Grey Thoughts
Lefty Bashing Friday
I'm thinking of making this a friday past time. But of course it is too easy, so it could be considered to be stealing candy from baby.

In todays news alone, three articles continue to make it way too easy.
Firstly, it seems conservatives have very different dreams to lefties....
If you've recently dreamed about sex with a stranger, flying or the dead coming back to life, chances are you're probably a liberal instead of a conservative.

A dream researcher from John F. Kennedy University in California has discovered fundamental differences between the dream worlds of people on the ideological left and the ideological right.

Among his findings, Kelly Bulkeley discovered that liberals are more restless sleepers and have a higher number of bizarre, surreal dreams -- including fantasy settings and a wide variety of sexual encounters. Conservatives' dreams were, on average, far more mundane and focused on realistic people, situations and settings.

"Conservatives seem to have more of a focus on the here and now and the material world whereas liberals, in contrast, seem to have a much wider sphere of imaginative activity," he said....Liberals were far more likely to have sexual dreams about strangers and a variety of partners, while liberal women showed a greater tendency towards same-sex fantasies than their conservative counterparts (24 versus four per cent)....Conservatives, by comparison, were far more likely to report having sexual dreams about their spouse or current partner.

While left-wingers might be more adventurous in the subconscious bedroom, they're also more likely to wake up in a cold sweat.

Liberals showed slightly higher levels of nightmares than conservatives -- a statistic at odds with a similar dream study Mr. Bulkeley conducted in the late 1990s.
No comment necessary really....

Secondly and Thirdly, it seems Lefties get married a lot less and have children a lot less. Hardly good for their continued existence. But then, long term thinking has never been a strong point. Willfuly negligent idealism is much more up their alley.
NIE Report Declassified - Left Lies Leaked
The other day I mentioned the 'leaking' of a classified NIE Report on the global trends in terrorism. This leak was done in a pathetic attempt to smear the current administration before an upcoming election.

Well now President Bush has de-classified the report and it shows just how much of a dishonest propaganderish move this really was. as the NY Post says
"Perceived jihadist success [in Iraq] would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere," the report notes, adding: "Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight."

Repeat: Showing the terrorists that America will stay the course until they are defeated will dissuade others from joining the jihadist movement.

What else, besides military power, can dissuade the terrorists?

"Greater pluralism and more responsive political systems in Muslim-majority nations would alleviate . . . [some] grievances jihadists exploit," says the report.

"Over time, such progress, together with sustained . . . programs targeting the vulnerabilities of the jihadist movement and continued pressure on al Qaeda, could erode support for the jihadists."

One more time: More responsive political systems, combined with increased pressure on al Qaeda.

Which pretty well sums up President Bush's policy of encouraging democracy in the Muslim world.
So the report talks about how President Bush's platform is the best one for fighting terrorism. Whoops....

Of course, that some on the left are willing to damage their country to push their point of view is hardly news. Useful idiots or fellow travellers. Either way, someone needs to hold them accountable.
Islam, The Pope and Violence
Mark Drurie, a well known expert in Islam, has a great piece in the Australian on Islam and Violence.
On the other hand, no less a figure than the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdel Aziz al-Sheikh, issued a statement on the official Saudi news service, defending Muslims' divine right to resort to violence: "The spread of Islam has gone through several phases, secret and then public, in Mecca and Medina. God then authorised the faithful to defend themselves and to fight against those fighting them, which amounts to a right legitimised by God. This ... is quite reasonable, and God will not hate it."

Saudi Arabia's most senior cleric also explained that war was never Islam's ancient founder, the prophet Mohammed's, first choice: "He gave three options: either accept Islam, or surrender and pay tax, and they will be allowed to remain in their land, observing their religion under the protection of Muslims." Thus, according to the Grand Mufti, the third option of violence against non-Muslims was only a last resort, if they refused to convert or surrender peacefully to the armies of Islam.
Yep...Three choices, Convert, Pay us tax and be subject to Sharia Law, or Die.

Mark goes on to talk about interpreting the Koran and the verses in question.
But does the Koran incite violence, and how does its message compare with the Bible?

The Koran: It is self-evident that some Koranic verses encourage violence. Consider for example a verse which implies that fighting is "good for you": "Fighting is prescribed upon you, and you dislike it. But it may happen that you dislike a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that you love a thing which is bad for you. And Allah knows and you know not." (2:216)

On the other hand, it is equally clear that there are peaceful verses as well, including the famous "no compulsion in religion" (2:256).

