Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Primary Source: Correspondence Between Pliny and the Emperor Trajan

Correspondence Between Pliny and the Emperor Trajan

excerpt on Christianity showing that Roman objection had to do the (perceived) willful disobedience to authority


To the Emperor Trajan

It is my invariable rule, Sir, to refer to you in all matters where I feel doubtful; for who is more capable of removing my scruples, or informing my ignorance? Having never been present at any trials concerning those who profess Christianity, I am unacquainted not only with the nature of their crimes, or the measure of their punishment, but how far it is proper to enter into an examination concerning them. Whether, therefore, any difference is usually made with respect to ages, or no distinction is to be observed between the young and the adult; whether repentance entitles them to a pardon; or if a man has been once a Christian, it avails nothing to desist from his error; whether the very profession of Christianity, unattended with any criminal act, or only the crimes themselves inherent in the profession are punishable; on all these points I am in great doubt. In the meanwhile, the method I have observed towards those who have been brought before me as Christians is this: I asked them whether they were Christians; if they admitted it, I repeated the question twice, and threatened them with punishment; if they persisted, I ordered them to be at once punished: for I was persuaded, whatever the nature of their opinions might be, a contumacious and inflexible obstinacy certainly deserved correction. There were others also brought before me possessed with the same infatuation, but being Roman citizens, I directed them to be sent to Rome. But this crime spreading (as is usually the case) while it was actually under prosecution, several instances of the same nature occurred. An anonymous information was laid before me containing a charge against several persons, who upon examination denied they were Christians, or had ever been so. They repeated after me an invocation to the gods, and offered religious rites with wine and incense before your statue (which for that purpose I had ordered to be brought, together with those of the gods), and even reviled the name of Christ: whereas there is no forcing, it is said, those who are really Christians into any of these compliances: I thought it proper, therefore, to discharge them. Some among those who were accused by a witness in person at first confessed themselves Christians, but immediately after denied it; the rest owned indeed that they had been of that number formerly, but had now (some above three, others more, and a few above twenty years ago) renounced that error. They all worshipped your statue and the images of the gods, uttering imprecations at the same time against the name of Christ. They affirmed the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that they met on a stated day before it was light, and addressed a form of prayer to Christ, as to a divinity, binding themselves by a solemn oath, not for the purposes of any wicked design, but never to commit any fraud, theft, or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble, to eat in common a harmless meal. From this custom, however, they desisted after the publication of my edict, by which, according to your commands, I forbade the meeting of any assemblies. After receiving this account, I judged it so much the more necessary to endeavor to extort the real truth, by putting two female slaves to the torture, who were said to officiate' in their religious rites: but all I could discover was evidence of an absurd and extravagant superstition. I deemed it expedient, therefore, to adjourn all further proceedings, in order to consult you. For it appears to be a matter highly deserving your consideration, more especially as great numbers must be involved in the danger of these prosecutions, which have already extended, and are still likely to extend, to persons of all ranks and ages, and even of both sexes. In fact, this contagious superstition is not confined to the cities only, but has spread its infection among the neighbouring villages and country. Nevertheless, it still seems possible to restrain its progress. The temples, at least, which were once almost deserted, begin now to be frequented; and the sacred rites, after a long intermission, are again revived; while there is a general demand for the victims, which till lately found very few purchasers. From all this it is easy to conjecture what numbers might be reclaimed if a general pardon were granted to those who shall repent of their error.


Trajan to Pliny

You have adopted the right course, my dearest Secundus, in investigating the charges against the Christians who were brought before you. It is not possible to lay down any general rule for all such cases. Do not go out of your way to look for them. If indeed they should be brought before you, and the crime is proved, they must be punished; with the restriction, however, that where the party denies he is a Christian, and shall make it evident that he is not, by invoking our gods, let him (notwithstanding any former suspicion) be pardoned upon his repentance. Anonymous informations ought not to he received in any sort of prosecution. It is introducing a very dangerous precedent, and is quite foreign to the spirit of our age.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

IF God is a perfect being...

Dembinho tweeted:
@Futiledemocracy Everything came into existence, but God did not. If He had come into existence He would be in need, and God is perfect
Let's look at this and some related premises and see what conclusion logically follows...

