Wednesday, September 28, 2016

SpaceX

Elon Musk recently gave his much anticipated talk "Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species" about eventually sending people to Mars and beyond.

Just a few scribbles for now:

  1. His talk slides as well as the aesthetics of his presentation are beautiful in their simplicity.

  2. Musk may sell himself as the real life Tony Stark, but he rather strikes me as someone on the tip of devolving into Howard Hughes. Certainly his charisma falls far short of the image he wishes to project of himself. He'd probably be better off having a right hand man or woman give his presentations and talks, or at least hiring someone to improve his public speaking skills if he doesn't wish to give up the reins, but I guess every Silicon Valley CEO thinks they can be Steve Jobs.

  3. However, the substance of his talk seemed quite a bit less than the expectations would've predicted. Perhaps that was inevitable. Maybe the expectations were ramped up way too high. I may get more into what I thought about his specifics and technicalities in the future (e.g. I think he minimizes risks to humans like radiation). Suffice it to say for now I think it's much tougher to land a person on Mars than Musk seems to make it out to be let alone establish a human colony there. A book like Mankind Beyond Earth is a good place to start.

  4. Attempting to establish a human colony on Mars (or the Moon) is in a sense a science experiment writ large. It's an attempt to create a viable biosphere. Another Earth in miniature. For instance, what ingredients would be needed in order to create an off-planet habitat which can sustain human life indefinitely? For starters, we'd need to consider such vitals as temperature (not too hot, not too cold), atmosphere (enough oxygen to breathe, enough carbon dioxide to help drive breathing, enough to shield cosmic radiation from harming humans), adequate energy intake (food and water sources), gravity (again, not too much, nor too little, otherwise it'd adversely effect our bodies including the sense of balance, bones, muscles, the immune system, heart pumping blood around the body), etc. Anyway, point being, creating a habitat for humanity on Mars may prove a real world echo of arguments for fine-tuning and other design arguments. I may expand on this in a future post as well.

  5. Atheists like Musk often wax poetic about space exploration. The search for knowledge, to go where no one has gone before, the possibility of making first contact with another intelligent species, for the sheer adventure of it all, and so on.

    Of course, the reality is more mundane. Atheists think we must go off planet because it's inevitable an extinction event will occur on Earth, hence humanity's only hope is the stars. We explore so we can survive as a species.

    That's true, but they forget (or ignore) the universe itself is headed for an extinction event too. So, given atheism, we're really just buying more time for ourselves until the axe falls, which it certainly will. Sure, there may be many exciting events in the interim, but our fate is sealed.

    As such, this casts a long shadow over all our strivings and endeavors. How could it not? It dampens the spirit of space exploration, to say the least, if and when we bring it to mind; and if we don't bring it to mind, then we're just pushing it back into the recesses of our consciousness so we don't have to consider our end. That's playing ostrich in a way.

    By contrast, Christians not only have a good impetus to explore, but we have good grounds to wax poetic about space exploration. We can explore space because we know all creation is God's creation, the other planets and stars reflect our God, whom we wish to know and understand, to study and adore, for "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork" (Ps 19:1).

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Liberals label

Many if not most liberals routinely use disapproving labels in lieu of reasoned argumentation. These liberals will label conservatives stupid, backwards, evil, etc., then immediately move to the supposed implication that therefore people need not and should not listen to this or that position put forth by a conservative.

For example: conservatives are greedy capitalists who don't care about the poor, therefore pay no attention to any plans conservatives propose to improve the economy.

Another example: conservatives are racist, therefore whatever conservatives say about blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, and other minorities is false.

Or: conservatives are misogynists, they don't have women's interests at heart, therefore we can safely dismiss whatever conservatives say about a woman's right to choose.

Closer to home: conservative Christians are poorly educated, anti-scientific hicks and rednecks, hence no need to consider anything they say about the theory of evolution.

Examples could be multiplied. But the point is, liberals who label in this fashion are not only illicitly reasoning, but they're behaving unethically or immorally. Indeed, these liberals are bullies.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Swinburne should be censored!

Paul Moser:

My FB friend David Sinclair has raised some questions crucial to being a responsible human being: "Are there any limits on the dehumanization of people groups? Is a biblical case for white supremacy, for example, within the realm of rational discourse? Apparently, Swinburne pathologized gay people. Isn't that beyond the pale? What other group could you describe as sadly inferior humans? Jewish people? Women?

There are certain notions in the 'free exchange of ideas' that deserve censure. I certainly wouldn't condone the position that all Christians are unfortunately mentally incapacitated...would you?

Let's untangle this woven web:

  1. Sure, one shouldn't normally condone racism or sexism. But how is homosexuality analogous to race or gender? That's simply assumed without argument here. Yet an argument is vital in the case at hand.

    For that matter, how is the belief that "all Christians are unfortunately mentally incapacitated" analogous to racism or sexism?

  2. How did what Swinburne said describe homosexuals as "inferior humans"? As such another unargued assumption seems to be if one "pathologizes" a group of people, then they have "dehumanized" the same group of people.

    If I said the Japanese have a high incidence of mental illness (e.g. major depression associated with suicide), and we need to help cure them, thereby I suppose "pathologizing" the Japanese, how would that entail I've described the Japanese as "inferior humans" or "dehumanized" the Japanese?

  3. Is this meant to suggest society ought to label speech against homosexuality hate speech? If so, then on what basis? I don't know, but if it is, then my best guess would be on the basis of offense. It's just offensive for people like Moser and Sinclair to hear homosexuality called a "disability" that should be cured if possible.

    If that's the case, then, for one thing, this cuts both ways. It's offensive to Christians (among others) to hear they should morally condone homosexuality.

    So how should society adjudicate between "offenses" here? That's a debate for another time.

    However, for the Christian, the first and final port of call for adjudicating homosexuality should be the Bible, relevant passages properly exegeted, in light of biblical and systematic theology on the matter. Ironically, Moser is a professing Christian. Thus, he should either accept what the Bible teaches in full or renounce his Christianity for consistency's sake. Instead, he seems he'd prefer to pick and choose the parts of the Bible with which he agrees largely based on his liberalism. His liberalism is what really arbitrates what's acceptable and what's unacceptable in the Bible, not the Bible itself.

  4. Or would people like Moser and Sinclar think it's simply intuitively wrong to say what Swinburne said about homosexuals and homosexuality? If so, then people like Moser and Sinclair are so provincially minded. They're stuck in the small world of 21st century liberal America.

    However, most peoples throughout history and most non-Western peoples around the world today have far different intuitions on homosexuality than people like Moser and Sinclair do. I'm not limiting this to Christians, but also most Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Africans, Asians, South Americans, and so on. Swinburne's statement on homosexuality is arguably more in line with the rest of the world's thinking than the thinking of insular liberal Western academics like Moser.

    Of course, I'm not suggesting intuitions are truth, but rather responding on these grounds.

Monday, September 12, 2016

God of the gaps

Militant atheists of the Dawkins variety often raise the God of the gaps argument. They think the religious are just saying "Goddidit" for an unexplained phenomenon. Say like how Norse pagans used to think thunderstorms were due to Thor. But now that we know what causes thunderstorms, there's no need for Thor.

However, one problem with this point is it's a false dichotomy. At least when it comes to classical theism let alone Christianity.

For example, now that we know the scientific explanation for thunderstorms, does this mean we should no longer attribute the thunderstorm to God? Christians believe God is the one who made a planet with phenomena such as thunderstorms, that God made lightning as electrical discharge, indeed that God made the laws of physics from which such phenomena result.

In other words, positing God as the ultimate source of thunderstorms is perfectly consistent with understanding the scientific explanation for thunderstorms. It's not either/or but both/and.

It's like if scientists discovered a sophisticated alien spacecraft. After years of studying it, scientists have figured out how the alien spaceship works. They know how to turn it on, how to fly it, how to use its navigation and weapons systems, how to land it. They know how its engine and other internal mechanics work. They know its energy source for fuel. They know what material it is built out of. And so on. Basically, scientists know everything there is to know about the alien spacecraft.

But now that scientists understand all this, would it make any sense if they then said, "Welp, now that we understand everything about this spacecraft, no need to posit that it was built by an intelligent alien species, for that would be superfluous"?

Of course not. It's not inconsistent to say scientists understand everything there is to understand about an alien spacecraft and the alien spacecraft was possibly built by an intelligent alien species.

Similarly, it'd make no sense on Christianity to say now that we understand how phenomena like thunderstorms work, we can therefore abandon the idea of God.

(Besides, science itself doesn't always close gaps. Sometimes science in fact opens gaps as it closes gaps. Sciences brings more questions. Nothing unreasonable about that.)

Saturday, September 10, 2016

If fine-tuning, then...

I'm just aiming for a general audience in this post, not a philosophically educated one. The philosophically informed and trained would know about the works of philosophers and physicists like Robin Collins, Luke Barnes, etc. I'd heartily recommend following them on fine-tuning.

That said, given the purported evidence for fine-tuning, then the main options seem to be:

  1. Reject the evidence strongly argues for fine-tuning.

  2. Accept the evidence strongly argues for fine-tuning, but argue the fine-tuned universe "just is".

  3. Accept the evidence strongly argues for fine-tuning, but argue the multiverse is behind it all.

  4. Accept the evidence strongly argues for fine-tuning, but argue for design by an intelligent designer.

I'll quickly run through each of these options:

  1. The evidence seems to be everywhere. For instance, if I understand him aright, Robin Collins divides the evidence into three broad categories:

    a. Evidence for fine-tuning in the laws of nature (e.g. altering ever so minutely any of the fundamental forces, i.e., the law of gravitation, electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force)

    b. Evidence for fine-tuning in the constants of nature (e.g. changing the fine-structure constant, which, as Richard Feynman once said: "It's [the fine-structure constant, approximately 1/137] one of the greatest damn mysteries of physics: a magic number that comes to us with no understanding by man. You might say the 'hand of God' wrote that number, and 'we don't know how he pushed his pencil'")

    c. Evidence for fine-tuning in the initial conditions of nature (e.g. as Roger Penrose has said: "In order to produce a universe resembling the one in which we live, the Creator would have to aim for an absurdly tiny volume of the phase space of possible universes [i.e. one part in 1010123]").