Resolving apparently contradictory messages presents one of the central interpretative challenges of the Koran. Muslims do not agree today on how best to address this. For this reason alone it could be regarded as unreasonable to claim that any one interpretation of the Koran is the correct one.
Nevertheless, a consensus developed very early in the history of Islam about this problem. This method relies on a theory of stages in the development of Mohammed's prophetic career. It also appeals to a doctrine known as abrogation, which states that verses revealed later can cancel out or qualify verses revealed earlier.

The classical approach to violence in the Koran was neatly summed up in an essay on jihad in the Koran by Sheikh Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Hamid, former chief justice of Saudi Arabia: "So at first 'the fighting' was forbidden, then it was permitted and after that it was made obligatory: (1) against those who start 'the fighting' against you (Muslims) ... (2) And against all those who worship others along with Allah."

At the beginning, in Mohammed's Meccan period, when he was weaker and his followers few, passages of the Koran encouraged peaceful relations and avoidance of conflict: "Invite (all) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious." (16:125)

Later, after persecution and emigration to Medina in the first year of the Islamic calendar, authority was given to engage in warfare for defensive purposes only: "Fight in the path of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits, for God does not love transgressors." (2:190)

As the Muslim community grew stronger and conflict with its neighbours did not abate, further revelations expanded the licence for waging war, until in Sura 9, regarded as one of the last chapters to be revealed, it is concluded that war against non-Muslims could be waged more or less at any time and in any place to extend the dominance of Islam. Sura 9 distinguished idolators, who were to be fought until they converted - "When the sacred months are past, kill the idolators wherever you find them, and seize them, and besiege them, and lie in wait for them in every place of ambush" (Sura 9:5) - from "People of the Book" (Christians and Jews), who were to be given a further option of surrendering and living under Islamic rule while keeping their religion: "Fight ... the People of the Book until they pay the poll tax out of hand, having been humbled." (Sura 9:29)

The resulting doctrine of war was described by the great medieval philosopher Ibn Khaldun: "In the Muslim community, the holy war (jihad) is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the (Muslim) mission and the (obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force." (The Muqaddimah)

The popular Muslim scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, and al-Jazeera television personality, in July 2003 invoked the classical dogma of the Dar al-Harb or "domain of war" that encompasses all the regions of the world in which Islam is not yet dominant. In the Dar al-Harb the lives and possessions of non-Muslims are muba'a, or "licit", making them a legitimate target for military action: "It has been determined by Islamic law that the blood and property of people of Dar al-Harb is not protected ... in modern war, all of society, with all its classes and ethnic groups, is mobilised to participate in the war, to aid its continuation and to provide it with the material and human fuel required for it to assure the victory of the state fighting its enemies."

All this explains Sheikh Abdel Aziz's response to the Pope's speech.

Yep. It explains it well. Islam will be peaceful as long as we are stronger. It will try and use our own systems to get Sharia law introduced in smaller areas first, and then larger ones. It will continue to work with the secular humanists and marxists to weaken our society. The battle is on. We just need people to realise it and understand it. Whether it remains a war of ideas, or devolves into a full scare physical war depends on how many people realise it. In this, it is where secularists and cowards who embolden Islam and end up staying silent and trying to shut everyone else up.
NIE Report - Trends in Global Terrorism
The news and blogsphere are a flutter with the latest 'leak' of a classified intelligence document. Not suprisingly, the portions leaked are negative to President Bush, and very close to an election. The 'leak' apparently shows that Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat. Yet, very little in the NYT article is quoting from the text, but instead seems to be statements from anonymous officials. That hasn't stopped the NYT, Washinton Post and every leftist blogger from crowing about it.

But what does the document really say? We don't is still classified. It was completed in April (but leaked now for the coming election), and it is doubtful many people have read what it says. Should we trust the statements of anonymous sources? Especially regarding this timing?

Powerline Blog has a good summary of the issues.
That's the headline story on the front page of the Washington Post this morning. I have no idea whether the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) upon which the story relies actually says this, but Karen DeYoung's report gives one little confidence (a) that she is reporting fully and accurately on the NIE and (b) that our "spy agencies" have any sound basis for such a conclusion.