(P1) A God would necessarily be a Perfect being
(P2) A Perfect being is Complete (or he would be in need)
(P3) God, if existing, could be the only Perfect and Complete being
(P4) Nothing can be against the Will of God
(P5) The universe exists

From (P1) and (P2) A Complete being cannot desire to create something, as that would imply a state of incompleteness and thus imperfection
Therefore, if God created the Cosmos it would have necessarily been against his Will, but from (P4) this is a contradiction
The Cosmos exists (from P5), therefore God cannot exist as it would be a contradiction.
From (P3) there are no other possibilities.

If there is no flaw in the premises or the logic then the conclusion necessarily follows - so which premise or deduction is incorrect and why?

Excerpts paraphrased from the Jainist philosophy of Acharya Jinasena, 9th century, Mahapurana (महापुराण) 4.16-31: If God is ever perfect and complete, how could the will to create have arisen in him? If, on the other hand, he is not perfect, he could no more create the universe than a potter could. How can an immaterial god create that which is material?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How to quote mine like a lying creationist

Just a quick look at how utterly ignorant and dishonest people quote mine to make false points:

This one is taken from this little gem of a post called "Darwin Was Wrong".

Let's take a look at one example:

Mark Ridley, another evolutionist from Oxford University said in The New Scientist magazine in June 1981 p 831, "a lot of people just do not know what evidence the theory of evolution stands upon. They think that the main evidence is the gradual descent of one species from another in the fossil record. ...In any case, no real evolutionist, whether gradualist or punctuationalist, uses the fossil record as evidence in favor of the theory of evolution as opposed to special creation."

Because the fossils simply do not support many small changes between kinds over a long period of time, many evolutionists have at least been honest enough to admit this and have come up with a new theory called, "punctuated equilibrium" or the "hopeful monster theory". From the fossil record, they know that change didn't take place in small gradual steps, so they assume that the change took place in quick "quantum leaps" over long periods of time. In Darwin's theory, the changes were so slow and gradual that science cannot observe the evolution. The new theory says the change takes place so quickly it that too cannot be observed. Unobservable science? What a contradiction!

Oh dear, it looks like that 'Theory' of Evolution is in deep do do. Until you go and read the original:

Someone is getting it wrong, and it isn't Darwin; it is the creationists and the media. But why?

One reason that keeps on betraying itself is that a lot of people just do not know what evidence the theory of evolution stands upon. They think the MAIN [emphasis mine] evidence is the gradual descent of one species from another in the fossil record. Thus, on the Horizon programme "Did Darwin get it wrong?" in March, a creationist told us that the facts about the fossils are contrary to the predictions of the evolutionists-but agree with those of the creationists...However, the gradual change of fossil species has never been part of the evidence for evolution. [note: nor does the fossil record contradict the theory of evolution] In the chapters on the fossil record in the Origin of Species Dawrwin showed that the record was useless for testing between evolution and special creation because it has great gaps in it. The same argument still applies.

So we can see here the bits this lying lowlife clipped out of the quote (and note how I supplied a link to the source so you can verify it yourself and read it in the greater context of the article as well). The article in NO WAY supports this liars conclusions.

Further note this is an article from 1981 - much has changed in the fossil record since that time, many so-called "gaps" have been filled in with dozens of species, absolutely in conjunction with the predictions of evolutionary theory. But this still doesn't mean that the fossil record is the primary evidence in support of evolution. Out of the trillion trillion trillion organisms that have ever lived the fossil record is but a tiny fraction of them, it can never be completed because Nature didn't see fit to carefully preserve each and every organism (nor 2 of some and 7 of others). What scientists look for in the fossil record is information about the timescales (rate) of changes and that nothing in the fossil record contradicts the theory.

The article goes on to debunk many other creationist lies, including several others in that very webpage I'm commenting on -- you can call them 'myths' if you want but they simply lies. There is really no excuse for such ignorance in this day and age, if they are mistaken out of ignorance it is willful and deliberate.

Friday, February 1, 2013

If we evolved from monkeys...

"If we evolved from monkeys/apes why are there still monkeys/apes"

This is a study in how to clearly and boldly display that you are utterly ignorant about Evolution. No statement I'm aware of shows more blatant and willful ignorance than this one. You are like a peacock, showing off just how ignorant of the facts you are as if you are proud of being ignorant. Baffling. I mean, it's fine if you don't understand Evolution and don't take a position on it, it's when someone speaks publicly, as if one is an authority, that I take objection to it.