    For many other examples, see a book like Just Six Numbers by Martin Rees.

    (And, of course, I'm leaving aside the biological and chemical arguments for now.)

  2. If we argue the finely-tuned universe is a brute fact, that the finely-tuned universe "just is," that we humans just happened to exist in such a finely-tuned universe by chance, that seems highly improbable, to put it mildly!

    Philosopher-physicist Robin Collins calls it the "surprise" factor. Suppose we are astronauts traveling to a distant and otherwise deserted planet. Suppose we come across a strange monolith which when approached is suddenly activated, and tells us: "Welcome to our planet, intergalactic voyagers from Earth!" It would seem highly implausible if we therefore concluded this monolith just happened to be here by random chance.

  3. This only pushes the question back a step because we would need to explain the fine-tuning of the multiverse itself. In which case some might argue the multiverse itself is a brute fact. If so, then it'd bring us back to (b).

  4. Seems far more reasonable than the other choices to me.

    Many atheists would even agree. For example, they'd argue our universe is a computer simulation in a universe which contains our own. Perhaps like in "The Ricks Must Be Crazy" in Rick & Morty. But how likely is this? What are the arguments and evidences for the simulation hypothesis? Perhaps I'll explore this in a future post.

    However, my own position is Christian theism. That's the most probable and reasonable one in my mind. (Although to be fair my belief in Christianit is not only due to arguments from design including fine-tuning, but many other arguments as well.)

All in all, this video sums it up much better than I can:

Thursday, September 8, 2016

"Walter Hooper: The Life and Writing of C.S. Lewis" review

I've finished watching Eric Metaxas interview Walter Hooper about C.S. Lewis. It's a three part interview lasting a little over three hours total.

My (ironically) meandering thoughts:

1. Hooper comes across as an absolute gentleman. His humility shines through as well. He seems genuinely honored and grateful for being able to do so much for Lewis' legacy.

And I never realized, but it's indeed possible we might not have a lot of Lewis' works today had it not been for Hooper. I'm glad Metaxas highlighted this point throughout the interview. Although Metaxas said this many, many times throughout the interview (no doubt Metaxas is genuinely appreciative of Hooper and wanted others to share in his appreciation) so it seemed a bit like overkill.

2. I think the best parts of the interview were Hooper sharing his own firsthand anecdotes about Lewis. Things Lewis said to him, did for him, etc. It gives us a flavor of Lewis the person.

Also, there were some interesting little factoids. Such as the possibility that Lewis had written a part two to his Surprised by Joy but that it was likely burned in a bonfire. Another interesting piece of trivia was that at one point Hooper went through some pornographic magazines in search of a Lewis essay (which he never did find).

3. Metaxas was his usual witty self. I usually appreciate Metaxas' humor and generally like his interviewing style too.

4. However, in this case, I think Metaxas being Metaxas wasn't always so wonderful. For example, Metaxas would interrupt Hooper to make a funny quip or perhaps in search of banter, but Hooper isn't the type to banter back and forth, and so it seemed to derail Hooper a bit before he got back on track.

Also, Metaxas would often speak longer than necessary to ask a question. A few times Metaxas interrupted Hooper just to summarize out loud what Hooper had just said, which everyone already heard, but perhaps Metaxas needed to clarify something in his own mind, which he did out loud. This in turn meant Metaxas would keep speaking in what seemed to be an attempt to find a question to ask Hooper. My guess is Metaxas felt if he's going to interrupt Hoopoer, then he should ask him a question. But the problem was he had to search for a question to ask Hooper. (My own paragraph describing this is almost as long-winded!)

To be fair, some of this may not have been Metaxas, per se, but instead may have been due to Hooper's own diffident personality.

5. Overall, though, I felt the interview was largely a missed opportunity. Actually, many missed opportunities.

If I understood him correctly, Metaxas had about a year to prepare for this three hour interview with Hooper. And Metaxas kept saying how central this interview was to Socrates in the City, and in fact the main reason they did Socrates in the City in Oxford, England was to interview Hooper. Metaxas said it was a "dream" come true for him to interview Hooper.

If so, then I'm surprised the interview wasn't better. It was decent, but it fell far short of the high hopes Metaxas seemed to have had for the interview at its beginning.

6. For one thing, the interview wasn't very well focused. It basically seemed like Metaxas was winging it. Asking questions as they came to mind as Hooper talked about Lewis. For the audience it's not substantially different than eavesdropping on a conversation between a couple of friends at a bar or pub about a third (famous/celebrity) friend.

7. By contrast, I would've thought there are different possibilities for how to arrange or organize an interview. An interview could have been structured around Lewis' relationships and friendships such as with Hooper himself, Lewis' brother Warnie Lewis, Joy Davidman, Tolkien, the other Inklings (e.g. Barfield, Dyson), Charles Williams, and so on.

There could've been questions about Lewis' relationship with Mrs. Moore, his gardener (who was the inspiration for Puddleglum), etc.

It could've also included Lewis taking kids into his home (the Kilns) during the London bombings in WW2 including June Flewett who inspired Lucy in the Chronicles of Narnia.

They could've talked about Lewis' relationship to his atheist tutor, William Kirkpatrick aka the Great Knock, his poor relationship with his father, his mother's untimely death.

They could've explored Lewis on the battlefield in WW1, and how that affected him, such as when he lost his friend Paddy Moore, yet promised to take care of his mother, Mrs. Moore, who lived with Lewis until her death (if I recall).

But very little of this was explored in much depth except for Hooper's anecdotes about Lewis, Warnie Lewis, and a couple of mentions (nothing in any sort of depth) about some of the Inklings including Tolkien. There was a bit about the gardener which was very good though.

8. If conversing about all these relationships would've been too much to do, another focus could've been around Lewis' literary friends and correspondences (e.g. Eliot, Sayers, Tolkien). Like how Lewis started out hating Eliot's poetry including penning a scathing review, how they met at the New English Bible translation committee and became friends, how Eliot published some of Lewis' writings, etc. But this didn't happen in the interview.

9. Another possibility could've been structuring the interview around Lewis' fictional and/or non-fictional works. Perhaps Metaxas could've gone chronologically through Lewis' literary ouevre and asked Hooper about each of these. They did have 3 hours after all.

Or at least asked about the major works.

Metaxas did ask Hooper about some of Lewis' books such as the Space trilogy (especially Perelandra), The Screwtape Letters, The Abolition of Man, and a quick mention of The Great Divorce and Miracles. Maybe a few others I'm forgetting.

But it seemed to me only Perelandra and Screwtape were explored in any depth, though even still there wasn't much depth explored.

10. Yet another possibility could've been structuring the interview around how to read and write well. Lewis had a lot of writings about stories, letters to children offering them advice about how to write, An Experiment in Criticism is about being a good reader and writer, and so on.

11. Or on how Lewis evolved as a writer. Say a children's writer for instance. Say from how Lewis (and his brother Warnie) created the fictional world of Boxen as children, their love for the Beatrix Potter stories, E. Nesbit's The Railway Children series, The Wind in the Willows, many others.

This in turn could've led to an exploration of Lewis' apologetics of the imagination. Apologetics through storytelling.

Alas! This didn't transpire either.

12. Or they could've discussed Lewis' literary influences in general (e.g. Chesterton, MacDonald).

As an aside, I wonder if Hooper could've talked about Lewis and Tolkien's wager for one of them to write a space adventure while the other wrote a time adventure, and the Space trilogy and the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings being possible fulfillments of these, respectively.

13. Or perhaps structuring the interview around what Metaxas knows best. Indeed, I was somewhat surprised Metaxas didn't talk more about Lewis' thoughts and writings against totalitarianism, statism, the culture wars, and the like (e.g. such as in The Abolition of Man and That Hideous Strength). That's somewhat ironic in light of the fact that Metaxas himself published a book on Bonhoeffer and a more recent book on the foundations of our American republic i.e. If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty. Aren't these in part about how Christians can live in times of persecution by increasingly anti-Christian secular states?

Related, wasn't Lewis himself persecuted to some degree by many faculty members at Oxford for his Christian beliefs and publications? Isn't that the main reason Lewis reluctantly moved to Cambridge in his latter years (after Lewis kept getting passed over for promotions at Oxford; fortunately for Lewis Cambridge created a new chair and professorship for Lewis)?

14. Metaxas also wrote a book titled Miracles, which he has elsewhere said he "stole" the title from Lewis. Although Metaxas confessed he found Lewis' Miracles difficult to understand. That's fair enough, because neither Metaxas nor Hooper are philosophers as far as I'm aware, and Lewis' Miracles is probably less known for what it says about miracles and more known for proposing the argument from reason (later picked up by philosophers such as Reppert and Plantinga). Nevertheless it might've been nice to hear if Hooper might have had any interesting anecdotes about Lewis and Anscombe's debate.

In addition, and again given Metaxas published a book on Miracles, I was surprised Metaxas didn't ask Hooper about Joy Davidman's seemingly miraculous healing after a prayer and anointing by an Anglican priest named Peter Bide, who reputedly had a gift of healing.

15. Another perhaps interesting way to structure the interview might've been around themes with each theme introduced by a Lewis quotation (since Lewis is eminently quotable). Such as the theme of tyranny creeping into the Western secular state with "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive" or "Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil".

Or the theme of friendship with "Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art...It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival".

Or the theme of Christian apologetics with "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else".

Or the theme of suffering, from The Problem of Pain to A Grief Observed, with "Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world:.

And so on.

16. I think Metaxas hyperfocused on Lewis' knack for words. Like Lewis' invention of names for his characters in Narnia (e.g. Puddleglum the Marshwiggle, Reepicheep), Lewis' clever turns of phrases, etc. Don't get me wrong, it was fascinating at points, but I think Metaxas brought it up intermittently throughout the 3 hour interview when in my opinion he would've been better off had he simply done it once and in-depth and not kept coming back to it.

Also, I wonder why Metaxas didn't ask Hooper about Lewis' book Studies in Words at this point.

17. I, for one, would've liked to have heard Hooper talk about Lewis' academic accomplishments. Most people already know about Lewis as a popular author (e.g. Narnia, Screwtape). Many people know about Lewis' apologetics. But I would suppose far fewer know about Lewis' academic accomplishments (e.g. The Allegory in Love, which I've heard is still used in some college or university courses; the OHEL book i.e. Poetry and Prose in the 16th Century was briefly mentioned in passing and no more, I think).