De Young's story conflates a number of different alleged phenomena: (1) terrorism is becoming more decentralized, (2) successful recruting of terrorists is on the rise, (3) terrorists are using the Iraq war as the centerpiece of their recruiting campaigns, (4) the sitation in Iraq has worsened the U.S. position with respect to fighting terrorism. De Young's confusion (or the confusion she induces in the reader) reaches its climax when she proclaims that the "conclusions and tone" of the NIE "have been reflected in a number of public statements by senior intelligence officials this year." De Young cites a statement by John Negroponte that "[m]y colleagues and I sill view the global jihadist terrorist movement, which emerged from the Afghan-Soviet conflict in the 1980s but is today inspired and led by al Qaeda, as the preeiminent threat to our citizens, homeland interests and friends." This statement may have some very slight connection to phenomena (1) and (2) cited above, but they do not "reflect" phenomena (3) and (4) at all.
And continues later
JOHN adds: This is the latest cheap shot in the CIA's war against the Bush administration. As I've said before, one of the inherent vices of leaks of classified information is the selectivity of those leaks. When anti-Bush intelligence officials want to damage the President with a leak to the Washington Post, they relate certain features of, in this case, the National Intelligence Estimate, that they think will have the intended effect. But we don't get to see the whole report; just the reporter's spin on the spin she was given by the embedded Democrats in the agencies. We have no way of knowing, based on this kind of news story, what the report actually says, or how sound its reasoning is....
UPDATE: Sure enough, the White House says that the stories in the Post and the New York Times are "not representative of the complete document." That's very likely true, but we can't know without reading the whole report. And in all likelihood, the reporters who passed on the leakers' spin don't know either.
Yep. Anonymous sources 'leaking' damning information just before an election. Real convincing stuff. This story has one up on Dan Rather. There is no way to verify or debunk it.
More Alliances Between Terrorists and Leftists
I mentioned earlier how in Thailand the muslim extremists and secular left had come together to out a conservative government. Powerline has a good roundup of how Socialist Dictator Hugo Chavez is allied with the Muslim terrorists.
There is nothing surprising, of course, about the secular socialist from Venezuela making common cause with religious fanatics from halfway around the world. Tyrants have always worked together when it suits their purposes; they always understand one another, since they are more or less alike.

NBC de-Godifies Veggie Tales
NBC is planning on running the Veggie Tales series (they are required by law to run educational kids programming and it's cheap). Of course, all that pesky God talk is a problem, so they are requiring it to be edited out. Their claimed reason? To cut down the 30 minute shows to 22 minute TV slots. Phil Vischer, the shows creator, who is the one actually being asked to do the editing, has the real scoop.
s the guy required to do all the editing, I know that statement is false. We sent them our first episode for TV, which was already edited to EXACTLY the right length, and they rejected it because, at the end, Bob the Tomato said, "Remember kids, God made you special and he loves you very much." They demanded we remove that line. The show wasn't too long, it was too religious.

Then we sent them the next episode, which contained a slightly shortened version of Minnesota Cuke. Again, the episode, as we delivered it, was perfectly timed for television. What did we get back from NBC? An email with a list of lines that needed to be removed from the show, each of them containing either the word "God" or "Bible." The show wasn't too long, it was too religious.

In fact, would you like to see that list? Here it is, in an email from NBC on August 24th…

As discussed, there are a few edit notes for Episode # 2 MINNESOTA CUKE

We list the time-code with the specific dialogue lines to be deleted:*

11:50-11:52 - "Calm down. The Bible says we should love our enemies." (on phone)

16:53-17:06 And the best part is God gives us strength too. He gives us an even greater power than Samson's, the power to love our enemy and even be kind to them." (on phone)

18:36 - "Because God gives us the power to love everybody, even our enemy." (on phone)All of the lines are from MARTIN's voice-over during phone conversations

Greatly appreciate your attention to Program Standards notes & concerns. As soon as the edits have been addressed, we will need to re-screen for broadcast approval.

This was the list of offensive lines we needed to remove before Minnesota Cuke could be aired on NBC. The show was already cut down to the proper length, so timing had nothing to do with it. These lines were unacceptably religious.

I'm not trying to cause trouble for NBC, but whoever is making these statements to the press is either misinformed, or is actively misrepresenting what has happened. They certainly have the right to decide what is or isn't appropriate for their own network, but if they are going to reject programming because they feel it is "too religious," they should at least own up to it.

We're making the edits because NBC is requiring us to do so. Regardless of what they are now saying to the press.
Yep. No media bias there...nothing to see...This is not the bias you are looking for....move along.
Thailand Coup Lessons
Most will have heard that there has been a coup in Thailand, with the prime minister ousted whilst he is out of the country. What is curious is seeming alliance between secular humanists, marxists and Muslim's that brought about this coup.