If you even remotely cared about the truth then you would do your due diligence and research such simple topics, but you clearly don't or you wouldn't have made such a statement.

Did it not even cross your seemingly vacuous mind that we DIDN'T evolve from modern monkeys, but rather from a distant common primate ancestor?

In fact, we have very good information about when each lineage split (but not perfect of course, exacting details are lost in the mists of time, but this doesn't mean that we cannot know anything about the subject).

For example, Homo sapiens and Pan troglodytes (modern chimpanzee, NOT the same as the common ancestor) last shared a common ancestor some 4.1 million years ago.

And if we consider the Pongo pygmaeus (modern orangutan, again, NOT the same as the common ancestor), the divergence is even greater, indicative of MUCH older last shared common ancestor some 14 million years ago.

What was that common ancestor? We don't know precisely what it was because 14 million years is a LOT of time and intelligent animals aren't fossilized as often as those that die in favorable sediments for fossilization. But we do have fossils that date from around these times and we believe (based on the evidence) that they would be the close cousins of the suspected common ancestor.

It would be ridiculous to expect to find, out of the billions of animals dead over millions of years, one that was EXACTLY in our lineage. Nor is such a thing necessary. They would be almost indistinguishable from the ones we do find. Some random person from Europe isn't your direct ancestor but they are still a Homo Sapien and their DNA is extremely close to yours. Now imagine that you find a European from 5000 years ago -- that's still close enough. Even human beings 100,000 years ago are anatomically modern Homo Sapiens, you have to look back deeper in time before you start seeing genetic variants that are different enough to warrant being categorized as a different species, 250,000 years is on the edge, 1 million years, 4 million years, 14 million years, 3.6 BILLION years -- these are the massive timescales where evolutionary changes accumulate to significant levels.

But for an example, one such species is Ardipithecus kadabba. We can tell from the remains that this was neither modern ape, chimp, or human - but rather has a blend of features that fit into the geological timescale in which it was found. Then there is Ardipithecus ramidus, and Australopithecus afarensis, and Australopithecus africanus, and Australopithecus anamensis, and Australopithecus garhi, Australopithecus sediba, and Homo erectus, and Homo floresiensis, and Homo habilis, and Homo heidelbergensis, and Homo neanderthalensis, and Homo rudolfensis, and Homo rudolfensis -- all different species that show the evolutionary changes from earlier primates to Homo sapiens.

Consider that, aside from being a completely unique mix of alleles from your parents (DNA recombination during meiosis means that each chromosome you inherit aren't just a copy of one from one of the parents but a completely unique, sliced-and-diced random mix from both parents), you have about 150 mutational changes in your DNA as well. And that is multiplied by every organism in parallel over every generation (and the small animals had much shorter generation times, bacteria have generations measured in hours and there are an estimated five million trillion trillion bacteria on the earth - that is an unimaginable amount of mutational change every minute, not to mention over 3.6 billion years).

Most mutational changes are neutral, neither harmful nor helpful (or at least extremely subtle). Extremely harmful mutations result in either an nonviable gamete or zygote, by some estimates 40-50% of all fertilizations are unviable and produce natural miscarriages. The moderately harmful mutations that aren't fatal, are evident in our population as diseases. Slightly harmful mutations might be carried in populations for thousands of years, some of these (eg, sickle cell) even prove to have benefits that cause them to spread in populations despite their harmful "side-effects" (really there are only affects, side-effect is a misnomer based on a bias of what is 'beneficial' and what isn't). And occasionally, a mutation will prove beneficial such as Escherichia coli evolving the genes necessary to process Citrate (which actually depended on several independent mutational changes which were EXACTLY identified in the research). Some mutations are purely morphological, some affect protein expression, some affect only the timing of expression (especially evident in the HOX gene complex).

And in light of all of that you expect to be taken seriously when you say something utterly devoid of reflective thought like "If we evolved from monkeys why are there still monkeys"?

Have some pride and educate yourself.

See Also: Evolution: As Simple As Possible, and the Rational Wiki response.