18. It might've been interesting to hear Hooper talk about Lewis and Sehnsucht, but that didn't come up either.

19. Or to hear if Hooper would know if Lewis might have had any opinions about turning his Narnia books into movies. I seem to recall Lewis watching and enjoying the original King Kong movie, but I might be thinking of another person in that period.

20. The bit about Hooper talking about why he thinks Lewis would've converted to Catholicism was interesting. I wished Metaxas had pressed him a bit more, because the main reason Hooper gave for Lewis converting to Catholicism seemed to be the liberalization of the Church of England; however, the Catholic church has liberalized as well, whereas there are some Anglican churches which have actually become more conservative. Perhaps a more interesting question would have been whether Lewis would've been drawn to those more conservative sections of the Anglican church, perhaps even evangelical, had he lived longer?

Of course, I'm aware Lewis never cared to identify as an evangelical, but he likewise is on record for never having cared to identify as a Catholic.

21. I'm sure all this sounds like I'm simply being an armchair interviewer. And that's true to an extent.

At the same time, Metaxas had a considerable amount of time to prepare for this interview (a year?), the interview itself was a very long 3 hour interview, and Metaxas himself voiced several times the import of the Hooper interview. And it's not as if Hooper is likely to be around much longer since he's already in his mid-80s, I believe.

Anyway, I'm just surprised it wasn't a better organized interview, but rather seemed more like it mostly improvised.

And I'm surprised so much which Hooper could've been asked was left out entirely.

All in all, it was a decent interview, but it could've been so much better. There was far more promise than realized. (Not unlike this post!)

Friday, September 2, 2016

Something wicked this way comes

Thanks to Jacob Howard for these:

"In social science it is of crucial importance that fact and inference should always be as clearly distinguished as possible. For that reason this book is divided into two parts: 'Data' and 'Interpretation.' For example, it is unequivocally a fact that the vast majority of those whom my informants have accused of witchcraft have been persons of wealth or prestige. My 'explanation' of this circumstance is equally unequivocally a non-fact. When data and interpretation are closely juxtaposed, there is often confusion as to the dividing line between the two." (p.6)

Kluckhohn, Clyde. "Navajo Witchcraft." Boston: Beacon Press; reprint of 1944 ed., 1967.

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"The classic Witchery Way technique is that mentioned in the emergence legend. A preparation (usually called 'poison' by English-speaking informants) is made of the flesh of corpses. The flesh of children and especially of twin children is preferred, and the bones at the back of the head and skin whorls are the prized ingredients. When this 'corpse poison' is ground into powder it 'looks like pollen.' It may be dropped into a hogan from the smokehole, placed in the nose or mouth of a sleeping victim or blown from furrowed sticks into the face of someone in a large crowd. 'Corpse poison' is occasionally stated to have been administered in a cigarette. Fainting, lockjaw, a tongue black and swollen, immediate unconsciousness or some similar dramatic symptom is usually said to result promptly. Sometimes, however, the effects are less obvious. The victim gradually wastes away, and the usual ceremonial treatments are unavailing."

Kluckhohn, Clyde. "Navajo Witchcraft." Boston: Beacon Press; reprint of 1944 ed., 1967.

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"On the whole, there is substantial agreement between informants on the major features of Witchery ideology. Night activity, were-animals, association with corpses and incest, killing of a sibling as part of initiation, various points of technique--these traits are mentioned in interview after interview and are not denied explicitly or implicitly in any. This concordance holds also for the literature." (pp.27,28)

Kluckhohn, Clyde. "Navajo Witchcraft." Boston: Beacon Press; reprint of 1944 ed., 1967.

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"If a witch confesses, the victim will at once begin slowly to improve, and the witch will die within the year from the same symptoms which have been afflicting the victim. If a witch refused to confess within four days, he was most often killed. In some cases the accused was allowed to escape if he permanently left the community. A number of accused witches are said to have fled to Cañoncito. But Van Valkenburgh is undoubtedly right in considering witchcraft as a crime for which the Navaho administered capital punishment. A considerable number of witches put to death are referred to in the literature, and a much larger number are known to me from reliable white and Navaho informants. Sometimes, when tension mounted sufficiently, the witch was killed without 'trial,' sometimes by an aggrieved individual but equally often by a group of relatives (and friends) of some supposed victim. The manner of execution varied, but was usually violent (by axes and clubs)." (p.49)

Kluckhohn, Clyde. "Navajo Witchcraft." Boston: Beacon Press; reprint of 1944 ed., 1967.

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"But from a total of 222 cases of persons accused of witchcraft where some other information was available, some idea can be gained as to Navaho conceptions of differential participation. One hundred and eighty-four were men; all were adults. No women were accused as Wizards or as Frenzy Witches. All women accused were definitely old; 131 of the men were definitely old (spoken of as 'old,' 'very old,' 'grey-haired,' 'white-haired,' etc.). One hundred and forty of the men were described as ceremonial practitioners of some sort, but it must be remembered that the proportion of adult Navaho men who are ceremonial practitioners is very high. Twenty-one of the men were said to be 'headmen' or 'chiefs.' This is an exceedingly high figure, considering the proportion of such leaders to the total adult male population. Twelve of the women were referred to as ceremonial practitioners. One hundred and fifteen out of the total group were described as rich or 'well-off'; seventeen were described as poor or very poor; for the remainder no economic information was available." (p.59)

Kluckhohn, Clyde. "Navajo Witchcraft." Boston: Beacon Press; reprint of 1944 ed., 1967.

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"Of course, if we turn to the southern Athabascans, there are many specific parallels. Association with incest, trial and execution of witches and other traits are also found among the western Apache. Incest connection, killing of witches, ambivalent attitude toward ceremonial practitioners, the sacrifice of a close relative and other parallels likewise turn up among the Chiricahua Apache. But it is very difficult to find any trait shared by the various Apache groups and the Navaho which both of these do not also share with Pueblo culture. Indeed, it is my *impression* that Navaho witchcraft as a whole has more in common with Pueblo witchcraft (if one may lump the beliefs and practices found in various Pueblos) than it does with Apache witchcraft (if one lumps the information on different Apache groups). Such 'lumping,' however, is premature in the absence of adequate published data for Lipan, Mescalero, Jicarilla, and Kiowa Apache. And Dr. M. E. Opler, on reading the galleys of this book, pointed out many highly specific parallels, which I had not found in the literature. Dr. Opler, who undoubtedly has the broadest comparative knowledge of southern Athabascan cultures, writes me: 'I believe I can show that there are two layers of Navaho thought and practice on witchcraft, one of which draws largely from Pueblo sources; the other of which agrees in pattern and spirit with general Apachean.'"

Kluckhohn, Clyde. "Navajo Witchcraft." Boston: Beacon Press; reprint of 1944 ed., 1967.

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"It has been repeatedly asserted that 'possession' is unknown to the Old Testament. Keim declared it 'a modern disease among the Jews.' That is virtually the opinion of Meyer also. But the case of Saul is undoubtedly to be regarded as one of possession by an evil spirit. The terms describing the mode of action of this spirit are analogous to those which set forth the action of the Holy Spirit upon man; but the effects produced are those attributed by the ethnic creed to possessing spirits." (p.20)

Alexander, Wm. Menzies. "Demonic Possession in the New Testament: Its Relations Historical, Medical, and Theological." Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1902.

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"At the present day in China, the same idea holds sway. Where the native doctor fails to cast out a demon, spiritualists are called in. A charm is written out and then burnt, that it may reach any spirit hovering about. Incense is also burnt. If no name is written on the paper, the nearest demon accepts the invitation to eject his feebler congener. The first comer may offer 'a robustious and rough oncoming'; so that another charm is prepared, and inscribed to Lu-tou, a more facile demon. These are instructive illustrations of one satan casting out another. This pagan rite was Christianised, when the angels were invoked instead of the superior powers of evil (*Clem. Homil*. v.5)." (p.132)

Alexander, Wm. Menzies. "Demonic Possession in the New Testament: Its Relations Historical, Medical, and Theological." Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1902.

-

"Witchcraft, familiar spirits, communications with and from the dead, trials by ordeal: fire, water, and poison; the magic circle, demonic possession, observances of the quarters of the moon, are all present-day African commonplace." (p.4)

Kaigh, Frederick. "Witchcraft and Magic of Africa." London: Richard Lesley & Co Ltd, 1947.

-

"Among his many polite tricks is the transference of disease. A native falls sick. He has a real, or fancied enemy, who has ill-wished him. He consults his doctor: his nyanga.

The doctor then consults the spirits without whose advice he is powerless. Not, it should be clearly understood, the familiar and evil spirits, but the family and ancestral tribal spirits. If these inform him that the patient has made out a true bill, he tells him that he is right. So-and-so is his enemy. Now he will give varied instructions depending on his skill, individual preference, and tribe. Here is one method. The patient must obtain a portion of intimate garment from the enemy, and a similar portion of his own. These he must bring to the nyanga who 'makes medicine'. He invariably 'makes medicine' to suit each individual case. He binds the medicine in the scraps of cloth and instructs the patient to plant them secretly in the place where two paths intersect, over which the enemy will pass. When he crosses the spot, the disease will transfer.

So what? It's all a lot of hooey isn't it? Mumbo-jumbo and the like? It is up to you to call it what you like. I can only say I have seen it work again and again." (p.15)

Kaigh, Frederick. "Witchcraft and Magic of Africa." London: Richard Lesley & Co Ltd, 1947.

-

"As to the means of smelling out, they are legion. A variation of the old 'yeka m'tambo' is one method. Only one bone is used, and it is laid, with the inescapable 'medicine', in a box, or basket, or other receptacle. Sometimes it is floated in a vessel filled with oil. The nyanga, after the usual incantations of the 'versicles and responses' type, names each person separately. If the person is innocent the bone lies quiet: if guilty, the bone stands up. It is uncanny to see this long bone, often a human one, suddenly take life to itself." (p.41)

Kaigh, Frederick. "Witchcraft and Magic of Africa." London: Richard Lesley & Co Ltd, 1947.