A few things, almost all from the article above
-> The head of the military, is a Muslim who was appointed (in a monumental mistake for the government) because he was thought he could better handle the Muslim insurgency in the south.
-> This general, Sondhi, has urged negotiations with the Muslim insurgency. One can only assume negotiations would include allowing more Muslim control of the laws in the south.
-> 'Some of Thaksin's critics wanted to jettison his policies promoting privatization, free trade agreements and CEO-style administration.' These are conservative agenda's and the 'critics' would be leftist, socialist types
-> The prime minister 'alienated' the urban middle class, intellectuals and 'pro-democracy activists', assumingly with the above conservative agenda.

There were of course allegations that the government was making things so much more corrupt (and from media comments, I assume this idea was transmitted to the public...sound familiar?). Of course, both the World Bank and Transparency International have concluded that corruption is a lot better under the ousted governments administration than under previous, more liberal governments. Good thing the liberal media continues to undermine governmental stability.

The lesson out of this is that the agenda's of the secular humanist left and the Muslim community can combine against a common enemy (for at least a time). It's an important lesson in the current clash of civilisations when the Media and major universities are overtly left leaning.
The Pope's Actual Speech
There is much ignorance of what the Pope actually said. Life Site news has the full text. The important section however is
This profound sense of coherence within the universe of reason was not troubled, even when it was once reported that a colleague had said there was something odd about our university: it had two faculties devoted to something that did not exist: God. That even in the face of such radical scepticism it is still necessary and reasonable to raise the question of God through the use of reason, and to do so in the context of the tradition of the Christian faith: this, within the university as a whole, was accepted without question.

I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Münster) of part of the dialogue carried on - perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara - by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. It was presumably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than those of his Persian interlocutor. The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur'an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship between - as they were called - three "Laws" or "rules of life": the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur'an. It is not my intention to discuss this question in the present lecture; here I would like to discuss only one point - itself rather marginal to the dialogue as a whole - which, in the context of the issue of "faith and reason", I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.

In the seventh conversation (controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness which leaves us astounded, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached". The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...".

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazm went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practise idolatry.

At this point, as far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we are faced with an unavoidable dilemma. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true? I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God. Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, the first verse of the whole Bible, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: "In the beginning was the logos". This is the very word used by the emperor: God acts, with logos. Logos means both reason and word - a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist. The encounter between the Biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance. The vision of Saint Paul, who saw the roads to Asia barred and in a dream saw a Macedonian man plead with him: "Come over to Macedonia and help us!" (cf. Acts 16:6-10) - this vision can be interpreted as a "distillation" of the intrinsic necessity of a rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek inquiry.
The extremist Muslims got offended by this. The Pope, quoting a dialogue about using reason and rationality, is offensive to notions like Allah is not bound by his own word and doesn't have to follow logic. It offends them that someone would describe forcing conversions as evil and inhumane. Read the whole text and decide just how offensive what the Pope said really was.
Pope's Muslims and the Real Issue
In thinking about the storm that Pope Benedict's comments have caused, I was thinking about why the Muslim's are so upset. What was the insult that so got them mad? It wasn't saying that Islam was spread by the sword, it was calling it evil to spread Islam by the sword. There in lies the clash of civilizations and the realisation that most on the left just don't get it. Most Muslim's feel there is nothing morally wrong with spreading their religion by force. They can't stand it when someone says it is wrong, and so they go on their violent spree of destruction.

What this means is that I think I was wrong yesterday in talking about irony. It isn't an ironic response by the Muslim's, as they weren't getting upset at being called violent, they were upset at someone calling their violence evil. To say this is ironic is essentially begging the question on whether their violence is evil.
Muslim Irony Watch - Pope Response
In response to the Pope's comments that Islam was spread by the sword and so, based on violence, the Muslim community is demanding an apology and are going to burn churches and attack Christians until they get it. In fact, they are even threatening suicide attacks on the Pope. Good thing the Pope isn't backing down.

Update: More and more violent Muslim responses are being noted and Muslims are being told by Al Qeada to get out of the US, particularly New York and Washington, hinting at major attacks.
Peter Singer Speaks - Utilitarianism Shines
The Independent has Peter Singer responding to questions from the public. It does the job nicely of showing how scary some of his thinking is.
Would you kill a disabled baby? KAREN MEADE, Dublin

Yes, if that was in the best interests of the baby and of the family as a whole. Many people find this shocking, yet they support a woman's right to have an abortion. One point on which I agree with opponents of abortion is that, from the point of view of ethics rather than the law, there is no sharp distinction between the foetus and the newborn baby.
Killing a baby could be in the best interests of the baby? That's a pretty twisted bit of ethics isn't it. In many ways, Singer's views here are a vindication of pro-life groups, which he happily admits.

