Christian, an athiest, or part of any other belief system. Any person who adopts the Arab language as his or her mother tongue is called an Arab.
While there are one billion Muslims in the world, there are about 200 million Arabs, among whom about ten percent are not Muslim. Thus, Arab Muslims constitute only about twenty percent of the Muslim population of the world.
The language of the Qur'an, the Holy Book of Islam, is Arabic. Muslims all over the world try to learn Arabic so that they may be able to read the Qur'an and understand its meaning. They pray in the language of the Qur'an, but supplications to God may be in any language.
III. Allah, the One and Only God
Allah is the name of the One and Only God. Allah has ninety-nine beautiful names, such as: The Gracious, the Merciful, the Beneficent, The Creator, The All-Knowing, the All-Wise, The Lord of the Universe, The First, The Last, and many others.
He is the Creator of all human beings. He is the God for the Christians, the Jews, the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Hindus and all others, including those who do not even believe in Him. Muslims worship God, and put their trust in Him as they seek His help and guidance.
IV. Muhammad
Muhammad was chosen by God to deliver His Message of Peace, namely Islam. He was born in 570, C.E.* in Makkah, Arabia. He was entrusted with the Message of Islam when he was at the age of forty years. The rvelation that he received is called the Qur'an, whi9le the message is called Islam.
Muhammad is the very last Prophet of God to mankind. He is the final Messenger of God. His message was and is still to all of mankind, including the Christians and Jews. He was sent to those religious people to inform them about the true mission of Jesus, Moses, David, Jacob, Isaac and Abraham.
Muhammad is considered to be the summation and culmination of all the prophets and messengers that came before him. He purified the previous messages from adulteration and completed the Message of God for all humanity. He was entrusted with the power of explaining, interpreting and living the teachings of the Qur'an.
V. Sources of Islam
The legal sources of Islam are the Qur'an and the Hadith. The Qur'an is the exact words of God; its authenticity, originality and totality are intact. The Hadith are the reports of the sayings, deeds and approvals of the Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet's sayings and deeds are called Sunnah. The Seerah is the writings of followers of Muhammad about the life of the Prophet. Hence, it is the life history of the Prophet Muhammad which provides examples of daily living for Muslims.
VI. Some Islamic Principles
A. Oneness of God:
He is One and the Only One. He is not two in one or three in one. This means that Islam rejects the idea of trinity or such a unity of God which imnplies more than one God in one.
B. Oneness of mankind:
People are created equal in front of the Law of God. There is not superiority of one race over another. God made us of different colors, nationalities, languages and beliefs so as to test who is going to be better than others. No one can claim that he is better than others. It is only God Who knows who is better. It depends on piety and righteousness.
C. Oneness of Messengers and the Message:
Muslims believe that God sent different messengers throughout the history of mankind. All came with the same message and the same teachings. It was the people who misunderstood and misinterpreted them. Muslims believe in Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Moses, David, Jesus and Muhammad. The Prophets of Christianity and Judaism are indeed the Prophets of Islam.
D. Angels and the Day of Judgement:
Muslims believe that there is a Day of Judgement when all people of the world throughout the history of mankind till the last kay of life on earth, are to be brought for accounting, reward and punishment.
E. Innocence of Man at Birth:
Muslims believe that people are born free of sin. It is only after they reach the age of puberty and it is only after they commit sins that they are to be charged for their mistakes. No one is responsible for or can take responsibility for the sins of others. However, the door of forgiveness through true repentance is always open.
F. State and Religion:
Muslims believe that Islam is a total and a complete way of life. It encompasses all aspects of life.
As such, the teachings of Islam do not separate religion from politics. As a matter of fact, state and religion are under the obedience of Allah through the teachings of Islam. Hence, economic and social transactions, as well as educational and political systems, are a part of the teachings of Islam.
VII. Practices of Islam.
