Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Lucy Visit

I stopped by the Pacific Science Center on Friday to see the Lucy exhibit. I've got to say that it was very cool. The majority of the display was dealing with Ethiopian history and culture, but I'd expected that based on some other reports I'd read from the last stop of the exhibit tour. I'm probably as much a history nerd as I am a biology nerd, so I enjoyed the whole experience. I really wanted to have pictures, but there was no photography allowed. The Lucy fossils even had a full time guard.

The exhibit was really well done. There was information on how fossils are formed, how they are dated and how they are excavated and reconstructed. There was even enough hands-on touch-and-feel stuff to almost entertain the boy while I read every display. (Lori was super nice and kept him out of trouble so I could take my time.) The part I liked best (other than Lucy) was the progression of reconstructed skull casts showing all the known possible human ancestors. Another thing I enjoyed was the family trees comparing the state of knowledge in the early '70s when Lucy was discovered with what is known now. Huge progress has been made in our understanding of our evolutionary heritage.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Nissan Electric Car in 2010

Nissan is reported to be releasing a 5 seat sedan all electric vehicle in 2010. The same time frame as the Chevy Volt. Nothing is solid yet on range, price or performance, but the plan is for this to be a practical car as apposed to the Tesla Roadster. I'm glad that a few major manufacturers are stepping up. Gasoline powered vehicles are a dead end. Honda and Toyota may have plug-in hybrids coming out around this same time. I'm thinking that 2010 is about the time I'll be in the market for a new car. We'll have to see if I'm brave enough to be an early adopter.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Torah of the Heavens [A Book Report]

This week I've been reading The Torah of the Heavens by Steven E. Behrmann, or as I've always known him - Uncle Steve. Despite the family connection and common religious background, this book has exposed me to something I'd never been aware of before. Apparently the constellations in the night sky tell the story of God's plan of redemption and Jesus' death on the cross to save us from our sins. Also, this is scientifically proven fact. The starting point for this line of thought is Psalms 19.

1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.

From here the reader is told that each constellation of the zodiac together with its individual stars and sub-constellations is a visual summary of the great controversy. This is not to be confused with astrology which is " evil …" Maybe that is why this was all new information to me. Adventism shies away from divination in any form. This 'gospel in the stars' is probably not mainstream because of the apparent similarity to astrology.

I did a little outside reading and this is what I came up with on Biblical Astronomy

"The mission of Biblical Astronomy is to study and research signs in the heavens that are relevant to Biblical prophecy and make the research available for others to study and consider. In the next few years, there are many rare celestial events which clearly portray the "Great Tribulation" written of in the Holy Scriptures. If the events written of in the prophecies concerning the end times from the Holy Scriptures, particularly "Jacob's Trouble", unfold at this time, remains to be seen. Though earthly events seem to be heading rapidly in that direction."

It seems to me to be a bizarre mixture of Judeo-Christian prophecy myths and astrology. The names of the starts and the constellations are considered to have actual meaning in and of themselves. For example Virgo is literally the virgin that will bring forth a child. Or if a star has a name that can be translated as 'branch' that is actually a astral representation of Jesus himself, by reference to biblical imagery. I'm not real sharp on astrology but this seems like a simple remapping of symbols to have an apocalyptic Christian meaning rather than the standard astrological meanings.

Then there are all of the post hoc explanations rationalizations. Remember, biblical astronomy asserts that a star's or constellation's name has important meaning. If that stars modern name fits the preconceived notion (such as branch = Jesus) the ancient truth has been preserved. However, if the modern name makes an analogy difficult, that means that "they have been blurred and greatly adulterated by the heathen of every culture over the centuries." There is conveniently no way to lose if people agree to play that game. Never mind that the constellations are completely arbitrary patterns and differ from culture to culture. There is no truth about the future of humanity that can be discerned by all this flailing to interpret the archaic pictures in the stars.