The really irrational comment that caught my attention however was
Does free will exist and if so, is it restricted to human beings, or can other animals have it? E CASTLE, Brighton

In a deep metaphysical sense, I don't think free will exists. But we, and some animals, can make choices, and that's real enough, whatever the causes of our choices.
I have heard this from my lecturer too. It is total nonsense. If free will doesn't exist, this means our actions are determined by things outside of our control (either chance [which is an irrational concept in itself], natural law, or some other intelligent agent). If we are not the ones determining our actions, then in no sense can it be said that we make choices. That is the sloppy thinking of ethicists who want to try and keep moral accountability without free will.

It gets worse if you believe in determinism, because if determinism is true, there is no such thing as a choice at all. The word choice becomes meaningless and it is only used out of the desperation of our current academics to avoid the logical consequences of their beliefs.

Utilitarianism also shows its irrationality
Are there moral absolutes, if so, what are they and why? RENAE MANN

The only moral absolute is that we should do what will have the best consequences for all those affected by our actions.
Yep....we have a deontological duty to be a consequentialist. Why just that moral absolute? Well, a further question highlights the reasoning (at least for Singer)
Why should I be moral? KATIE FARRELL, New York

Well ... I've written a whole book on that topic How Are We to Live?, but in a single sentence: you'll find it more fulfilling, in the long run, to contribute to making the world a better place, than to think just of your own interests.
So we should be 'moral' because it is a sort of enlightened self-interest. Not because there is some 'absolute' as Singer previously declared. he is trying to have it both ways, where as neither seems particularly convincing. Most people realise that morality is not about doing what is best for you.
Quick Links
Persistent Vegative state people still have normal brain activity. Does this mean Terri schaivo's murderers will be charged?

In New York, if your child's teacher changes their sex, you can't ask to have them changed into a different class. Apparently, it is okay to change your sex, but not your class.

Previous reports of a stem cell extraction process that could leave an embryo unharmed are now acknowledged to be wrong. But perhaps it is still okay because the embryo's are in a persistent vegative state?

In the UK, a ministers' advisory group have suggested that children aged 11 and over should be given mandatory education promoting abortion as part of sex education. Guys...when you are in a hole, stop digging!

Here is an interesting tale about September 11th in 1565. Read how the Turk Muslims were stopped from complete conquest of western civilization.
Mithra and Jesus - SBS Gone Stupid
The SBS (Stupid Broadcasting Service) is a publically funded TV station in Australia. Whilst channel flicking tonight I was somewhat shocked to see their program guide making the claim that Jesus shared a lot in common with Mithra, including the date of his birth, the 12 disciples, bron of a virgin, dying to save the world. Unfortunately, their world guide is broken, otherwise I could link to the absurd claims themselves. The horribly biased site, Religious Tolerance has a good enough description of this claim, so I'll quote that.
Some theologians and historians believe that many of the details of Jesus' life were "borrowed" from a competing, contemporary religion, Mithraism.

Mithra was a fictional character who was worshipped as a Good Shepherd, the Way, the Truth and the Light, the Redeemer, the Savior, and the Messiah. A religion in his name was founded in the 6th century BCE. Mithraism one of the most popular of religions in the Roman Empire, particularly among its soldiers and civil servants. It was Christianity's leading rival. Mithra was also believed to have been born of a virgin. Like Jesus, their births were celebrated yearly on DEC-25. Mithra was also visited by shepherds and by Magi. He traveled through the countryside, taught, and performed miracles with his 12 disciples. He cast out devils, returned sight to the blind, healed the lame, etc. Symbols associated with Mithra were a Lion and a Lamb. He held a last supper, was killed, buried in a rock tomb. He rose again after three days later, at the time of the spring equinox, circa MAR-21. He later ascended into heaven. Mithraism celebrated the anniversary of his resurrection, similar to the Christian Easter. They held services on Sunday. Rituals included a Eucharist and six other sacraments that corresponded to the rituals of the Catholic church. Some individuals who are skeptical about stories of Jesus' life suspect that Christianity may have appropriated many details of Mithraism in order to make their religion more acceptable to Pagans. St. Augustine even stated that the priests of Mithra worshipped the same God as he did. Other early Christians believed that Satan invented Mithraism and that he made Mithra's life and the practices of the religion identical to what Christianity would become centuries later. They felt that Satan's purpose was to confuse believers.

If anyone makes this claim in your presence, you should laugh at them as if they were an idiot. For instance, Mithra was born out of rock (does this mean born of a virgin?), and there are no scriptures or written records at all about Mithraism, all they have are some pictures. No reference at all is found to Mithra ever dying. In fact, Roman Mithraism was not the same as the original Iranian Mithraism (which is the one founded before Jesus), and therefore none it's claims predate Christianity. There is a lot more, but really this is such a ludicrous claim that doesn't come from scholars but from anti-christian polemics with no academic or intellectual integrity.

