The Flat Tire and the Gospels


(Patheos::ATP) – Jonathan MS Pearce:

Dan Barker, former fundamentalist child preacher and now co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, has a simple challenge for Bible believers: “Tell me what happened on the original Easter Sunday. Just a simple chronology. Who went where and did what and said what and saw what? And in what order? Be sure to include everything mentioned in any of the gospels.”

Nobody can meet this challenge, because the gospels are horribly contradictory. (Don’t take my word for it, read them yourself: Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20-21. Also Acts 1:3-12 and Paul’s tiny version of the story in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.)

What should we conclude from this? That 1 apostle got it right and the rest differed in a few of the minor details? No. This is the most important story in all of Christianity, and if the gospels were divinely inspired — as true believers invariably assert they were — then their ultimate author was God, who’s supposed to be omniscient, so the 4 stories should be entirely consistent.

If that were the truth. …

tippling the-flat-tire-and-the-gospels

Sermon on the Mount


Where Does 2015 BZ509 Come From?


(Syfy Wire::Bad Astronomy) – Phil Plait:

2015 BZ509 may indeed be an interstellar asteroid.

The problem here is that I don’t think the astronomers eliminated every possible reason this asteroid could be in its bizarre orbit. That’s a nearly impossible task, of course (it’s a black swan situation), but even so, there are some likely scenarios. …

syfy interstellar-asteroid

Asteroid 433 Eros

The First Interstellar Immigrant


(Independent Science) – Andrew Griffin:

Asteroid (514107) 2015 BZ509 is currently in orbit around Jupiter. It was always known to be a bizarre object, and scientists have finally found why: because it didn’t begin life here.

In our solar system, all of the planets and most of the rest of the objects move around the Sun in the same direction. But the alien rock moves the opposite way. …

independent 8361496

Orbit of asteroid 2015 BZ509

The Ring Is A Lie: Messier 57


(Starts With A Bang!) – Ethan Siegel:

The Ring Nebula, one of the night sky’s most famous sights isn’t what it appears to be. …

starts-with-a-bang lie-ring-nebula

Ring Nebula (Messier 57)

Don’t Trust Us


(Patheos::Daylight Atheism) – Adam Lee:

Since the 2016 election, I’ve wondered why any nation should ever trust the U.S. or expect us to keep our promises again. A case in point is Trump’s just-announced decision to pull out of JCPOA, the 2015 nuclear deal negotiated between the U.S., China, Russia, Europe and Iran, in which Iran would give up its nuclear-weapons program in exchange for relief from sanctions.

For all that Trump complained about the deal, he had no specific criticisms of it (I doubt he even knew what was in it), and nothing in mind to replace it. He hated it for no reason other than that it was negotiated while Barack Obama was president.

The tragedy of this is that the deal was working, in more ways than one. Iran was holding up its end of the bargain, and the inspections were preventing it from restarting its nuclear program.

I won’t even call Trum’s decision “short-sighted,” because that implies there was some strategic calculation, however misguided, behind it. This was more like international vandalism – the mere urge to destroy, driven by nothing but pettiness and spite. Trump decided to rip the Iran deal up with absolutely no plan for how to replace it and no idea of what to do instead.

But one thing this does accomplish is to humilate the U.S. on the diplomatic stage. Beneath the gazes of the world, we’ve just announced that we don’t keep our promises and we can’t be trusted to hold up our end of a bargain. Why should anyone trust America now? Why should any other country listen or care in the future when we tell them what we want them to do? …

daylightatheism 2018/05 dystopia

Burning U.S. flags

Some Royals Never Change


(New Yorker::Daily Comment) – Anthony Lane:

Like all outbursts of joy, the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was attended by a host of ironies. …

newyorker harry-and-meghan

Harry and Meghan leave St. George’s Chapel

Thoroughly Modern Meghan


(Atlantic Culture) – Sophie Gilbert:

As the world watched, an American actress challenged stereotypes, tradition, and the history of the monarchy itself. …

theatlantic 2018/05 meghan

Meghan Markle 2018-05-19

Email Is Dangerous


(Atlantic Tech) – Quinn Norton:

Electronic mail as we know it is drowning in spam, forged phishing mails, and other scams and hacks. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. …

theatlantic email-is-dangerous

UCLA's Interface Message Processor in 1969

Presuppositionalism and the Christian Triune God


(Patheos::ATP) – Jonathan MS Pearce:

Presuppositionalism is a funny old thing. It is defined by Wikipedia as follows:

Presuppositionalism is a school of Christian apologetics that believes the Christian faith is the only basis for rational thought. It presupposes that the Bible is divine revelation and attempts to expose flaws in other worldviews. It claims that apart from presuppositions, one could not make sense of any human experience, and there can be no set of neutral assumptions from which to reason with a non-Christian. Presuppositionalists claim that a Christian cannot consistently declare their belief in the necessary existence of the God of the Bible and simultaneously argue on the basis of a different set of assumptions that God may not exist and Biblical revelation may not be true. Two schools of presuppositionalism exist, based on the different teachings of Cornelius Van Til and Gordon Haddon Clark. Presuppositionalism contrasts with classical apologetics and evidential apologetics.

Presuppositionalists compare their presupposition against other ultimate standards such as reasonempirical experience, and subjective feeling, claiming presupposition in this context is:

a belief that takes precedence over another and therefore serves as a criterion for another. An ultimate presupposition is a belief over which no other takes precedence. For a Christian, the content of Scripture must serve as his ultimate presupposition… This doctrine is merely the outworking of the lordship of God in the area of human thought. It merely applies the doctrine of scriptural infallibility to the realm of knowing.

Critics of presuppositional apologetics claim that it is logically invalid because it begs the question of the truth of Christianity and the non-truth of other worldviews.

The problem is, when claiming there is something like a properly basic belief in this triune version of God, one can also apply that same logic to any other version of God. Or even non-God. …

tippling 2018/05/20 presuppositionalism

Szymon Czechowicz: Holy Trinity

A.I. Is Harder Than You Think


(NYTimes Opinion) – Gary Marcus and Ernest Davis:

If you read Google’s public statement about Google Duplex, you’ll discover that the initial scope of the project is surprisingly limited. It encompasses just three tasks: helping users “make restaurant reservations, schedule hair salon appointments, and get holiday hours.”

Schedule hair salon appointments? The dream of artificial intelligence was supposed to be grander than this — to help revolutionize medicine, say, or to produce trustworthy robot helpers for the home.

The reason Google Duplex is so narrow in scope isn’t that it represents a small but important first step toward such goals. The reason is that the field of A.I. doesn’t yet have a clue how to do any better. …

nytimes 2018/05/18 challenges

Google reception