One closing point from a paragraph of the book:

In many cases the formations of the stars do not in any way look like the person, animal or object they represent. But the symbol was intended to relay a message, and this message should not be lost or compromised. Unfortunately, these pictures are usually very poorly expressed, and it greatly damages the glorious figuratism intended. The artwork available is either crude, or even immoral, and is drawn largely fro the fanciful realm of astrology. This, unfortunately, is all we have. Therefore we are doing the best we can in what is included in this book, but recognize that the illustartions are significantly inaccurate to the task. The best illustrations should be formed in one's own mind, and this is exactly how God probably intended it in the first place.

That's right. The arrangement stars themselves don't actually look like the symbols historically assigned to them. You have to use the traditional drawings to know what they are supposed to look like. And some of those might have boobies (oh noes !!11!!!1) in them so they won't be shown in this good Christian book. (remember Christians are scared of boobies, vaginae, and women in general) It is much better if you just imagine you can see what you are supposed to see.

From what I've learned about this 'Biblical Astronomy' I'm wishing I had Christopher Hitchens' gift of blistering insult. The whole affair is completely blind and brain-dead.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Last Saturday (Oct. 4) the Lucy Exhibit opened at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle. This is the first west coast exhibition of Lucy

the oldest, most complete, and best preserved adult fossil of any erect-walking human ancestor. The 1974 discovery of this famous 3.2 million-year-old hominid yielded a new species, Australopithecus afarensis, and continues to have a major impact on the scientific understanding of our human origins. Through additional artifacts spanning over 200,000 years visitors will also experience Ethiopia, Lucy's homeland. With eight locales on the World Heritage List, Ethiopia is rich in history and culture and it holds a unique position in the study of paleoanthropology.
Lori said she is taking me to the exhibit for my birthday present. I could not be more excited. We decided not to go opening weekend, but I hope we'll get there soon. There was some controversy in the scientific community over exhibiting these fossils. Some people thought they were just too valuable to risk transporting them. I can understand that, but since they are here I glad I'll get to pay her a visit. A huge positive side to the exhibition is the amazing opportunity for science education. The Seattle PI has been running a series of articles, and there is a lecture series sponsored by the Science Center and KCTS/9, the local Public Broadcasting Station, are scheduled. This event promotes good science and displays the facts of human evolution. I'm hoping that by visiting the display I'll have a good conversation starter. Maybe evolution will be harder to deny when the evidence is in full view just down the street.


Cool it looks like my blog has been spammed by Answers in Genesis. (10/9/08)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Ron Numbers about Palin

Since Tim clued me in about Ron Numbers, I've been keeping an eye out for mention of him. And here on the day for the Vice-Presidential debate, he has posted a nice article about Sarah Palin's creationism. As much as I enjoy some inflammatory blogs and heated discussion, I think Ron Numbers uses an approach that is much more practical in real life. If you are actually hoping to persuade someone to examine your position with an open mind, you probably need to leave off the mocking, and ranting. Even if it is entertaining.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Fine Example of Christian Love

My wife has a great job where she gets to have stimulating conversations with a diverse range of people. Earlier this week she a talked with two of her clients who are highly educated public health professionals. With elections fast approaching (Washington State governor and US President) their conversation was about politics and the various candidates positions on funding for fundamental services like public health and education. As seems to be common among the highly educated, the wife's clients supported the Democratic candidate.

I try to avoid political discussions here, but part of Lori's conversation with her client intersected with some religiously motivated events that have been lighting up the blogs the last few days. I like to write about things that have a personal connection and this was it.

Lori's client has family in a swing state. They are also Democratic voters. During the previous week in this swing state there was included with the daily newspaper a DVD of violent anti-Muslim propaganda. It also made the outrageous and now tiresomely common far right assertion that Barack Obama is a Muslim. The clients family was very upset and spent a great deal of time on the phone with the newspaper trying to find out who had paid for this documentary. Turns out it was sent out by something called the Clarion Fund. A group that supports McCain, but whose source of funding is still not clear.

But it gets better. It seems this vile little movie is allegedly spawning violent reaction against Muslims. Some Christians, filled with the love of Jesus, gassed the daycare of a mosque. I know this is painting with broad strokes, but this is what happens with religion that embraces ignorance. These people are terrified of anything that is different from their narrow view of the world.