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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Are the Ten Commandments the basis for the first Ten Amendments to the US Constitution?

I hear this comment often, “The Ten Commandments are the structure of our Bill of Rights."

Is that right? Lets take a look at the first Ten Amendments.

I. Freedom of Speech, Press, Religion and Petition – Freedom of Religion is actually the opposite of what the Ten Commandments requires. The other aspects of the First Amendment have nothing to do with the Commandments.
2. Right to keep and bear arms – Has nothing to do with the Commandments
3. Conditions for quarters of soldiers – Nothing to do with the Commandments
4. Right of search and seizure regulated – Nothing to do with the Commandments
5. Provisions concerning prosecution – Nothing to do with the Commandments
6. Right to a speedy trial, witnesses, etc. – A slight connection with bearing false witness, otherwide, nothing to do with the Commandments.
7. Right to a trial by jury – Nothing to do with the Commandments
8. Excessive bail, cruel punishment – Nothing to do with the Commandments
9. Rule of construction of Constitution – Absolutely nothing to do with the Commandments
10. Rights of the States under Constitution – Nothing to do with the Commandments.

Other than the coincidence that there were initially Ten Amendments and there are Ten Commandments, there is only one slight resemblance between the two documents, which has to do with bearing false witness. The Freedom of Religion is actually the exact opposite of what the Commandments require. Are the Ten Commandments’ the structure of our Constitution? Complete nonsense.

Change and evolution

One component of evolution that gets glossed over by creationists is the reality that the animals that exist today did not exist in the past. When you start going back over the history of animals, you see an interesting pattern. There is a groupings of animals based on geological timeframes. There are no rabbits or tigers (as well as thousands of other animals that exist today) in the Paleozoic area. So, either god is doing multiple creations, (which contradicts the bible) or there was some mechanism that brought rabbits and tigers into the picture when they were not there originally.

If the concept that change cannot turn one species into another species is accurate, then the dilemma of how these new animals came into the picture still remains. Animals that did not exist 300 million years ago exist today. Trying to get around the timeframes by claiming that the world is less than 10,000 years old, falls apart by other sciences, such as astronomy or geology. The cat kind had to exist in the first place in order for a tiger to have changed from it. And the fact is a cat kind was not around at one point. So, something else allowed tigers and all the other cat kinds to exist today when then they did not exist in the past. 

Looking at the evolution of motorized vehicles is a good example. Starting with a simple Model T car, you see that basic design expanded into motorcycles, trains, airplanes and rocket ships. Now there is obviously a different component here. Mechanical vehicles cannot reproduce themselves. Animals can. And when you look at animals, you see the same basic design that has expanded into different sizes shapes and abilities. 

Are there issues with the theory? There are aspects of evolution that are not full understood yet, no one has ever argued that it is fully understood. However, every year, the information continues to build and develop a better way of understanding the process. As with many scientific  ideas, the people who argue against evolution refuse to acknowledge that science is an ever growing body of information. They want to claim that if it cannot be explained today, then it will never be explained. ID relies on a double-standard. While Evolution scientists are expected to explain and predict everything, ID is points out issues and then triumphantly declares that evolution is wrong. When mistakes in ID are pointed out, the proponents of ID simply move to a new area of attack. When Darwin proposed his theory 150 years ago,  Darwin didn't know, for example, about the details of DNA. Just as discoveries in physics have made tremendous progress since Newton, biological evolution has come a long way in the past 150 years.  But evidence keeps confirming the general model that Darwin proposed (common ancestry, natural selection, etc.)

What people who protest against evolution fail or refuse to grasp, is that it explains the diversity we see today. No other theory can accurately make that claim. And when they say that change occurs, but there is a limit, they need to explain exactly how that limit occurs, which they never do.

Have you ever wonder why creationists sell their theories to the general public rather than trying to get them published in scientific journals? They know that they have zero scientific validity, and any real scientist would see that. "Creation Theory" has no mechanism, therefore it is not a scientific theory. It isn't a question of whether it's a good theory or a bad one. It isn't a question of whether it's better than evolution theory or worse. It's the simple fact that Creation Theory doesnot fit the requirements of a scientific theory at all. From a scientific standpoint, there is no such thing as Creation Theory; the term is simply a misnomer that people have applied to an irrational religious belief.

One of the great strengths of evolution is that many different lines of evidence each point to evolution.Amazingly, the more that scientists study these lines of evidence, the more and more the lines agree on life's exact evolutionary history. Within the accuracy available to us, we get the same history of life over and over. Have a look at the multiple lines of evidence and how they each independently suggest evolution.
Paleontology shows us that organisms have changed gradually over time, as reflected in the fossil record.
Biogeography shows us how new species only arise near very similiar species. Similar species share a common time and place.
Developmental biology shows us that an organism builds on ancestral features as it develops from a single cell.
Morphology shows us how organisms adapt ancestral features to new uses, even when there are more efficient solutions elsewhere in nature.
Genetics shows us that we can group species by similarity of genes. These groups even share unused DNA.
All these lines of evidence not only suggest that evolution happened, they also agree on the course of its history.

The new pope is cheap.

Pope Francis, who is known to be frugal, has decided that Vatican employees won't be getting the new pope bonus that traditionally comes with the election of a new pope.
In the past, the Vatican's 4,500-plus workers — both religious and lay — would receive an extra little something upon the death of one pope and another upon the election of his successor: In 2005, the total reportedly came to 1,500 euros (nearly $2,000) apiece.
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said that given tough economic times — the Vatican posted a 15 million-euro deficit in 2011 — "it didn't seem possible or appropriate to burden the Vatican's budget with a considerable, unforeseen extra expense."
However, given that  bankers' best guesses about the Vatican's wealth put it at $10 billion to $15 billion, it seems rather silly for the Vatican to stop providing this bonus. Afterall, it is hardly a common expense. New popes hardly are an annual event. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Are there atheist churches?