God instructed the Muslims to practice what they believe in. In Islam there are five pillars:
A. Creed (Shahadah):
The verbal commitment and pledge that there is only One God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God, is considered to be the creed of Islam.
B. Prayers (Salat):
The performance of the five daily prayers is required of Muslims.
C. Fasting (Saum):
Fasting is total abstinance from food, liquids and intimate relations from dawn to sunset during the entire month of Ramadan.
D. Purifying Tax (Zakat):
This is an annual payment of a certain percentage of a Muslim's property, which is distributed among the poor or other rightful beneficiaries.
E. Pilgrimage (Hajj):
The performance of pilgrimage to Makkah is required once in a lifetime if the means are available. Hajj is, in part, a memorial to the trials and tribulations of Prophet Abraham, his wife Hagar and his eldest son, Prophet Ishmael.
VIII. Other Related Aspects.
A. Calendar:
Islamic practices are based on the lunar calendar. However, Muslims also use the Gregorian calendar in their daily religious lives. Hence, the Islamic calendar includes both the common era and the migration (Hijra) year of the Prophet of Islam from Makkah to Madinah in the year of 623 C.E.
B. Celebrations (Eid):
Muslims have two celebrations (Eid): the Eid of Sacrifice and the Eid of Fast-breaking. The Eid of Sacrifice is in rememberance of the sacrifice to have been made by Prophet Abraham of his son. The Eid of Fast-breaking comes at the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting.
C. Diets:
Islam allows Muslims to eat everything which is good for the health. It restricts certain items such as pork and its by-products, alcohol and any narcotic or addictive drugs.
D. Place of Worship:
The place of worship is called the Mosque or Masjid. There are three holy places of worship for the Muslims on the world. These are the Mosque of the Kaabah in Makkah, the Mosque of Prophet Muhammad in Madinah, and Masjid Aqsa, adjacent to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
A Muslim m ay pray anywhere in the world, whether in a Mosque, a house, an office, or outside. The whole world is a place of worship. It is preferable that Muslims pray in a congregation, but he/she may pray individually anywhere.
E. Holiday:
The holy day of the Muslims is Friday. It is considered to be sacred, and the Day of Judgement will take place on Friday. Muslims join together shortly after noon on Friday for the Friday congregational prayer in a Mosque. A leader (Imam) gives a sermon (khutbah) and leads the congregational prayer.
F. Distribution of Muslims in North America:
There are approximately five million Muslims in North America and are distributed all around the continent, including major cities.
G. Contributions in North America:
Muslims are now established in North America. The Sears Tower and John Hancock buildings in Chicago were designed by a Muslim chief architect, originally from Pakistan. Muslims have established academic institutions, community centers and organizations, schools and places of worship. They live in peace and harmony among themselves and among other groups of people in the society. The rate of crime among Muslims is very minimal. Muslims in North America are highly educated and have added to the success of American scientific and technological fields.
The Muslims of the early period of the Islamic era were pioneers in medicine, geography, navigation, arts, poetry, mathematics, algebra, logarithms, calculus, etc. They contributed to the Renaissance of Europe and world civilization.
IX. Non-Muslims
Muslims are required to respect all those who are faithful and God conscious people, namely, those who received messages. Christians and Jews are called People of the Book. Muslims are asked to call upon the People of the Book for common terms, namely, to worship One God, and to work together for the solutions of the many problems in the society.
Christians and Jews lived peacefully with Muslims throughout centuries in the Middle East and other Asian and African countries. The second Caliph, Umar, did not pray in the church in Jerusalem so as not to give the Muslims an excuse to take it over. Christians entrusted the Muslims, and as such, the key of the Church in Jerusalem is still in the hands of Muslims.
Jews fled from Spain during the Inquisition, and they were welcomed by the Muslims. They settled in the heart of the Islamic Caliphate. They enjoyed positions of power and authority.
Throughout the Muslim World, churches, synagogues and missionary schools were built within the Muslim neighborhoods. These places were protected by Muslims even during the contemporary crises in the Middle East.
Ahmad H. Sakr, Ph.D.