-

"Though the sentencing of witches is strictly forbidden by the Government, it is surprising how many of them succumb to 'snake bite' when they get to their native villages." (pp. 88,89)

Kaigh, Frederick. "Witchcraft and Magic of Africa." London: Richard Lesley & Co Ltd, 1947.

-

"The outstanding witchcraft practice in obeah is the manufacture of clay, wax, or wood images of the candidate for affliction and, by maltreating the simulcra, or alleged simulcra--some of those which I have seen are not even caricatures--evil befalls the prototype.

Again and again herein, with what may be considered boring repetition, I have been impelled to push home the same warning, here, without apology, I do it again. The too generally accepted thesis that all this is nonsense--stuff to frighten children and the like--plays right into the hands of the devilish practitioners. If by some mischance, from which may God preserve you, you become the victim of obeah, and lie in feverish unrest becoming weaker and weaker day by day--the despair of medical skill--you would not then be contemptuous of the power of evil. I protest I am as hard-boiled and normal as the toughest, but I have seen too much: I have tried unavailingly to save too many cases to be sceptical. More's the pity in a way. I would willingly have forgone some of my experiences."

Kaigh, Frederick. "Witchcraft and Magic of Africa." London: Richard Lesley & Co Ltd, 1947.

-

"The use of corpse flesh, and particularly bones, is common in Africa, both for witchcraft and for witchdoctoring medicines, but, apart from some of the worst Leopard Men orgies, cannibalism is very rare if not extinct. On the other hand, it is one of the cardinal rites of obeah, and undoubtedly goes on in obeah countries." (p.156)

Kaigh, Frederick. "Witchcraft and Magic of Africa." London: Richard Lesley & Co Ltd, 1947.

-

"If a child cuts its upper incisors before its lower ones (known as *lutala*) it is thrown into the river. (I have been informed that the Ba-Kaonde throw such a child into the bush, and that throwing it into the water is only done (locally) by the Ba-lamba; as, so I was told, the Kaonde women believe that if thrown into the water the child's spirit will become hostile. I have, however, met with no case of a child being thrown into the bush, but have met cases of such infanticide by drowning among Ba-Kaonde and Ba-luba.) After the child has been thrown away the mother returns without mourning. No one asks any questions.

The reason for this custom is as follows: With a *lutala* child it is believed that every time one of the milk teeth comes out a person dies. Similarly if a nail comes off someone dies. If a woman allowed her *lutala* child to live, hiding the irregularity, she would be constructively guilty of murder of many people, a risk she dare not attempt to take." (p.50)

Melland, Frank H. "In Witch-Bound Africa: An Account of the Primitive Kaonde Tribe and Their Beliefs." London: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd.; reprint of 1923 ed., 1967.

-

"*Mitala* are generally, like the *wa-kishi* and the living man's shadow, without substance. They are shades, spirits, souls. Restless ones, resenting some wrong done to the person with whom they walked in his lifetime, they wander around and avenge themselves on those who did wrong, and on their relatives and associates.

There are, however, forms of *mitala* that have substance. These take the form of a corpse--the upper half only: being legless as the legs have rotted away, and only the trunk, arms, and head remain. This kind of *mutala*, which is much dreaded, creeps about at night, pulling its legless trunk along the ground, and propelling itself with its arms, as a child when first beginning to crawl."

Melland, Frank H. "In Witch-Bound Africa: An Account of the Primitive Kaonde Tribe and Their Beliefs." London: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd.; reprint of 1923 ed., 1967.

-

"For some time I have had a suspicion, and reasonable ground for the suspicion, that there may be a class of professional and hereditary witches behind the scenes: men (and women) who habitually provide the means to bewitch, or impart the necessary knowledge to the layman to enable him to carry out his desires. They may just conceivably be in league with the *ng'anga*, but I do not, myself, believe that they are. If such exist they would be the people on whom to concentrate; but they would be very hard to find: one might even find an intermediate class of 'touts.' At home, even, in a matter like cocaine-selling--for instance--the actual vendors or hawkers are easy to apprehend: one can even find the 'retailer,' but the wholesale merchant or *entrepreneur*, the man at the back of it all, keeps himself secure behind a wall of secrecy. In all the 'under-world' at home the brainy initiators, and other useful people like the receivers are but rarely given away. I have often been on the tracks of such 'master-witches' but have never found any direct evidence, and I gather that the confessions of convicted witches as to the source of their supply or knowledge only relates to other 'casual witches' or to what may be called agents. It is, however, extraordinary how often one finds that in cases of witchcraft the witch went 'to some man who he thought was likely to know about such things,' or 'went to so-and-so because he had heard that he could provide him with what he sought,' or 'consulted a certain person because he was the obvious person to consult.' A would-be bewitcher does not ask these things at random, and so pile up evidence against himself: he does not go first to one, then to another; but, just as a native woman who seeks the means to procure abortion goes straight to the right woman, so (apparently) does the man, or woman, who seeks some particular form of bewitching medicine go straight to the purveyor, or to his agent. I fear that one would need to be a 'naturalised native' to find this out, at the present day anyhow. I submit, however, that it is possible, even probable, that besides people who might be called incidental or casual witches, namely, those who obtain and use the means of witchcraft against their enemies there are also what may be described as master-witches who are instructed in witchcraft from childhood and are as much an hereditary guild as are the witch-doctors. If it be an old religion they are the real guardians of it." (p.201,202)

Melland, Frank H. "In Witch-Bound Africa: An Account of the Primitive Kaonde Tribe and Their Beliefs." London: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd.; reprint of 1923 ed., 1967.

-

"The witch-doctor undertakes this test [*Chisoko*] at night. The people having been summoned, sit round him, and he dances, singing his incantations. He has with him a basket, in which are placed medicines. After much singing, he takes the basket and places it on the head of a member of the audience (resting on the head, not reversed and placed over it). The basket still contains the medicines: the doctor then says: 'If you are innocent, the basket will come off,' and pulling the basket from the head of the person being tried (who is still sitting) it comes away easily. When the guilty person is reached, the basket sticks to his (her) head, so that when the doctor tries to pull it off it will not come away, but, instead, pulls him (her) up from the ground. Walking backwards--facing the person who is being tried--the doctor thus raises him (her) and pulls him (her) all over the space where the trial is being held.

This trial is used for serious cases of witchcraft such as owning and using *tuyewera* or *mulombe*, and the punishment is death (by beating to death and burning; or by burning to death)." (p.226,227)

Melland, Frank H. "In Witch-Bound Africa: An Account of the Primitive Kaonde Tribe and Their Beliefs." London: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd.; reprint of 1923 ed., 1967.

-

"Further enquiries disclosed the 'facts' that the wing-spread was from 4 to 7 feet across, that the general colour was red. It was believed to have no feathers but only skin on its body, and was believed to have teeth in its beak: these last two points no one could be sure of, as no one ever saw a *kongamato* close and lived to tell the tale. I sent for two books which I had at my house, containing pictures of pterodactyls, and every native present immediately and unhesitatingly picked it out and identified it as a *kongamato*." (pp.237,238)

Melland, Frank H. "In Witch-Bound Africa: An Account of the Primitive Kaonde Tribe and Their Beliefs." London: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd.; reprint of 1923 ed., 1967.

-

"The most interesting dance is the *Bwilandi*, or rather it would be if we could find out more about it. There is something very secretive about the native attitude as regards this dance, and an obvious fear exists that it is a thing that might be prohibited. It is more common in the north of Kaondeland than in the south, and may be of Luba origin. The name comes from the *bwilandi* drug which the dancers take beforehand, a drug that produces a kind of ecstasy. This drug does not grow (not in any quantity anyhow) south of the Luma. The chief feature of the dance is that the dancer simulates, either voluntarily or involuntarily, a lion; and goes about as a lion. But, and this is really remarkable if it is only made-up, he does not imitate the lion's roar. If anyone were to start 'playing at lions' the roar is the first thing that would be imitated. Another feature of the drug is that the natives state it gives wonderful endurance, so that a man under its influence can travel a hundred miles in a night--all the time 'as a lion.' The drumming at the *bwilandi* is distinct from other drummings, and a Kaonde hearing it in a village at a distance can identify it without difficulty.

Like most dances it takes place at night. The early stages may be in the daytime, and are quite innocuous. The attached illustration shows the 'overture.' The dancer has twenty genet skins as a kilt, and the proper chalk marks on back and chest. The latter stages, with the ecstasy and the lion performance I have not seen, nor do I know of any white man who has. If one did see it I fancy it would be distinctly 'modified.' Whether it has any religious significance, or any significance at all, I do not know." (pp.286,287)

Melland, Frank H. "In Witch-Bound Africa: An Account of the Primitive Kaonde Tribe and Their Beliefs." London: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd.; reprint of 1923 ed., 1967.

-

"The victim could only say he didn't remember what happened, but witnesses told a strange story. I was called upon to put dressing on his 'feet' a month after the accident (?) occurred. He had just been released from the hospital, and I was told he had cut his feet. Arriving at the home, I found he had no feet. Both had been cut off well above the ankle. This was the story. He had been ill, and was advised to visit a witch doctor back in the hills. During the consultation, he was possessed by a demon who forced him to pick up a machete and hack off both his own feet. Bystanders were unable to restrain him. Fortunately, relatives were able to bring him the thirty miles to the hospital in time to save him from bleeding to death. But at twenty years of age, he was reduced to the fate of a street beggar because of his handicap." (pp.124,125)

See, Glenn A. "Experiences in Haiti." In "Demon Experiences: A Compilation," 123-125. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers; reprint of 1960 ed., 1970.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Trump panders to voters

"Happy Cinco de Mayo! The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!" (Donald Trump)

"I really appreciate the support given to me by the evangelicals. They’ve been incredible. Every poll says how well I'm doing with them. And you know, my mother gave me this Bible, this very Bible, many years ago...It's just very special to me, and again I want to thank the evangelicals. I will never let you down." (Donald Trump)

"Any day is a great day for pho soup. I love Asians!" (Comedian Nathan Fielder replying to @realDonaldTrump)

I suppose next up for Trump is a photo of him eating fried chicken and waffles then saying "I love blacks!"?

Or perhaps a photo of him smoking a tobacco pipe and saying "I love Native Americans"?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

SpaceX

Elon Musk recently gave his much anticipated talk "Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species" about eventually sending people to Mars and beyond.

