What Is A Trichoplax?

A Trichoplax is one of the simplest organisms you can find. It has no discernible organs or structure, and is basically a flat blob of tissue that moves around. Is it alive? I don't know. But I thought I'd ruminate on other conundrums in this space.

I Agree

Irrational Truth

It's amusing to see the occasional scientific article come across concerning some aspect of human behavior that is incredibly "illogical" when it concerns ethics or religious beliefs. I pointed this out months ago with an article on teleologic statements (statements that say there is purpose to creation) that found people tend to subconsciously believe there is purpose in creation, regardless of their stated beliefs otherwise.

The latest is this article from Ars Technica that talks about a behavioral experiment set up to determine how rational people would be about money. From the article:
The basic rules of the Ultimatum Game are simple. One person is given a stack of cash, and told to divide it between themselves and a second party. That second party is then given the chance to accept or reject the offer; if it's rejected, neither of them get any money. Clearly, any of this free money should be better than nothing, so under assumptions of strictly rational behavior, you might expect all offers to be accepted.

They're not. Things in the neighborhood of a 50/50 split are accepted, but as the proportions shift to where the person issuing the ultimatum tries to keep seventy percent of the total, rejections increase. By the time they hit an 80/20 split, nearly 70 percent of the offers are rejected, even though that 20 percent of the total cash would leave the recipient better off than where they started.
The authors of the experiment went on to refine the experiment to ensure that people could make more rational decisions about the money, but at least 40% of the time they rejected any offers they considered "unfair".

Initially, they try to pin it down as a form of "primate behavior" centered on ensuring "cooperative behavior in small groups" but even that explanation was rejected because they found that even if the only consequence was guilt for accepting an unfair offer, it was still rejected a significant portion of the time.

So, once again, a behavior experiment has teased out the notion that we all have an innate idea of what is right and wrong. Particularly in this experiment, an idea of what is "fair" and what causes guilt. I wonder where that came from?

Anyway, sorry if my exposition of the experiment isn't that clear, the original article is much more in depth. Enjoy.

Ground Zero

It's a good thing the internet was around in the 50's or people would have gone bonkers over this. It's a "simulator" of sorts that lets you type in your hometown and then shows you the potential destruction of varying types of nukes. In Chattanooga, for instance, for almost every bomb but the colossal "Tsar bomba" made by the Russians, I'd be fairly safe from the initial blast but I'd eat it with the fallout. Good to know...

Revelation Chapters 8 & 9

Well, I promised my weekly notes on Revelation so... you can get them here.

This week I talked about John's vision of the six trumpets. This passage is one of the more bizarre parts of Revelation and doesn't really make sense until you understand that it has to do with idolatry (which becomes clear in Revelation 9:20). It becomes even more clear when you compare it to the account of the Exodus of the Jews and the plagues of Egypt and see the similarities. Some of the main things about the passage in Revelation include:

1. That God's response to the saint's cry of "How long" is one of judgement (just as it was for the Israelites in Egypt). I intend to explore the subject of God's judgement more in depth at a later time.
2. That God first judges the idols (both in Exodus and in Revelation) to show that they are powerless.
3. That there are demonic influences behind idols, and ironically, the things that we worship end up causing us torment and even death.
4. God intends for judgement to lead to repentance.

There are so many other things to cover but these are some of the main points. You can see it all laid out in my notes!

Fear and the Muslim "Threat"

I've been asked to post my response to an e-mail I received recently concerning a video on Youtube that's been circulating recently concerning Islam. So here goes.

First, the question:

Larry, I know you have done a lot of study on the growth of Islam. How accurate is this video?

Then, the video:

From my e-mail response:

Well, a couple notes about this video.

First, I'm a little put off by the tone of fear from the video. We forget that God is sovereign and is well aware that Muslims are growing as a people group. He doesn't need us to "wake up and take action" to complete His plans. Also, the video creates the picture that there is a vast conspiracy afoot, perpetrated by Muslim leaders, to overrun the worlds population by breeding. In truth, Muslim culture considers child-rearing differently (PDF link) than our secular western cultures (i.e. as a good thing) and really, Muslims move to the U.S. and Europe because they're like anybody else: they want a better place to live. So let's tone down the hysterics first.

Second, it's true that Europe, especially, has been in decline as a culture and as a people group. They're well aware of it, too. In Spain, (and likely in other European states), you can earn a government stipend just for having children. Yes, they pay you to have children because they recognize their population is shrinking. But that happened because God was kicked out of Europe. A cultural shift occurred sometime last century and we now see the results. Muslims are moving in because there are job opportunities and a higher quality of life available to them, not because they want to take over the world. A similar kind of Europeanization and decline is occurring in the states, though it will certainly look different however it pans out.