Further in the introduction, we are introduced to some of the main types of Islam:

Sunni Islam,
Shia Islam (Shi'ite)
And then, because this course covers concerns more specific to the United States, Wahhabi Islam (Wahhabi movement)

In addition to some of the different types of Islam, the Koran was also introduced as well as the definition of hadith.

The only other major issue that was introduced to us was the Five Pillars of Islam and some geography like the location of the Middle East, Far East, North Africa, and United States.

I must admit that I don't have all that much knowledge about Islam. I am looking forward to seeing how this course fits in with my previous understanding on Islam. In addition, I am looking forward to having a good foothold to begin my reading of the Koran at some point in the future.

What a Belief in God Will Do For You


What a Belief in God Will Do For You

It is absolutely amazing to me that people don't seem to have any clue what is in the Bible that they carry around with them. The Bible isn't some kind of talisman; instead, it is a book full of words and information. I realize it can be a challenge to read, but come on: this is the instruction manual for the Christian religion.

And according to this instruction manual, here are just a few of the things that believers should be able to do.


16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.
20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

And here is that same passage from a different translation.

Mark 16:16-20 The Common English Bible:

16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever doesn’t believe will be condemned.17 These signs will be associated with those who believe: they will throw out demons in my name. They will speak in new languages.18 They will pick up snakes with their hands. If they drink anything poisonous, it will not hurt them. They will place their hands on the sick, and they will get well.”
19 After the Lord Jesus spoke to them, he was lifted up into heaven and sat down on the right side of God.20 But they went out and proclaimed the message everywhere. The Lord worked with them, confirming the word by the signs associated with them.

These are pretty clear passage from the gospels of Jesus in the New Testament. These signs are so that the people will believe what they are shown.

I, for one, will begin to believe what religious people teach me when they can do the things that are spoken of in these passages. At that point -- even if I can't perform experiments and tests directly -- I will be able to create a statistical understanding of who can perform miracles.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Literal, Allegorical, or Metaphorical?

Literal, Allegorical, or Metaphorical?

Hi, and welcome to another addition of Modeling Scripture.

One thing that fascinates me is how different people look at the stories in the Bible, particularly the Old Testament. How are those stories to be read? Did they literally happen? Are the stories of the formation of humanity constructed with poetic license? Are they metaphors; and if so, for what? The answers to these questions are supplied by the bible itself. While we might never know exactly what the authors of the Old Testament were thinking when they wrote the books, we can easily see what the authors of the New Testament thought about the Old Testament.

There is a particular chapter in the New Testament book of Hebrews that references several books of the Old Testament. There are more references to Old Testament books per word in Hebrews 11 than there are in any other chapter in the New Testament. So let's have a look at what Hebrews 11 has to say about the stories in the Old Testament. As you read the quoted text (if you read it) pay close attention to the different Old Testament books that are referenced.

From Hebrews 11, King James Version of the Bible:

(...)
3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the (word of God) [Genesis 1:1], so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
4 By faith (Abel offered unto God) [Genesis 4:4-8] a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
5 By faith (Enoch was translated that he should not see death) [Genesis 5:22-24]; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
(...)
7 By faith (Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world) [Genesis 6:13-22], and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
8 By faith (Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive) [Genesis 12:1-4] for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
(...)
10 For he looked for a city which hath (foundations) [Psalms 87:1], whose builder and maker is God.
11 Through faith also (Sara herself received strength to conceive seed) [Genesis 18:11-14], and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.
(...)
17 By faith (Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac) [Genesis 22:1-10]: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
(...)
20 By faith (Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau) [Genesis 27:27-29] concerning things to come.
21 By faith (Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph) [Genesis 48:16]; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.
22 By faith (Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel) [Exodus 13:19]; and gave commandment concerning his bones.
23 By faith (Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents) [Exodus 2:2-3], because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king's commandment.
24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, (refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter) [Exodus 2:10];
(...)
29 By faith (they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned) [Exodus 14:21-30].
30 By faith (the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days) [Joshua 6:15-20].
31 By faith the harlot (Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace) [James 2:25].
32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of (Gedeon) [Judges 6:1], and of (Barak) [Judges 4:6], and of (Samson) [Judges 13:24], and of (Jephthae) [Judges 11:1]; of (David) [1 Samuel 16:1] also, and (Samuel) [1 Samuel 1:20], and of the prophets:
33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, (stopped the mouths of lions) [Daniel 6:22].
34 (Quenched the violence of fire) [Daniel 3:25], escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong,(waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens) [2 Samuel 12:29].
35 (Women received their dead raised to life again) [1Kings 17:22] [2 Kings 4:35]: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:
36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, (moreover of bonds and imprisonment) [Jeremiah 20:2]:
37 (They were stoned) [1 Kings 21:13], they were sawn asunder, were tempted, (were slain with the sword) [Jeremiah 26:23](they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented) [2 Kings 1:8];
38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) (they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth) [1 Samuel 22:1].
39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
40 God having provided some better thing for us, that (they without us should not be made perfect) [Revelations 6:11].