If you want to learn more, Tektonics has a fairly indepth refutation of these claims which actually refers to scholars work, not polemics.

(As a side note, Augustine's 'statement' is not referenced to his works but to another somewhat dubious author)
Poverty and Terrorism - Aiming for Well Armed Terrorists
My church recently preached that terrorism will continue to increase and be a problem until we redistribute the wealth of the planet and remove poverty. That is, the true cause of terrorism is poverty. The problem is, this is just plain old false.
After controlling for the level of political rights, fractionalization, and geography, Abadie concludes that per capita national income is not significantly associated with terrorism. He finds, though, that lower levels of political rights are linked to higher levels of terrorism countries with the highest levels of political rights are also the countries that suffer the lowest levels of terrorism. However, the relationship between the level of political rights and terrorism is not a simple linear one. Countries in an intermediate range of political rights experience a greater risk of terrorism than countries either with a very high degree of political rights or than severely authoritarian countries with very low levels of political rights.

... Finally, this study reveals that geographic factors -- such as measures of average elevation, tropical weather, and country area -- are also powerful predictors of terrorism
The only disappointing thing is that he didn't investigate religion as a predictor of terrorism.

Now the problem is, if poverty isn't the cause of terrorism, and we try to cure terrorism by redistributing wealth, what happens? You simply get better financed terrorists. A recent report highlights a similar effect, where "militant British Muslims" are becoming more and more common. Why? The UK has granted Muslims more freedoms than any other liberal democracy. Living in the UK, these Muslims are more than likely in the top 10% of the worlds richest people. From an article by Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, was published in the Evening Standard newspaper, London, 4 September 2006
the UK’s well-meaning policy of validating every faith and ethnic community culturally, in a depoliticised way, is naïve when it comes to Islam. For Islam does not separate the sacred from the secular: it seeks earthly power over earthly territory. The result is that already the UK has reached the stage of parallel societies, where purely Muslim areas function in isolation.

Worse, this is about to be made semi-official. In West Ham a gigantic mosque is planned by the radical Tablighi Jamaat group. The London Thames Gateway Development Corporation says that the new mosque will make West Ham a "cultural and religious destination". This will be nothing less than an Islamic quarter of our capital city....Just as important, communities minister Ruth Kelly has already excluded faith schools from the remit of her examination of integration and cohesion. Yet many Islamic schools are known to nurture values that are radically different from those of the prevailing society.

Multiculturalism creating seperate, isolated communities. Schools teaching values that a contrary to living in a liberal democracy. These things are breeding grounds when it comes to a hostile ideology. And make no mistake, the Muslim faith wants a theocracy, and will try to turn back the clock from the liberal democracy that Christian's have instituted.

The big question is, how do our own Islamic schools in Australia fair?
Big Bang a Shadow of its Former Self
In another blow to the Big Bang theory, scientists have falsified a prediction of the theory, that they would find shadows in the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR). The shadows were meant to be cast by galaxy clusters which would have the effect of blocking some of the CMBR. If this is replicated, then
"Either it (the microwave background) isn't coming from behind the clusters, which means the Big Bang is blown away, or ... there is something else going on," said Lieu. "One possibility is to say the clusters themselves are microwave emitting sources, either from an embedded point source or from a halo of microwave-emitting material that is part of the cluster environment.
Of course, it could be claimed that the source of the CMBR is on our side of these galaxy clusters which would resolve the problem (think about how you won't see a shadow of a building if the light is between you and it). But what this would mean is for smarter men than me to work out.
When the Seperation of Powers Fails
Western civilization has a common structure in separating the powers of the state. Based on the notion of an imperfect, corruptable human race, it is done to try and balance how much influence any one person or group can have. The common separation is between the executive, legislature and judicial brances of government. The legislature creates the laws, the judiciary administers and interprets the laws, and the executive enforces the laws.

But what happens when the judiciary rather than simply administering the laws, tries to manipulate the judicial system for their own ends? In America, much criticism is heaped upon the supreme court judges because they seem to have all the power and they have created the concept of a living constitution where they can interpret the constitution based on current social and moral mores, as well as international law. It doesn't matter what laws the legislature enacts, or who the executive (i.e. police) arrest, the judiciary gets to "interpret" the laws and release who they want.

