Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Has Anger Become a Habit?

Anger is a natural emotion, triggered by abuse and injustice. We encounter hurtful people and injustices daily, and if we don't learn to let go of anger, we will be perpetually angry.

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are members of one another. “Be angry, yet do not sin.” Do not let the sun set upon your anger..." (Ephesians 4:25, 26)

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Transhumanism and the Christian Hope

Alice C. Linsley

The evidence for human development is not in technology, or spirituality, or higher consciousness. It is evident in families, caring for the sick and the elderly, taking pride in our work, protecting animals, cultivating plants, sustaining our natural resources, working in community. Yet in the strange Gnostic world of transhumanism our humanity is independent of any physical instantiation.

As an anthropologist I find the transhumanist agenda disturbingly inhuman. Read what some transhumanists are saying:

James Hughes, Executive Director of the IEET: People are a bit afraid of living forever, so we need to encourage people to accept the awesome future of living long lives.

David Orban: hackers are very important to help implement the system of a society for the human, not for the State or a corporation.

Max More: mind uploading is mainly a philosophical idea but it is possible. The best option for immortality is cryopreservation.

George Dvorsky: With moral and intellectual enhancement on the horizon, people are referring to it as "the rapture of the nerds".

Ben Goertzel: The future will bring mind reading. If there is no filter and you can have access to another's emotions and information you can feel what they feel, then learn what it was like for them to experience it.

David Dalrymple: "uploading": means transferring a mind from a biological implementation to a digital one. This is difficult in humans at the moment; let's try with the nematode worm C. elegans.

David Pearce: the coming evolutionary transition could have three stages. In the first biological humans will rewrite their genetic source code and bootstrap their way to super-intelligence. In the second, cybernetic brain implants will allow us to fuse our minds with artificial intelligence and to "upload" ourselves onto less perishable substrates. In digital nirvana, the distinction between biological and non-biological machines will effectively disappear. In the third there will be an ultra-rapid "Intelligence Explosion" and an era of non-biological super-intelligence. Post-human super-intelligence may or may not be human-friendly.

Randal Koene: Substrate independent minds (SIN) assume that the brain is a physical system that can be uploaded and manipulated on a computer.

(From here.)

The best paper I've read on the Transhumanist worldview is "Transhumanism-Christianity Diplomacy: To Transform Science-Religion Relations" by David C. Winyard, Sr. He writes:

"Transhumanism is an emerging philosophical and social movement that aims, through technology, to extend human life and radically expand intellectual, physical, and psychological capabilities. Many of transhumanism's goals overlap the eschatological hopes of Christians, such as the elimination of sickness and death. Yet observers who see transhumanism and Christianity in monolithic terms often portray them as adversaries. Against this view, I argue that within each community are factions that have comparable, but contested, views on God, the divine attributes, and human origins, responsibility, and destiny. As a result, an emerging dialog between particular transhumanists and Christians seeks to shape the future of humanity by integrating the basic commitments of transhumanism and Christianity.
Bruno Latour's concept of modes of existence offers a framework for both developing and analyzing diplomacy between and within Christian and transhumanist communities. Specifically, Latour's work allows for the identification of category mistakes that set the terms of intermodal conflicts and dialog. Some transhumanists and most Christians hold beliefs about the nature and meaning of God. Christians believe in a Trinitarian God that is the preexistent, eternal, and personal creator of the universe. By contrast, elements of the transhumanist movement believe that in the future an artificial God will inevitably emerge as an omniscient and omnipotent supercomputer. The attributes, concepts and purposes of God and, by extension, nature lend a basis for developing diplomatic relationships between factions of transhumanism and Christianity. 
Diplomacy between transhumanism and Christianity exists via social media and virtual meeting places. At the forefront of this movement is a new Christian Transhumanist Association that I analyze in some depth. It is only a couple of years old, but its leaders have already attracted international attention. Their strategy of theological minimalism seeks to reduce friction among stakeholders. I show that this strategy sacrifices the insights that Christian theology and philosophy could bring to the development of transhumanism. I conclude that in order to affect transhumanism Christians must find ways to apply their insights into personal creator-creature relationships to the challenges of safely developing artificial superintelligence.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Double Check Science Reports

Ozonesonde launched to measure ozone levels up to 20 miles above the Pole.

Alice C. Linsley

Science news circulates and recirculates. Sometimes the report focuses on something that suggests the need for further investigation. That is certainly true with most climate science reports.

This 2017 report says that the hole in the ozone layer is the smallest since 1988.

In September 2011, NASA measured the maximum extent of the hole at 7.6 million square miles (19.6 million square kilometers). That is about 2.5 times the size of the United States.

This 2012 NOAA and NASA report reported on "the second smallest seasonal ozone hole in 20 years averaged size of the ozone hole was 6.9 million square miles (17.9 million square kilometers)."

In 2016, the maximum extent of the hole in the ozone layer was reported to be 8.9 million square miles (22.2 million square km). That is larger by 2 million square miles. This despite global efforts to reduce the man-made chlorine and bromine found in chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), compounds used as refrigerants. These reduction efforts have been in place since the 1987 Montreal Protocol initiated the phase-out of these chemicals.

This science report from January 2018 speaks of the "healing" of the Earth's ozone layer, as if humans had been instrumental in achieving that feat. Note that the 2018 articles does not cite the present size, so there is no basis of comparison to the 2012 report. We are expected to believe this assertion of "healing" without being presented with the pertinent data.