Just a few scribbles for now:

  1. His talk slides as well as the aesthetics of his presentation are beautiful in their simplicity.

  2. Musk may sell himself as the real life Tony Stark, but he rather strikes me as someone on the tip of devolving into Howard Hughes. Certainly his charisma falls far short of the image he wishes to project of himself. He'd probably be better off having a right hand man or woman give his presentations and talks, or at least hiring someone to improve his public speaking skills if he doesn't wish to give up the reins, but I guess every Silicon Valley CEO thinks they can be Steve Jobs.

  3. However, the substance of his talk seemed quite a bit less than the expectations would've predicted. Perhaps that was inevitable. Maybe the expectations were ramped up way too high. I may get more into what I thought about his specifics and technicalities in the future (e.g. I think he minimizes risks to humans like radiation). Suffice it to say for now I think it's much tougher to land a person on Mars than Musk seems to make it out to be let alone establish a human colony there. A book like Mankind Beyond Earth is a good place to start.

  4. Attempting to establish a human colony on Mars (or the Moon) is in a sense a science experiment writ large. It's an attempt to create a viable biosphere. Another Earth in miniature. For instance, what ingredients would be needed in order to create an off-planet habitat which can sustain human life indefinitely? For starters, we'd need to consider such vitals as temperature (not too hot, not too cold), atmosphere (enough oxygen to breathe, enough carbon dioxide to help drive breathing, enough to shield cosmic radiation from harming humans), adequate energy intake (food and water sources), gravity (again, not too much, nor too little, otherwise it'd adversely effect our bodies including the sense of balance, bones, muscles, the immune system, heart pumping blood around the body), etc. Anyway, point being, creating a habitat for humanity on Mars may prove a real world echo of arguments for fine-tuning and other design arguments. I may expand on this in a future post as well.

  5. Atheists like Musk often wax poetic about space exploration. The search for knowledge, to go where no one has gone before, the possibility of making first contact with another intelligent species, for the sheer adventure of it all, and so on.

    Of course, the reality is more mundane. Atheists think we must go off planet because it's inevitable an extinction event will occur on Earth, hence humanity's only hope is the stars. We explore so we can survive as a species.

    That's true, but they forget (or ignore) the universe itself is headed for an extinction event too. So, given atheism, we're really just buying more time for ourselves until the axe falls, which it certainly will. Sure, there may be many exciting events in the interim, but our fate is sealed.

    As such, this casts a long shadow over all our strivings and endeavors. How could it not? It dampens the spirit of space exploration, to say the least, if and when we bring it to mind; and if we don't bring it to mind, then we're just pushing it back into the recesses of our consciousness so we don't have to consider our end. That's playing ostrich in a way.

    By contrast, Christians not only have a good impetus to explore, but we have good grounds to wax poetic about space exploration. We can explore space because we know all creation is God's creation, the other planets and stars reflect our God, whom we wish to know and understand, to study and adore, for "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork" (Ps 19:1).

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Liberals label

Many if not most liberals routinely use disapproving labels in lieu of reasoned argumentation. These liberals will label conservatives stupid, backwards, evil, etc., then immediately move to the supposed implication that therefore people need not and should not listen to this or that position put forth by a conservative.

For example: conservatives are greedy capitalists who don't care about the poor, therefore pay no attention to any plans conservatives propose to improve the economy.

Another example: conservatives are racist, therefore whatever conservatives say about blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, and other minorities is false.

Or: conservatives are misogynists, they don't have women's interests at heart, therefore we can safely dismiss whatever conservatives say about a woman's right to choose.

Closer to home: conservative Christians are poorly educated, anti-scientific hicks and rednecks, hence no need to consider anything they say about the theory of evolution.

Examples could be multiplied. But the point is, liberals who label in this fashion are not only illicitly reasoning, but they're behaving unethically or immorally. Indeed, these liberals are bullies.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Swinburne should be censored!

Paul Moser:

My FB friend David Sinclair has raised some questions crucial to being a responsible human being: "Are there any limits on the dehumanization of people groups? Is a biblical case for white supremacy, for example, within the realm of rational discourse? Apparently, Swinburne pathologized gay people. Isn't that beyond the pale? What other group could you describe as sadly inferior humans? Jewish people? Women?

There are certain notions in the 'free exchange of ideas' that deserve censure. I certainly wouldn't condone the position that all Christians are unfortunately mentally incapacitated...would you?

Let's untangle this woven web:

  1. Sure, one shouldn't normally condone racism or sexism. But how is homosexuality analogous to race or gender? That's simply assumed without argument here. Yet an argument is vital in the case at hand.

    For that matter, how is the belief that "all Christians are unfortunately mentally incapacitated" analogous to racism or sexism?

  2. How did what Swinburne said describe homosexuals as "inferior humans"? As such another unargued assumption seems to be if one "pathologizes" a group of people, then they have "dehumanized" the same group of people.

    If I said the Japanese have a high incidence of mental illness (e.g. major depression associated with suicide), and we need to help cure them, thereby I suppose "pathologizing" the Japanese, how would that entail I've described the Japanese as "inferior humans" or "dehumanized" the Japanese?

  3. Is this meant to suggest society ought to label speech against homosexuality hate speech? If so, then on what basis? I don't know, but if it is, then my best guess would be on the basis of offense. It's just offensive for people like Moser and Sinclair to hear homosexuality called a "disability" that should be cured if possible.

    If that's the case, then, for one thing, this cuts both ways. It's offensive to Christians (among others) to hear they should morally condone homosexuality.

    So how should society adjudicate between "offenses" here? That's a debate for another time.

    However, for the Christian, the first and final port of call for adjudicating homosexuality should be the Bible, relevant passages properly exegeted, in light of biblical and systematic theology on the matter. Ironically, Moser is a professing Christian. Thus, he should either accept what the Bible teaches in full or renounce his Christianity for consistency's sake. Instead, he seems he'd prefer to pick and choose the parts of the Bible with which he agrees largely based on his liberalism. His liberalism is what really arbitrates what's acceptable and what's unacceptable in the Bible, not the Bible itself.

  4. Or would people like Moser and Sinclar think it's simply intuitively wrong to say what Swinburne said about homosexuals and homosexuality? If so, then people like Moser and Sinclair are so provincially minded. They're stuck in the small world of 21st century liberal America.

    However, most peoples throughout history and most non-Western peoples around the world today have far different intuitions on homosexuality than people like Moser and Sinclair do. I'm not limiting this to Christians, but also most Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Africans, Asians, South Americans, and so on. Swinburne's statement on homosexuality is arguably more in line with the rest of the world's thinking than the thinking of insular liberal Western academics like Moser.

    Of course, I'm not suggesting intuitions are truth, but rather responding on these grounds.

Monday, September 12, 2016

God of the gaps

Militant atheists of the Dawkins variety often raise the God of the gaps argument. They think the religious are just saying "Goddidit" for an unexplained phenomenon. Say like how Norse pagans used to think thunderstorms were due to Thor. But now that we know what causes thunderstorms, there's no need for Thor.

However, one problem with this point is it's a false dichotomy. At least when it comes to classical theism let alone Christianity.

For example, now that we know the scientific explanation for thunderstorms, does this mean we should no longer attribute the thunderstorm to God? Christians believe God is the one who made a planet with phenomena such as thunderstorms, that God made lightning as electrical discharge, indeed that God made the laws of physics from which such phenomena result.

In other words, positing God as the ultimate source of thunderstorms is perfectly consistent with understanding the scientific explanation for thunderstorms. It's not either/or but both/and.

It's like if scientists discovered a sophisticated alien spacecraft. After years of studying it, scientists have figured out how the alien spaceship works. They know how to turn it on, how to fly it, how to use its navigation and weapons systems, how to land it. They know how its engine and other internal mechanics work. They know its energy source for fuel. They know what material it is built out of. And so on. Basically, scientists know everything there is to know about the alien spacecraft.

But now that scientists understand all this, would it make any sense if they then said, "Welp, now that we understand everything about this spacecraft, no need to posit that it was built by an intelligent alien species, for that would be superfluous"?

Of course not. It's not inconsistent to say scientists understand everything there is to understand about an alien spacecraft and the alien spacecraft was possibly built by an intelligent alien species.

Similarly, it'd make no sense on Christianity to say now that we understand how phenomena like thunderstorms work, we can therefore abandon the idea of God.

(Besides, science itself doesn't always close gaps. Sometimes science in fact opens gaps as it closes gaps. Sciences brings more questions. Nothing unreasonable about that.)

Saturday, September 10, 2016

If fine-tuning, then...

I'm just aiming for a general audience in this post, not a philosophically educated one. The philosophically informed and trained would know about the works of philosophers and physicists like Robin Collins, Luke Barnes, etc. I'd heartily recommend following them on fine-tuning.

That said, given the purported evidence for fine-tuning, then the main options seem to be:

  1. Reject the evidence strongly argues for fine-tuning.

  2. Accept the evidence strongly argues for fine-tuning, but argue the fine-tuned universe "just is".

  3. Accept the evidence strongly argues for fine-tuning, but argue the multiverse is behind it all.

  4. Accept the evidence strongly argues for fine-tuning, but argue for design by an intelligent designer.

I'll quickly run through each of these options:

  1. The evidence seems to be everywhere. For instance, if I understand him aright, Robin Collins divides the evidence into three broad categories:

    a. Evidence for fine-tuning in the laws of nature (e.g. altering ever so minutely any of the fundamental forces, i.e., the law of gravitation, electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force)

    b. Evidence for fine-tuning in the constants of nature (e.g. changing the fine-structure constant, which, as Richard Feynman once said: "It's [the fine-structure constant, approximately 1/137] one of the greatest damn mysteries of physics: a magic number that comes to us with no understanding by man. You might say the 'hand of God' wrote that number, and 'we don't know how he pushed his pencil'")

    c. Evidence for fine-tuning in the initial conditions of nature (e.g. as Roger Penrose has said: "In order to produce a universe resembling the one in which we live, the Creator would have to aim for an absurdly tiny volume of the phase space of possible universes [i.e. one part in 1010123]").

    For many other examples, see a book like Just Six Numbers by Martin Rees.