Third, the narrator throws out a comment at the end of the video about how Christianity is being eclipsed by Muslims currently in terms of numbers. Coincidentally, I was looking into these numbers just last night so I can shine some light into what this really means. Currently there are about 2 billion professing Christians in the world. Only approx. 680 million would consider themselves to be "born again" though, so, for the sake of conversation, we'll consider there to really only be about 1 billion "real" Christians, give or take. Well, we've already lost the numbers game then, because there are about 1.3 billion adherents to Islam. But that's not the whole story. Let's talk about growth rates. Currently, Islam is growing at a rate of about 2.9% a year. Christianity (or those who would call themselves Christians) are only growing at about 2.3% a year. But then look at these growth rates:

- Pentecostals: 8.1%
- Evangelicals: 5.4%
- All Protestants: 3.3%
- Roman Catholics and Others: 1.3%

So what we really see is that nominal Christianity (what I would consider most Roman Catholics to be, and a fair number of Protestants too) is dying, as we would expect. However, the Church is alive and growing much faster than Islam. Are we outnumbered? When have we never been?

The truth is that the Gospel continues to conquer throughout the world, whether we know it or not. On the other hand, America as a nation and a culture is on it's way out (whether we like it or not) and other nations are taking the lead in spreading God's word. Sure, we need to be obedient to God and ministering at home and abroad, but if we weren't doing that already, I'm not sure a video on Youtube is going to make us do that.

One last thing I'd mention. I think Americans don't realize how young our nation is, and how promptly the world changes. Americans are not students of history as a rule, and when change looks like it's coming we tend to panic. The truth is, our nation or culture is not guaranteed to last forever. I'm not saying I'm not unsettled by what's happening in our world. But am I surprised? Would I be surprised to find that the world my children grow up in will be vastly different, perhaps even hostile? Not at all, even though I'm certainly not comfortable with it.

In times like this we need not put our hope in awareness campaigns, programs to increase child-bearing, or even in our nation. We need to look to the God's Word and understand that the Church and the Gospel is eternal, will survive the fall and rise of many nations and religions, and that our hope rests not in this world.

Anyway, I hope that's not too bleak for you. But those are my thoughts.

And some post-thoughts:

It is unfortunate today that people have so much information available to them, but most don't take the time to analyze that information. There are a number of assumptions from the video (such as, all Muslims are the same, believe the same thing, have the same agenda, that what's true of Europe is true of the U.S., and so on) that I imagine many viewers will take at face value. The only good assumption one should make when watching videos like these is this: things are never as simple as they seem.

The unfortunately corollary to the lack of analysis is that misunderstanding breeds fear. I doubt that the vast majority of American Christians watching this video have ever talked with a Muslim, but most of them have preconceptions about what Muslims are like. Saying those words fills me with sadness, as I realize what a statement that makes about Christians in this nation. God desires that no man should perish, and that we should fear no one, and painting a caricature of Muslims as bogey-men will get us no closer to spreading God's love among them.

A Long Revelation

Well, the posts on this blog have dwindled a bit, but for good reason. Most of my creative output has been dedicated to a study on the book of The Revelation of Jesus to the Apostle John as of late, and if you've read Revelation you'll know there's quite a bit to concern one's self with. Anyway, I thought I'd post links to my notes here (perhaps with some comments) so that others could study along if they wanted to. My notes include copious verse references so there's plenty to learn!

evelation Chapters 1-3. Get my notes here.

For the first week I went over some basic assumptions, basic interpretation models, then covered historical context and talked about the first vision John has of Jesus. My word for this talk was, fittingly, "revelation". I asked the question, "What does Jesus reveal about himself?"

Revelation Chapters 4-5. Get my notes here.
John has a vision of the throne room and of the Lamb who is able to unlock the scroll. The scroll probably represents history itself. I concentrated on the idea that only Jesus is able to redeem history, and even our personal struggles, because only redemption makes sense of suffering and pain. My word was "redemption" and we asked, "How has God redeemed my struggles?"

Revelation Chapters 6-7. Get my notes here.
In this lesson I tackle the contents of the seals on the scroll, which I take the position as being a summary of all history up to the end. Then I talk about the two visions of the multitudes (the 144,000 and the great multitude in heaven). I tied it all together by talking about "perseverance" (my word for this section) and how the saints were encouraged to overcome our current struggles for the hope of joining the multitude who know no hunger and whose tears are wiped away. I asked the question, "What do we hope for?"

Well, that's what I've been doing lately. I'll continue to post each weeks lesson with a little blurb about what I talked about. Otherwise I don't think I'll be able to post much else on here!

Bad Boy, Watcha Gonna Do?

So this is a bit odd... The guy in the video below is being arrested for an outstanding warrant, but says some really interesting things as he's getting arrested. In particular, he calls out to Yahweh and invokes the protection of angels. After that he improvises a really fun song (while being pinned to the ground). The best part? He gets away after being tazed. Watch it all unfold below.