So what exactly can we tell from Hebrews 11? We can tell that the author believed all the stories of the Old Testament -- at least the ones that were mentioned -- to be literal and true. He didn't discuss them like they were allegorical, nor did he treat them as a metaphor for something else. He clearly looked at the stories as being literal representations of actual events.

Now traditionally Hebrews is attributed to the Apostle Paul; and if that's true, then his literal interpretation of the Old Testament holds throughout all the books of the New Testament written by him. But even if the Apostle Paul wasn't the author if Hebrews, we can still see that the author did take the Old Testament stories literally.

If the book of Hebrews isn't a large enough sample for you to be sure that the New Testament authors took the Old Testament as literal, it doesn't take anything more than a good reference bible to see all the connections between any book of the New Testament and the Old Testament. I have yet to find a single book in the New Testament that treats the Old Testament as anything other than the literal truth.

There is just no way to model the Bible without accepting that the entire Bible -- both Old Testament and New Testament -- was taken literally by all the individual authors.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Biblical Age of the Earth

The Biblical Age of the Earth

Hi, and welcome to Modeling Scripture. Today I want to talk about the age of the Earth. How was the age of the Earth determined from biblical scriptures? While there have been as many ages as their have been people to calculate, they all seem to be based on the genealogy given in the New Testament book of Luke (Luke 3:23-38) [1]. The genealogy and a few ages are listed below:

God

1) Adam (Gen 5)
130 (Gen 5:3)
2) Seth
105
3) Enos (Enosh)
90
4) Cainan (Kenan)
70
5) Mahalaleel (Mahalalel)
65
6) Jared
162
7) Enoch (never died)
65
8) Methuselah
187
9) Lamech
182
10) Noah
500 (Gen 5:32)
11) Shem
100 (Gen 11:10)
12) Arphaxad (Arpachshad)
35 [2] (fathered Shelah)
13) (the second) Cainan [3]

14) Shelah
30
15) Ebar (Eber)
34
16) Peleg
30
17) Reu
32
18) Serug
30
19) Nahor
29
20) Terah
70 (Gen 11:26)
21) Abraham (Abram)
100 (Gen 21:5)
22) Isaac
60 (Gen 25:26)
23) Jacob
unknown age 01
24) Judah
unknown age 02
25) Perez
unknown age 03
26) Hezron
unknown age 04
27) Arni (Ram)
unknown age 05 [4]
28) Admin (Ram)
unknown age 06 [4]
29) Amminadab
unknown age 07
30) Nahshon
unknown age 08
31) Sala (Salmon)
unknown age 09
32) Boaz
unknown age 10
33) Obed
unknown age 11
34) Jesse
unknown age 12
35) David
unknown age 13
36) Nathan
unknown age 14
37) Mattatha
unknown age 15
38) Menna
unknown age 16
39) Melea
unknown age 17
40) Eliakim
unknown age 18
41) Jonam
unknown age 19
42) Joseph
unknown age 20
43) Judah
unknown age 21
44) Simeon
unknown age 22
45) Levi
unknown age 23
46) Matthat
unknown age 24
47) Jorim
unknown age 25
48) Eliezer
unknown age 26
49) Joshua
unknown age 27
50) Er
unknown age 28
51) Elmadam
unknown age 29
52) Cosam
unknown age 30
53) Addi
unknown age 31
54) Melchi
unknown age 32
55) Neri
unknown age 33
56) Shealtiel
unknown age 34
57) Zerubbabel
unknown age 35
58) Rhesa
unknown age 36
59) Joanan
unknown age 37
60) Joda
unknown age 38
61) Josech
unknown age 39
62) Semein
unknown age 40
63) Mattathias
unknown age 41
64) Maath (Mahath)
unknown age 42
65) Naggai
unknown age 43
66) Esli (Hesli)
unknown age 44
67) Nahum
unknown age 45
68) Amos
unknown age 46
69) Mattathias
unknown age 47
70) Joseph
unknown age 48
71) Jannai
unknown age 49
72) Melchi
unknown age 50
73) Levi
unknown age 51
74) Matthat
unknown age 52
75) Heli
unknown age 53
76) Joseph
unknown age 54 [5]

Jesus

Now if you're like me, your eyes glazed over when you saw a list of names that was both extensive and difficult to pronounce. My main reason for including them here is to show the calculations from the beginning to the end.