    (And, of course, I'm leaving aside the biological and chemical arguments for now.)

  2. If we argue the finely-tuned universe is a brute fact, that the finely-tuned universe "just is," that we humans just happened to exist in such a finely-tuned universe by chance, that seems highly improbable, to put it mildly!

    Philosopher-physicist Robin Collins calls it the "surprise" factor. Suppose we are astronauts traveling to a distant and otherwise deserted planet. Suppose we come across a strange monolith which when approached is suddenly activated, and tells us: "Welcome to our planet, intergalactic voyagers from Earth!" It would seem highly implausible if we therefore concluded this monolith just happened to be here by random chance.

  3. This only pushes the question back a step because we would need to explain the fine-tuning of the multiverse itself. In which case some might argue the multiverse itself is a brute fact. If so, then it'd bring us back to (b).

  4. Seems far more reasonable than the other choices to me.

    Many atheists would even agree. For example, they'd argue our universe is a computer simulation in a universe which contains our own. Perhaps like in "The Ricks Must Be Crazy" in Rick & Morty. But how likely is this? What are the arguments and evidences for the simulation hypothesis? Perhaps I'll explore this in a future post.

    However, my own position is Christian theism. That's the most probable and reasonable one in my mind. (Although to be fair my belief in Christianit is not only due to arguments from design including fine-tuning, but many other arguments as well.)

All in all, this video sums it up much better than I can:

Thursday, September 8, 2016

"Walter Hooper: The Life and Writing of C.S. Lewis" review

I've finished watching Eric Metaxas interview Walter Hooper about C.S. Lewis. It's a three part interview lasting a little over three hours total.

My (ironically) meandering thoughts:

1. Hooper comes across as an absolute gentleman. His humility shines through as well. He seems genuinely honored and grateful for being able to do so much for Lewis' legacy.

And I never realized, but it's indeed possible we might not have a lot of Lewis' works today had it not been for Hooper. I'm glad Metaxas highlighted this point throughout the interview. Although Metaxas said this many, many times throughout the interview (no doubt Metaxas is genuinely appreciative of Hooper and wanted others to share in his appreciation) so it seemed a bit like overkill.

2. I think the best parts of the interview were Hooper sharing his own firsthand anecdotes about Lewis. Things Lewis said to him, did for him, etc. It gives us a flavor of Lewis the person.

Also, there were some interesting little factoids. Such as the possibility that Lewis had written a part two to his Surprised by Joy but that it was likely burned in a bonfire. Another interesting piece of trivia was that at one point Hooper went through some pornographic magazines in search of a Lewis essay (which he never did find).

3. Metaxas was his usual witty self. I usually appreciate Metaxas' humor and generally like his interviewing style too.

4. However, in this case, I think Metaxas being Metaxas wasn't always so wonderful. For example, Metaxas would interrupt Hooper to make a funny quip or perhaps in search of banter, but Hooper isn't the type to banter back and forth, and so it seemed to derail Hooper a bit before he got back on track.

Also, Metaxas would often speak longer than necessary to ask a question. A few times Metaxas interrupted Hooper just to summarize out loud what Hooper had just said, which everyone already heard, but perhaps Metaxas needed to clarify something in his own mind, which he did out loud. This in turn meant Metaxas would keep speaking in what seemed to be an attempt to find a question to ask Hooper. My guess is Metaxas felt if he's going to interrupt Hoopoer, then he should ask him a question. But the problem was he had to search for a question to ask Hooper. (My own paragraph describing this is almost as long-winded!)

To be fair, some of this may not have been Metaxas, per se, but instead may have been due to Hooper's own diffident personality.

5. Overall, though, I felt the interview was largely a missed opportunity. Actually, many missed opportunities.

If I understood him correctly, Metaxas had about a year to prepare for this three hour interview with Hooper. And Metaxas kept saying how central this interview was to Socrates in the City, and in fact the main reason they did Socrates in the City in Oxford, England was to interview Hooper. Metaxas said it was a "dream" come true for him to interview Hooper.

If so, then I'm surprised the interview wasn't better. It was decent, but it fell far short of the high hopes Metaxas seemed to have had for the interview at its beginning.

6. For one thing, the interview wasn't very well focused. It basically seemed like Metaxas was winging it. Asking questions as they came to mind as Hooper talked about Lewis. For the audience it's not substantially different than eavesdropping on a conversation between a couple of friends at a bar or pub about a third (famous/celebrity) friend.

7. By contrast, I would've thought there are different possibilities for how to arrange or organize an interview. An interview could have been structured around Lewis' relationships and friendships such as with Hooper himself, Lewis' brother Warnie Lewis, Joy Davidman, Tolkien, the other Inklings (e.g. Barfield, Dyson), Charles Williams, and so on.

There could've been questions about Lewis' relationship with Mrs. Moore, his gardener (who was the inspiration for Puddleglum), etc.

It could've also included Lewis taking kids into his home (the Kilns) during the London bombings in WW2 including June Flewett who inspired Lucy in the Chronicles of Narnia.

They could've talked about Lewis' relationship to his atheist tutor, William Kirkpatrick aka the Great Knock, his poor relationship with his father, his mother's untimely death.

They could've explored Lewis on the battlefield in WW1, and how that affected him, such as when he lost his friend Paddy Moore, yet promised to take care of his mother, Mrs. Moore, who lived with Lewis until her death (if I recall).

But very little of this was explored in much depth except for Hooper's anecdotes about Lewis, Warnie Lewis, and a couple of mentions (nothing in any sort of depth) about some of the Inklings including Tolkien. There was a bit about the gardener which was very good though.

8. If conversing about all these relationships would've been too much to do, another focus could've been around Lewis' literary friends and correspondences (e.g. Eliot, Sayers, Tolkien). Like how Lewis started out hating Eliot's poetry including penning a scathing review, how they met at the New English Bible translation committee and became friends, how Eliot published some of Lewis' writings, etc. But this didn't happen in the interview.

9. Another possibility could've been structuring the interview around Lewis' fictional and/or non-fictional works. Perhaps Metaxas could've gone chronologically through Lewis' literary ouevre and asked Hooper about each of these. They did have 3 hours after all.

Or at least asked about the major works.

Metaxas did ask Hooper about some of Lewis' books such as the Space trilogy (especially Perelandra), The Screwtape Letters, The Abolition of Man, and a quick mention of The Great Divorce and Miracles. Maybe a few others I'm forgetting.

But it seemed to me only Perelandra and Screwtape were explored in any depth, though even still there wasn't much depth explored.

10. Yet another possibility could've been structuring the interview around how to read and write well. Lewis had a lot of writings about stories, letters to children offering them advice about how to write, An Experiment in Criticism is about being a good reader and writer, and so on.

11. Or on how Lewis evolved as a writer. Say a children's writer for instance. Say from how Lewis (and his brother Warnie) created the fictional world of Boxen as children, their love for the Beatrix Potter stories, E. Nesbit's The Railway Children series, The Wind in the Willows, many others.

This in turn could've led to an exploration of Lewis' apologetics of the imagination. Apologetics through storytelling.

Alas! This didn't transpire either.

12. Or they could've discussed Lewis' literary influences in general (e.g. Chesterton, MacDonald).

As an aside, I wonder if Hooper could've talked about Lewis and Tolkien's wager for one of them to write a space adventure while the other wrote a time adventure, and the Space trilogy and the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings being possible fulfillments of these, respectively.

13. Or perhaps structuring the interview around what Metaxas knows best. Indeed, I was somewhat surprised Metaxas didn't talk more about Lewis' thoughts and writings against totalitarianism, statism, the culture wars, and the like (e.g. such as in The Abolition of Man and That Hideous Strength). That's somewhat ironic in light of the fact that Metaxas himself published a book on Bonhoeffer and a more recent book on the foundations of our American republic i.e. If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty. Aren't these in part about how Christians can live in times of persecution by increasingly anti-Christian secular states?

Related, wasn't Lewis himself persecuted to some degree by many faculty members at Oxford for his Christian beliefs and publications? Isn't that the main reason Lewis reluctantly moved to Cambridge in his latter years (after Lewis kept getting passed over for promotions at Oxford; fortunately for Lewis Cambridge created a new chair and professorship for Lewis)?

14. Metaxas also wrote a book titled Miracles, which he has elsewhere said he "stole" the title from Lewis. Although Metaxas confessed he found Lewis' Miracles difficult to understand. That's fair enough, because neither Metaxas nor Hooper are philosophers as far as I'm aware, and Lewis' Miracles is probably less known for what it says about miracles and more known for proposing the argument from reason (later picked up by philosophers such as Reppert and Plantinga). Nevertheless it might've been nice to hear if Hooper might have had any interesting anecdotes about Lewis and Anscombe's debate.

In addition, and again given Metaxas published a book on Miracles, I was surprised Metaxas didn't ask Hooper about Joy Davidman's seemingly miraculous healing after a prayer and anointing by an Anglican priest named Peter Bide, who reputedly had a gift of healing.

15. Another perhaps interesting way to structure the interview might've been around themes with each theme introduced by a Lewis quotation (since Lewis is eminently quotable). Such as the theme of tyranny creeping into the Western secular state with "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive" or "Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil".

Or the theme of friendship with "Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art...It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival".

Or the theme of Christian apologetics with "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else".

Or the theme of suffering, from The Problem of Pain to A Grief Observed, with "Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world:.

And so on.

16. I think Metaxas hyperfocused on Lewis' knack for words. Like Lewis' invention of names for his characters in Narnia (e.g. Puddleglum the Marshwiggle, Reepicheep), Lewis' clever turns of phrases, etc. Don't get me wrong, it was fascinating at points, but I think Metaxas brought it up intermittently throughout the 3 hour interview when in my opinion he would've been better off had he simply done it once and in-depth and not kept coming back to it.

Also, I wonder why Metaxas didn't ask Hooper about Lewis' book Studies in Words at this point.

17. I, for one, would've liked to have heard Hooper talk about Lewis' academic accomplishments. Most people already know about Lewis as a popular author (e.g. Narnia, Screwtape). Many people know about Lewis' apologetics. But I would suppose far fewer know about Lewis' academic accomplishments (e.g. The Allegory in Love, which I've heard is still used in some college or university courses; the OHEL book i.e. Poetry and Prose in the 16th Century was briefly mentioned in passing and no more, I think).