That there are atheist churches and by default, that atheism is a religion is a strange argument for a religious person to make on the face of it. Is it supposed to strengthen the atheist’s position or weaken the theist’s one? In reality it’s a sign they have run out of arguments.
Still, this argument is widely made, and so it needs to be addressed. Atheism is simply a disbelief in god(s). As someone once said, if atheism is a religion, then not collecting stamps is a hobby. And not playing golf is a sport.
That really ought to end the discussion right there. Clearly, a mere lack of belief in something cannot be a religion. In addition, since atheism has no sacred texts, no tenets, no ceremonies, what exactly is the religious aspect of atheism?  Even theists that are making this argument already know all that.
But yet, they keep making the claim. I don’t know what they mean – I don’t read minds. So, they must be referring to certain activities of atheists – writing books and blogs, financing bus ads, joining atheist groups, etc. They think atheists are “religious in their atheism” – the word “religious” being used here colloquially to mean something felt very strongly, or followed enthusiastically. But this definition of religion is so broad that virtually anything people enjoy doing very much, or follow strongly or obsessively, is a religion. It’s a definition of religion that is so broad that it’s meaningless. In reality, most of the things that people follow enthusiastically, are just hobbies. And ironically, although not collecting stamps is not a hobby, getting involved in atheist activities (writing books and blogs, attending atheist meetings) might well be a hobby for some people. But a hobby is not a religion.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Pluto's 'Gate to Hell' uncovered in Turkey

Pluto's 'Gate to Hell' uncovered in Turkey

Francesco D'Andria
A digital illustration shows the ancient Plutonium, celebrated as the portal to the underworld in Greco-Roman mythology.
By Rossella LorenziDiscovery News
A “gate to hell” has emerged from ruins in southwestern Turkey, Italian archaeologists have announced.
Known as Pluto's Gate -- Ploutonion in Greek, Plutonium in Latin -- the cave was celebrated as the portal to the underworld in Greco-Roman mythology and tradition.
Historic sources located the site in the ancient Phrygian city of Hierapolis, now called Pamukkale, and described the opening as filled with lethal mephitic vapors.

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“This space is full of a vapor so misty and dense that one can scarcely see the ground. Any animal that passes inside meets instant death,” the Greek geographer Strabo (64/63 BC -- about 24 A.D.) wrote.
“I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell,” he added.
Announced this month at a conference on Italian archaeology in Istanbul, Turkey, the finding was made by a team led by Francesco D'Andria, professor of classic archaeology at the University of Salento.
D'Andria has conducted extensive archaeological research at the World Heritage Site of Hierapolis. Two years ago he claimed to discover there the tomb of Saint Philip, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ.
Founded around 190 B.C. by Eumenes II, King of Pergamum (197 B.C.-159 B.C.), Hierapolis was given over to Rome in 133 B.C.

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The Hellenistic city grew into a flourishing Roman city, with temples, a theater and popular sacred hot springs, believed to have healing properties.
“We found the Plutonium by reconstructing the route of a thermal spring. Indeed, Pamukkale' springs, which produce the famous white travertine terraces, originate from this cave,” D'Andria told Discovery News.
Featuring a vast array of abandoned broken ruins, possibly the result of earthquakes, the site revealed more ruins once it was excavated. The archaeologists found Ionic semi columns and, on top of them, an inscription with a dedication to the deities of the underworld -- Pluto and Kore.
D'Andria also found the remains of a temple, a pool and a series of steps placed above the cave -- all matching the descriptions of the site in ancient sources.
“People could watch the sacred rites from these steps, but they could not get to the area near the opening. Only the priests could stand in front of the portal,” D'Andria said.
According to the archaeologist, there was a sort of touristic organization at the site. Small birds were given to pilgrims to test the deadly effects of the cave, while hallucinated priests sacrificed bulls to Pluto.
The ceremony included leading the animals into the cave, and dragging them out dead.

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“We could see the cave's lethal properties during the excavation. Several birds died as they tried to get close to the warm opening, instantly killed by the carbon dioxide fumes,” D'Andria said.
Only the eunuchs of Cybele, an ancient fertility goddess, were able to enter the hell gate without any apparent damage.
“They hold their breath as much as they can,” Strabo wrote, adding that their immunity could have been due to their "menomation," “divine providence” or “certain physical powers that are antidotes against the vapor.”
According to D'Andria, the site was a famous destination for rites of incubation. Pilgrims took the waters in the pool near the temple, slept not too far from the cave and received visions and prophecies, in a sort of oracle of Delphi effect. Indeed, the fumes coming from the depths of Hierapoli's phreatic groundwater produced hallucinations.
“This is an exceptional discovery as it confirms and clarifies the information we have from the ancient literary and historic sources,” Alister Filippini, a researcher in Roman history at the Universities of Palermo, Italy, and Cologne, Germany, told Discovery News.
Fully functional until the 4th century A.D., and occasionally visited during the following two centuries, the site represented “an important pilgrimage destination for the last pagan intellectuals of the Late Antiquity,” Filippini said.
During the 6th century A.D., the Plutonium was obliterated by the Christians. Earthquakes may have then completed the destruction.
D'Andria and his team are now working on the digital reconstruction of the site.

This is a great example of how people in the ancient world made reference to what they thought was aspects of the supernatural, but were completely natural, albeit, deadly occurrences.