The left column above is the name of each of Jesus' ancestors [6], and the right column is the age of the ancestor when they gave birth to the next ancestor in the line. If only we had these ages listed for each ancestor, it would be an easy calculation of adding them all up and we would have a good model for the age of the Earth. Unfortunately it isn't quite that simple. We can only get the first twenty-one ages from Genesis before we have to find alternate ways of coming up with dates. Fortunately for us, we are building a model that doesn't have to be 100% accurate.

By adding the first twenty-one ages together, we come up with: 2,106 years.

That also gives us an mean age per each ancestor/birth of: 100 years.

Ordering the list, we get a median age for each ancestor/birth of: 70 years.

And with a little grouping [7], we get a modal age for each ancestor/birth of: 30 years.

Finally, years since the birth of Jesus: 2014 years.

Of course it would be better if we had a larger list of known ages to calculate our averages from, but this list is large enough for this model.

For this model, we will use the following data:

God_Build_Time = << 1 year.
Known_Ancestor_Ages = 2106 years.
Ancestor_Age_Mode = 30 years.
Ancestor_Age_Mean = 100 years.
Ancestor_Age_Median = 70 years.
Ancestors_With_Unknown_Ages = 54.
Years_Since_Jesus_Birth = 2014.

Since we are assuming that the time it took for God to build the Earth is so small, we will essentially ignore it. The margin of error for the model will be so large that it would disappear into the noise. That leaves:

Known_Ancestor_Ages + Ancestors_With_Unknown_Ages * Ancestor_Age_Mode + Years_Since_Jesus_Birth = Lower bounds of the age range = 2106 + (30 * 54) + 2014 = 5740 years.

Known_Ancestor_Ages + Ancestors_With_Unknown_Ages * Ancestor_Age_Mean + Years_Since_Jesus_Birth = Upper bounds of the age range = 2106 + (100 * 54) + 2014 = 9520 years.

Known_Ancestor_Ages + Ancestors_With_Unknown_Ages * Ancestor_Age_Median + Years_Since_Jesus_Birth = A good starting point for the age of the Earth = 2106 + (70 * 54) + 2014 = 7900 years.

Giving a final answer of 5740 years < 7900 years < 9520 years.
Or as some people like to see it: 7630 years ± 1890 years.

And there you have it. This is a good working model of the age of the Earth as described in the Bible.

Notes:

[1] Using "The Holy Bible, English Standard Version"
[2] Genesis, where I am getting the ages of Jesus' ancestors from, lists Arphaxad as the father of Shelah. This cuts out the second Cainan.
[3] Since the scriptures disagree whether Arphaxad or Cainan is the father of Shelah, and I can't find the age of Cainan at the birth of Shelah, I have decided to leave him out of the calculations.
[4] Some ancestries list Hezron, father of Arni, father of Admin, father of Amminadab. Other ancestries list Hezron, father of Ram, father of Amminadab. For these calculations, I am using the former.
[5] While not the biological father of Jesus, his age at the time Jesus was born will give us the data needed to perform the calculations.
[6] There is debate whether this is the maternal or paternal ancestry, but it doesn't matter for our purpose.
[7] For the modal calculations, I sorted the ages using groups that spanned six years. This gave a clear mode for further calculations as well as holding true to the biblical data. After the grouping, The results were also rounded as to not give the impression of greater certainty than the grouping warranted.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Homecoming countdown: Maramec, Oklahoma

The preparations to move back to what I consider my hometown are still under way. Progress is being made even if it is slower than I would like.

In the progress of preparations for my move, I found a video about the ghost town that is Maramec, Oklahoma. To me, these images are haunting. I recognize almost everything that is displayed there. I even lived within a few hundred feet of many of these pictures.