We are also seeing this is the Wilson-Plame leak "scandal". The Fitzgerald investigation has spent 2 years investigating someone leaking the status of a CIA employee who was no longer an undercover operative at the time of the leak. What that means is that there was no crime committed. That's the first clue that maybe this investigation wasn't about administering the law. But the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald has done much worse than simply keeping this circus going. From Opinion Journals Best on the Web.
What Did Fitzgerald Know and When Did He Know It?
A New York Times news story hints at the possibility of prosecutorial misconduct in the Valerie Plame kerfuffle:

An enduring mystery of the C.I.A. leak case has been solved in recent days, but with a new twist: Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, knew the identity of the leaker from his very first day in the special counsel's chair, but kept the inquiry open for nearly two more years before indicting I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, on obstruction charges.

Now, the question of whether Mr. Fitzgerald properly exercised his prosecutorial discretion in continuing to pursue possible wrongdoing in the case has become the subject of rich debate on editorial pages and in legal and political circles. . . .

Mr. Fitzgerald's defenders point out that the revelation about Mr. Armitage did not rule out a White House effort because officials like Mr. Libby and Karl Rove, the senior white House adviser, had spoken about Ms. Wilson with other journalists. Even so, the Fitzgerald critics say, the prosecutor behaved much as did the independent counsels of the 1980's and 1990's who often failed to bring down their quarry on official misconduct charges but pursued highly nuanced accusations of a cover-up.

The Times suggests that there was a coverup of sorts in this kerfuffle:

On Oct. 1, 2003, Mr. Armitage was up at 4 a.m. for a predawn workout when he read a second article by Mr. Novak in which he described his primary source for his earlier column about Ms. Wilson as "no partisan gunslinger." Mr. Armitage realized with alarm that that could only be a reference to him, according to people familiar with his role. He waited until Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, an old friend, was awake, then telephoned him. They discussed the matter with the top State Department lawyer, William H. Taft IV.

Mr. Armitage had prepared a resignation letter, his associates said. But he stayed on the job because State Department officials advised that his sudden departure could lead to the disclosure of his role in the leak, the people aware of his actions said.

According to the Times, "Mr. Armitage kept his actions secret, not even telling President Bush because the prosecutor asked him not to divulge it, the people ['who are familiar with his role and actions in the case'] said."

It seems that Fitzgerald and the State Department covered up a noncrime, and the effect was to keep alive the illusion that it was a crime. We won't speculate about the prosecutor's motives, but the more we hear about the case, the clearer it is that the whole thing stinks.
I think the word 'hints' at the start is a serious understatement. Fitzgerald has wasted time and a lot of tax-payer money, destroyed the reputation and career of someone, and all the whilst he knew who leaked the name.
Cheap Rhetorical Tricks in Evolution
How many times have you heard that "Evolution is a fact" or that "Without evolution, nothing makes sense in biology"? How many times have you been taught or heard of others being taught about evolution with no doubt as to it's truth? For me, it is countless times.

The problem is, when a creationist responds to this rhetoric, you get smarmy little twits who trot out the old 'science is tentative' line. Let me state for the record. Science is tentative. Yet, why don't we see the media or other scientists berating the evolutionists' for their casting evolution as fact? Because they think it is true. Yet here we have another thinly veiled propaganda piece from the BBC.
The thought uppermost in my mind was how odd it is that non-scientists think of science as being about certainties and absolute truth. Whereas scientists are actually quite tentative - they simply try to arrive at the best fit between the experimental findings so far and a general principle....

Science, as I say, is not doctrinaire. Strongly held religious beliefs, however, are.

This week John Mackay from Queensland Australia, a passionate advocate of Creationism, has been touring halls and chapels in the UK attacking Darwin's theory that the human race has evolved gradually from the apes over millions of years.

Mackay maintains that Genesis is literally true, that the earth is only a few thousand years old and that the exquisite organisation of nature is clear proof that God's hand lies behind all of creation. Mackay had hoped to debate the matter here in Britain with leading scientists. If evolution is "true", the Creationist challenges - step up and prove it....

There is something rather attractive about absolute beliefs. We all find them comforting: give up chocolate for Lent and you are taking a small step towards God's approval. Uncertainty is much more unsettling.
Yep. John Mackay is 'Passionate' and seeking the attractive 'comforting' absolute belief. Unlike those objective, unbiased scientists. Of course, you would never see an article on the BBC criticising UK scientist Richard Dawkins when he goes on his anti-religious rants. This is just a cheap rhetorical trick. Cast those you disagree with as emotional and insecure.