18. It might've been interesting to hear Hooper talk about Lewis and Sehnsucht, but that didn't come up either.

19. Or to hear if Hooper would know if Lewis might have had any opinions about turning his Narnia books into movies. I seem to recall Lewis watching and enjoying the original King Kong movie, but I might be thinking of another person in that period.

20. The bit about Hooper talking about why he thinks Lewis would've converted to Catholicism was interesting. I wished Metaxas had pressed him a bit more, because the main reason Hooper gave for Lewis converting to Catholicism seemed to be the liberalization of the Church of England; however, the Catholic church has liberalized as well, whereas there are some Anglican churches which have actually become more conservative. Perhaps a more interesting question would have been whether Lewis would've been drawn to those more conservative sections of the Anglican church, perhaps even evangelical, had he lived longer?

Of course, I'm aware Lewis never cared to identify as an evangelical, but he likewise is on record for never having cared to identify as a Catholic.

21. I'm sure all this sounds like I'm simply being an armchair interviewer. And that's true to an extent.

At the same time, Metaxas had a considerable amount of time to prepare for this interview (a year?), the interview itself was a very long 3 hour interview, and Metaxas himself voiced several times the import of the Hooper interview. And it's not as if Hooper is likely to be around much longer since he's already in his mid-80s, I believe.

Anyway, I'm just surprised it wasn't a better organized interview, but rather seemed more like it mostly improvised.

And I'm surprised so much which Hooper could've been asked was left out entirely.

All in all, it was a decent interview, but it could've been so much better. There was far more promise than realized. (Not unlike this post!)

Friday, September 2, 2016

Something wicked this way comes

Thanks to Jacob Howard for these:

"In social science it is of crucial importance that fact and inference should always be as clearly distinguished as possible. For that reason this book is divided into two parts: 'Data' and 'Interpretation.' For example, it is unequivocally a fact that the vast majority of those whom my informants have accused of witchcraft have been persons of wealth or prestige. My 'explanation' of this circumstance is equally unequivocally a non-fact. When data and interpretation are closely juxtaposed, there is often confusion as to the dividing line between the two." (p.6)

Kluckhohn, Clyde. "Navajo Witchcraft." Boston: Beacon Press; reprint of 1944 ed., 1967.

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"The classic Witchery Way technique is that mentioned in the emergence legend. A preparation (usually called 'poison' by English-speaking informants) is made of the flesh of corpses. The flesh of children and especially of twin children is preferred, and the bones at the back of the head and skin whorls are the prized ingredients. When this 'corpse poison' is ground into powder it 'looks like pollen.' It may be dropped into a hogan from the smokehole, placed in the nose or mouth of a sleeping victim or blown from furrowed sticks into the face of someone in a large crowd. 'Corpse poison' is occasionally stated to have been administered in a cigarette. Fainting, lockjaw, a tongue black and swollen, immediate unconsciousness or some similar dramatic symptom is usually said to result promptly. Sometimes, however, the effects are less obvious. The victim gradually wastes away, and the usual ceremonial treatments are unavailing."

Kluckhohn, Clyde. "Navajo Witchcraft." Boston: Beacon Press; reprint of 1944 ed., 1967.

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"On the whole, there is substantial agreement between informants on the major features of Witchery ideology. Night activity, were-animals, association with corpses and incest, killing of a sibling as part of initiation, various points of technique--these traits are mentioned in interview after interview and are not denied explicitly or implicitly in any. This concordance holds also for the literature." (pp.27,28)

Kluckhohn, Clyde. "Navajo Witchcraft." Boston: Beacon Press; reprint of 1944 ed., 1967.

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"If a witch confesses, the victim will at once begin slowly to improve, and the witch will die within the year from the same symptoms which have been afflicting the victim. If a witch refused to confess within four days, he was most often killed. In some cases the accused was allowed to escape if he permanently left the community. A number of accused witches are said to have fled to Cañoncito. But Van Valkenburgh is undoubtedly right in considering witchcraft as a crime for which the Navaho administered capital punishment. A considerable number of witches put to death are referred to in the literature, and a much larger number are known to me from reliable white and Navaho informants. Sometimes, when tension mounted sufficiently, the witch was killed without 'trial,' sometimes by an aggrieved individual but equally often by a group of relatives (and friends) of some supposed victim. The manner of execution varied, but was usually violent (by axes and clubs)." (p.49)

Kluckhohn, Clyde. "Navajo Witchcraft." Boston: Beacon Press; reprint of 1944 ed., 1967.

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"But from a total of 222 cases of persons accused of witchcraft where some other information was available, some idea can be gained as to Navaho conceptions of differential participation. One hundred and eighty-four were men; all were adults. No women were accused as Wizards or as Frenzy Witches. All women accused were definitely old; 131 of the men were definitely old (spoken of as 'old,' 'very old,' 'grey-haired,' 'white-haired,' etc.). One hundred and forty of the men were described as ceremonial practitioners of some sort, but it must be remembered that the proportion of adult Navaho men who are ceremonial practitioners is very high. Twenty-one of the men were said to be 'headmen' or 'chiefs.' This is an exceedingly high figure, considering the proportion of such leaders to the total adult male population. Twelve of the women were referred to as ceremonial practitioners. One hundred and fifteen out of the total group were described as rich or 'well-off'; seventeen were described as poor or very poor; for the remainder no economic information was available." (p.59)

Kluckhohn, Clyde. "Navajo Witchcraft." Boston: Beacon Press; reprint of 1944 ed., 1967.

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"Of course, if we turn to the southern Athabascans, there are many specific parallels. Association with incest, trial and execution of witches and other traits are also found among the western Apache. Incest connection, killing of witches, ambivalent attitude toward ceremonial practitioners, the sacrifice of a close relative and other parallels likewise turn up among the Chiricahua Apache. But it is very difficult to find any trait shared by the various Apache groups and the Navaho which both of these do not also share with Pueblo culture. Indeed, it is my *impression* that Navaho witchcraft as a whole has more in common with Pueblo witchcraft (if one may lump the beliefs and practices found in various Pueblos) than it does with Apache witchcraft (if one lumps the information on different Apache groups). Such 'lumping,' however, is premature in the absence of adequate published data for Lipan, Mescalero, Jicarilla, and Kiowa Apache. And Dr. M. E. Opler, on reading the galleys of this book, pointed out many highly specific parallels, which I had not found in the literature. Dr. Opler, who undoubtedly has the broadest comparative knowledge of southern Athabascan cultures, writes me: 'I believe I can show that there are two layers of Navaho thought and practice on witchcraft, one of which draws largely from Pueblo sources; the other of which agrees in pattern and spirit with general Apachean.'"

Kluckhohn, Clyde. "Navajo Witchcraft." Boston: Beacon Press; reprint of 1944 ed., 1967.

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"It has been repeatedly asserted that 'possession' is unknown to the Old Testament. Keim declared it 'a modern disease among the Jews.' That is virtually the opinion of Meyer also. But the case of Saul is undoubtedly to be regarded as one of possession by an evil spirit. The terms describing the mode of action of this spirit are analogous to those which set forth the action of the Holy Spirit upon man; but the effects produced are those attributed by the ethnic creed to possessing spirits." (p.20)

Alexander, Wm. Menzies. "Demonic Possession in the New Testament: Its Relations Historical, Medical, and Theological." Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1902.

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"At the present day in China, the same idea holds sway. Where the native doctor fails to cast out a demon, spiritualists are called in. A charm is written out and then burnt, that it may reach any spirit hovering about. Incense is also burnt. If no name is written on the paper, the nearest demon accepts the invitation to eject his feebler congener. The first comer may offer 'a robustious and rough oncoming'; so that another charm is prepared, and inscribed to Lu-tou, a more facile demon. These are instructive illustrations of one satan casting out another. This pagan rite was Christianised, when the angels were invoked instead of the superior powers of evil (*Clem. Homil*. v.5)." (p.132)

Alexander, Wm. Menzies. "Demonic Possession in the New Testament: Its Relations Historical, Medical, and Theological." Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1902.

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"Witchcraft, familiar spirits, communications with and from the dead, trials by ordeal: fire, water, and poison; the magic circle, demonic possession, observances of the quarters of the moon, are all present-day African commonplace." (p.4)

Kaigh, Frederick. "Witchcraft and Magic of Africa." London: Richard Lesley & Co Ltd, 1947.

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"Among his many polite tricks is the transference of disease. A native falls sick. He has a real, or fancied enemy, who has ill-wished him. He consults his doctor: his nyanga.

The doctor then consults the spirits without whose advice he is powerless. Not, it should be clearly understood, the familiar and evil spirits, but the family and ancestral tribal spirits. If these inform him that the patient has made out a true bill, he tells him that he is right. So-and-so is his enemy. Now he will give varied instructions depending on his skill, individual preference, and tribe. Here is one method. The patient must obtain a portion of intimate garment from the enemy, and a similar portion of his own. These he must bring to the nyanga who 'makes medicine'. He invariably 'makes medicine' to suit each individual case. He binds the medicine in the scraps of cloth and instructs the patient to plant them secretly in the place where two paths intersect, over which the enemy will pass. When he crosses the spot, the disease will transfer.

So what? It's all a lot of hooey isn't it? Mumbo-jumbo and the like? It is up to you to call it what you like. I can only say I have seen it work again and again." (p.15)

Kaigh, Frederick. "Witchcraft and Magic of Africa." London: Richard Lesley & Co Ltd, 1947.

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"As to the means of smelling out, they are legion. A variation of the old 'yeka m'tambo' is one method. Only one bone is used, and it is laid, with the inescapable 'medicine', in a box, or basket, or other receptacle. Sometimes it is floated in a vessel filled with oil. The nyanga, after the usual incantations of the 'versicles and responses' type, names each person separately. If the person is innocent the bone lies quiet: if guilty, the bone stands up. It is uncanny to see this long bone, often a human one, suddenly take life to itself." (p.41)

Kaigh, Frederick. "Witchcraft and Magic of Africa." London: Richard Lesley & Co Ltd, 1947.

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"Though the sentencing of witches is strictly forbidden by the Government, it is surprising how many of them succumb to 'snake bite' when they get to their native villages." (pp. 88,89)

Kaigh, Frederick. "Witchcraft and Magic of Africa." London: Richard Lesley & Co Ltd, 1947.

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"The outstanding witchcraft practice in obeah is the manufacture of clay, wax, or wood images of the candidate for affliction and, by maltreating the simulcra, or alleged simulcra--some of those which I have seen are not even caricatures--evil befalls the prototype.

Again and again herein, with what may be considered boring repetition, I have been impelled to push home the same warning, here, without apology, I do it again. The too generally accepted thesis that all this is nonsense--stuff to frighten children and the like--plays right into the hands of the devilish practitioners. If by some mischance, from which may God preserve you, you become the victim of obeah, and lie in feverish unrest becoming weaker and weaker day by day--the despair of medical skill--you would not then be contemptuous of the power of evil. I protest I am as hard-boiled and normal as the toughest, but I have seen too much: I have tried unavailingly to save too many cases to be sceptical. More's the pity in a way. I would willingly have forgone some of my experiences."

Kaigh, Frederick. "Witchcraft and Magic of Africa." London: Richard Lesley & Co Ltd, 1947.

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"The use of corpse flesh, and particularly bones, is common in Africa, both for witchcraft and for witchdoctoring medicines, but, apart from some of the worst Leopard Men orgies, cannibalism is very rare if not extinct. On the other hand, it is one of the cardinal rites of obeah, and undoubtedly goes on in obeah countries." (p.156)

Kaigh, Frederick. "Witchcraft and Magic of Africa." London: Richard Lesley & Co Ltd, 1947.

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"If a child cuts its upper incisors before its lower ones (known as *lutala*) it is thrown into the river. (I have been informed that the Ba-Kaonde throw such a child into the bush, and that throwing it into the water is only done (locally) by the Ba-lamba; as, so I was told, the Kaonde women believe that if thrown into the water the child's spirit will become hostile. I have, however, met with no case of a child being thrown into the bush, but have met cases of such infanticide by drowning among Ba-Kaonde and Ba-luba.) After the child has been thrown away the mother returns without mourning. No one asks any questions.

The reason for this custom is as follows: With a *lutala* child it is believed that every time one of the milk teeth comes out a person dies. Similarly if a nail comes off someone dies. If a woman allowed her *lutala* child to live, hiding the irregularity, she would be constructively guilty of murder of many people, a risk she dare not attempt to take." (p.50)

Melland, Frank H. "In Witch-Bound Africa: An Account of the Primitive Kaonde Tribe and Their Beliefs." London: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd.; reprint of 1923 ed., 1967.

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"*Mitala* are generally, like the *wa-kishi* and the living man's shadow, without substance. They are shades, spirits, souls. Restless ones, resenting some wrong done to the person with whom they walked in his lifetime, they wander around and avenge themselves on those who did wrong, and on their relatives and associates.

There are, however, forms of *mitala* that have substance. These take the form of a corpse--the upper half only: being legless as the legs have rotted away, and only the trunk, arms, and head remain. This kind of *mutala*, which is much dreaded, creeps about at night, pulling its legless trunk along the ground, and propelling itself with its arms, as a child when first beginning to crawl."

Melland, Frank H. "In Witch-Bound Africa: An Account of the Primitive Kaonde Tribe and Their Beliefs." London: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd.; reprint of 1923 ed., 1967.

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"For some time I have had a suspicion, and reasonable ground for the suspicion, that there may be a class of professional and hereditary witches behind the scenes: men (and women) who habitually provide the means to bewitch, or impart the necessary knowledge to the layman to enable him to carry out his desires. They may just conceivably be in league with the *ng'anga*, but I do not, myself, believe that they are. If such exist they would be the people on whom to concentrate; but they would be very hard to find: one might even find an intermediate class of 'touts.' At home, even, in a matter like cocaine-selling--for instance--the actual vendors or hawkers are easy to apprehend: one can even find the 'retailer,' but the wholesale merchant or *entrepreneur*, the man at the back of it all, keeps himself secure behind a wall of secrecy. In all the 'under-world' at home the brainy initiators, and other useful people like the receivers are but rarely given away. I have often been on the tracks of such 'master-witches' but have never found any direct evidence, and I gather that the confessions of convicted witches as to the source of their supply or knowledge only relates to other 'casual witches' or to what may be called agents. It is, however, extraordinary how often one finds that in cases of witchcraft the witch went 'to some man who he thought was likely to know about such things,' or 'went to so-and-so because he had heard that he could provide him with what he sought,' or 'consulted a certain person because he was the obvious person to consult.' A would-be bewitcher does not ask these things at random, and so pile up evidence against himself: he does not go first to one, then to another; but, just as a native woman who seeks the means to procure abortion goes straight to the right woman, so (apparently) does the man, or woman, who seeks some particular form of bewitching medicine go straight to the purveyor, or to his agent. I fear that one would need to be a 'naturalised native' to find this out, at the present day anyhow. I submit, however, that it is possible, even probable, that besides people who might be called incidental or casual witches, namely, those who obtain and use the means of witchcraft against their enemies there are also what may be described as master-witches who are instructed in witchcraft from childhood and are as much an hereditary guild as are the witch-doctors. If it be an old religion they are the real guardians of it." (p.201,202)

Melland, Frank H. "In Witch-Bound Africa: An Account of the Primitive Kaonde Tribe and Their Beliefs." London: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd.; reprint of 1923 ed., 1967.

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"The witch-doctor undertakes this test [*Chisoko*] at night. The people having been summoned, sit round him, and he dances, singing his incantations. He has with him a basket, in which are placed medicines. After much singing, he takes the basket and places it on the head of a member of the audience (resting on the head, not reversed and placed over it). The basket still contains the medicines: the doctor then says: 'If you are innocent, the basket will come off,' and pulling the basket from the head of the person being tried (who is still sitting) it comes away easily. When the guilty person is reached, the basket sticks to his (her) head, so that when the doctor tries to pull it off it will not come away, but, instead, pulls him (her) up from the ground. Walking backwards--facing the person who is being tried--the doctor thus raises him (her) and pulls him (her) all over the space where the trial is being held.

This trial is used for serious cases of witchcraft such as owning and using *tuyewera* or *mulombe*, and the punishment is death (by beating to death and burning; or by burning to death)." (p.226,227)

Melland, Frank H. "In Witch-Bound Africa: An Account of the Primitive Kaonde Tribe and Their Beliefs." London: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd.; reprint of 1923 ed., 1967.

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"Further enquiries disclosed the 'facts' that the wing-spread was from 4 to 7 feet across, that the general colour was red. It was believed to have no feathers but only skin on its body, and was believed to have teeth in its beak: these last two points no one could be sure of, as no one ever saw a *kongamato* close and lived to tell the tale. I sent for two books which I had at my house, containing pictures of pterodactyls, and every native present immediately and unhesitatingly picked it out and identified it as a *kongamato*." (pp.237,238)

Melland, Frank H. "In Witch-Bound Africa: An Account of the Primitive Kaonde Tribe and Their Beliefs." London: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd.; reprint of 1923 ed., 1967.

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"The most interesting dance is the *Bwilandi*, or rather it would be if we could find out more about it. There is something very secretive about the native attitude as regards this dance, and an obvious fear exists that it is a thing that might be prohibited. It is more common in the north of Kaondeland than in the south, and may be of Luba origin. The name comes from the *bwilandi* drug which the dancers take beforehand, a drug that produces a kind of ecstasy. This drug does not grow (not in any quantity anyhow) south of the Luma. The chief feature of the dance is that the dancer simulates, either voluntarily or involuntarily, a lion; and goes about as a lion. But, and this is really remarkable if it is only made-up, he does not imitate the lion's roar. If anyone were to start 'playing at lions' the roar is the first thing that would be imitated. Another feature of the drug is that the natives state it gives wonderful endurance, so that a man under its influence can travel a hundred miles in a night--all the time 'as a lion.' The drumming at the *bwilandi* is distinct from other drummings, and a Kaonde hearing it in a village at a distance can identify it without difficulty.

Like most dances it takes place at night. The early stages may be in the daytime, and are quite innocuous. The attached illustration shows the 'overture.' The dancer has twenty genet skins as a kilt, and the proper chalk marks on back and chest. The latter stages, with the ecstasy and the lion performance I have not seen, nor do I know of any white man who has. If one did see it I fancy it would be distinctly 'modified.' Whether it has any religious significance, or any significance at all, I do not know." (pp.286,287)

Melland, Frank H. "In Witch-Bound Africa: An Account of the Primitive Kaonde Tribe and Their Beliefs." London: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd.; reprint of 1923 ed., 1967.

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"The victim could only say he didn't remember what happened, but witnesses told a strange story. I was called upon to put dressing on his 'feet' a month after the accident (?) occurred. He had just been released from the hospital, and I was told he had cut his feet. Arriving at the home, I found he had no feet. Both had been cut off well above the ankle. This was the story. He had been ill, and was advised to visit a witch doctor back in the hills. During the consultation, he was possessed by a demon who forced him to pick up a machete and hack off both his own feet. Bystanders were unable to restrain him. Fortunately, relatives were able to bring him the thirty miles to the hospital in time to save him from bleeding to death. But at twenty years of age, he was reduced to the fate of a street beggar because of his handicap." (pp.124,125)

See, Glenn A. "Experiences in Haiti." In "Demon Experiences: A Compilation," 123-125. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers; reprint of 1960 ed., 1970.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Monday, May 9, 2016

Donald and Hobbes

You can click on each of these for a bigger image:

Source here.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Trump panders to voters

"Happy Cinco de Mayo! The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!" (Donald Trump)

"I really appreciate the support given to me by the evangelicals. They’ve been incredible. Every poll says how well I'm doing with them. And you know, my mother gave me this Bible, this very Bible, many years ago...It's just very special to me, and again I want to thank the evangelicals. I will never let you down." (Donald Trump)

"Any day is a great day for pho soup. I love Asians!" (Comedian Nathan Fielder replying to @realDonaldTrump)

I suppose next up for Trump is a photo of him eating fried chicken and waffles then saying "I love blacks!"?

Or perhaps a photo of him smoking a tobacco pipe and saying "I love Native Americans"?