The article continues...
It is a basic requirement of scientific method that a tentative explanation has to be tested against observation of the natural world. And from the very beginning scientists have been suspicious whenever the data fits the hoped-for results too closely.
Please show me how you can test whether a bacteria from 1 Billion years ago evolved into a person? Or how you can replicate the test so that the 'suspicious' scientists can verify the result? What predictions has it made so we can see how closely the data fits? Oh..that's right... there isn't really much at all.

The final dig in the article comes near the end though.
And Huygens was right to be sceptical. His pendulum clocks never did prove accurate enough at sea to solve the problem of finding longitude. A scrupulous scientist like Huygens would rather be disappointed, than accept dubious evidence to provide pat confirmation of a pet theory.

That continues to be true in all areas of scientific investigation today. Which is why no scientist will take up the creationist Mackay's challenge to "prove" the truth of Darwin's theory of evolution in a public debate. They know they cannot present a strongly held view based on a body of supporting evidence with the absolute certainty of a revealed truth....We cannot afford ourselves the luxury of waiting for evidence which clinches the theory.
Yep. Our historian writer here is giving an excuse about why 'scientists' are too scared to debate the creationists (Note the dichotomy she puts forward - creationist versus scientist, not evolutionists). It isn't because the creationists have stronger evidence, or that evolutionists are caught lying when they debate, it is because creationists are too certain of their views and scientists aren't. It is because creationists obviously don't understand what science really is.

Yep. What a load of rubbish. Creation scientists respond to claims of evolution as fact, and then biased historians like this come in and pretend that the creationists have no clue. And this is a history professor? I guess her history reading never touched on all the times evolutionists claimed their theory was true. The anti-religious propaganda continues.

Update: Just in case you think I am making it up that evolutionists claim evolution is a fact, another instance of the claim has just come up.
“If for some reason the Catholic Church gets on the wrong side of the science, then it’s going to in the long term do huge damage, just as it did when they went against Galileo,” said Lawrence M. Krauss, chairman of the physics department at Case Western Reserve University and a highly visible opponent of intelligent design. “It threatened their credibility.”

“Because like it or not,” he added, “evolution happened.”
Yep. No scientist would defend that claim. *roll*
Lessons from the Crocodile Hunter
After reflecting on the news that Steve Irwin died, and reading many peoples comments I have come to the realisation that, although I can't vouch for his morality or his personality as I never new the guy, there are things that I can find worthy of commendation.

Austin Bay has his response to the news where he gets it completely wrong.
Yet I had a problem with the komodo dragon program – a problem similar to the one I have with high-wire circus aerialists doing triple flips without a net. Circus showmanship and pagentry provide grand entertainment, but if the aerialist falters and falls, how do I explain the tragedy to my children? We came for Ringling Brothers and show biz, not Circus Maximus and blood sacrifice....A violent, unnecessary death.

Irwin was idiosyncratic, personable, enthusiastic, informed, and physically courageous. That’s a lot to admire. But what drove him to get too close one too many times?
Now I generally like a lot of what Austin has to say, but this time he is missing the point compeltely. If there is one thing we can learn from Steve Irwin it is this. Life is worth living, risks are worth taking. Steve was passionate about what he did, and even though he took educated risks, he truly lived. How many people who feel as Austin feel can say that. We can't avoid risks in life. A life lived in fear where we don't push the limits is a life where little progress happens. History is replete with examples of people who pushed the limits, risking all to go that one step it the space program, the taming of the U.S.'s west, or the exploration of the oceans by early sea-farers. None of it was 'necessary', but all of it was about being alive.

So the lesson is, there are more important things than safety and that is what Austin could tell his kids if something bad happened.
The Crocodile Hunter is Dead
This just got released in the news. Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter is dead. Killed in a freak accident, where a sting ray's barb punctured his chest.

Whether you love him or hate him, he was a quintessential aussie character. My thoughts go out to his family.
Evolution is practically useless
Creation Safari's links to an article where evolutionist, Jerry Coyne no less, who tells us just how unimportant evolution really is to practical science.
... if truth be told, evolution hasn’t yielded many practical or commercial benefits. Yes, bacteria evolve drug resistance, and yes, we must take countermeasures, but beyond that there is not much to say. Evolution cannot help us predict what new vaccines to manufacture because microbes evolve unpredictably. But hasn’t evolution helped guide animal and plant breeding? Not very much. Most improvement in crop plants and animals occurred long before we knew anything about evolution, and came about by people following the genetic principle of ‘like begets like’. Even now, as its practitioners admit, the field of quantitative genetics has been of little value in helping improve varieties. Future advances will almost certainly come from transgenics, which is not based on evolution at all.
Yep...cornerstone of modern biology. The foundational concept that cannot be questioned in education for fear of destroying science. What a joke.

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