Looking at the data as a whole, it appears that the ozone levels at the South Pole continue to plummet every Antarctic spring as a coincidence of natural environmental factors. When it comes to factors that influence Earth's climate, always double check the data. Claims of human induced catastrophes are often inflated.

Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D, former NASA scientist has written:
"Hundreds of millions of dollars that have gone into the expensive climate modelling enterprise has all but destroyed governmental funding of research into natural sources of climate change. For years the modelers have maintained that there is no such thing as natural climate change…yet they now, ironically, have to invoke natural climate forces to explain why surface warming has essentially stopped in the last 15 years!"

Climate activists tend to ignore real scientists. They receive their funds from foundations with vested interests in promoting a catastrophic global warming narrative. Even Al Gore admits that this narrative was hyped from the beginning. In a May 2006 Grist Magazine interview, Gore stated:
"Nobody is interested in solutions if they don't think there's a problem. Given that starting point, I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous (global warming) is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are.... --- Al Gore, chairman and co-founder of Generation Investment Management, a London-based business that sells carbon credits."

Related reading: Is the Sun driving ozone and changing the climate?; On the Cloud Thermostat Hypothesis by Dr. Roy Spencer.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Algorithm Exposes Readers to Opposite Viewpoints

Social media has become an important news source for a majority of adults. A common complaint is that social media help create echo chambers in which people reading information do not expose themselves to different viewpoints but are often confined to their own. This happens especially with controversial and polarising topics where two viewpoints become so isolated and conflicting viewpoints can emerge that people do not receive or read information that will not reinforce their own opinion.

Researchers from Aalto University and University of Rome Tor Vergata have designed an algorithm that is able to balance the information exposure so that social media users can be exposed to information from both sides of the discussion.

The algorithm uses a greedy algorithm paradigm that aims to find optimal choices at each stage. In this study the algorithm works by efficiently selecting a set of influential users, who can be convinced to spread information about their side to the other side. The goal is to maximize the amount of users exposed to both viewpoints.

Escaping the echo chambers with the help of influential users

"We use word clouds as a qualitative case study to complement our quantitative results, whereby words in the cloud represent the words found in the users' profiles. For instance, if we look at the topics related to the hashtag #russiagate, we can see not only that the two word clouds that represent the conflicting viewpoints are rather different, but also that they indicate either support or hate for Trump," describes Aalto University researcher Kiran Garimella.

Read it all here.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

10 Dead and 50 Injured in Quetta Terrorist Attack


My Pakistani friends say that the government report of 9 dead is underestimated. The actual number is likely higher and at least 50 people have been injured in the attack.

Read the full report of the terrorist attack on the Pakistani Methodist Church in Quetta.

Related reading: The Pakistan Most Americans Don't Know; Is Islam Ethical?; A First Hand Account of the Plight of Pakistani Christians

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Is Islam Ethical?

Alice C. Linsley

The rise of Islamic terrorism due to the radicalization of younger people across the globe has raised questions about the ethics of Islam. Are violence, intolerance, and imposition of Sharia inherent to this religion? If so, is peace and co-existence possible?

One might argue that Islamic ethics is essentially about domination. The religion provides justifications to kill non-Muslims, rape, seize lands, behead those who commit adultery (mostly pinned on women); dismember law breakers, enslave women and boys for sex, and tell lies to advance Islam. This ethical system is contrary to the values espoused by most Western young people who oppose discrimination, segregation, and the destruction of priceless artifacts. However, many do not realize that Islam and the values of the secular West are at odds. The naive have fallen prey to sophisticated Islamic propaganda. They also have not learned to think critically about their own culture.

Were one to read only the writings of Dr. Khaula Rehman, the view of Islamic ethics would be very different. This revisionist perspective would have us believe that Islam promotes freedom of speech and human rights. Yet the sacred texts of Muslims expose this false narrative. Consider the following:

Hadith Bukhari, 52:260; Bukhari 59:643 3
Muslims may kill Jews and Christians if they do not convert or pay.

Qur'an 8:12; 8:60 5
Muslims are justified in terrorizing non-Muslims.

Qur'an 4:3; 4:24; 5:89; 33:50; 58:3; 70:30 6
You can enslave others for sex and work:

Qur'an 65:4 7
Muslim men may rape, marry (consummate marriage), and divorce pre-pubescent girls.

Qur'an 33:27, 8:69, 48:20; 8.
Muslims may seize land, houses, and the wealth of non-Muslims.

Qur'an 5:38
Islamic justice requires that the hands of thieves be cut off.

Hadith Bukhari 81:792 9
Muslims may lie to advance the cause of Jihad.

Qur'an 98:6; 11
Muslims may treat non-Muslims as vile creatures deserving no mercy.

Qur'an 4:10
Treat non-Muslims as sworn enemies.

Choose your darkness

It is easy to criticize the ethics of Islam, but western secularism is equally dark and evil. It would have us believe that the earth and all life results from random material processes; that life is meaningless; that the individual controls his destiny; that there is nothing special about humans; and that the unborn child is a lump of flesh to be removed, like an unwanted tumor.

Our politics and social policies are dictated by activism and lobbyists, rather than Sharia. Our public system of education excludes all metaphysical conversation (thanks to John Dewey). Consumerism and coddling characterize the universities so that it is easier to enroll in a course on transgender studies that it is to study logic or quantum physics.

When it comes to religion, our social conventions are across the board, at least at first glance. We want the freedom to believe and practice our own religion, be it "churchy" or secular. In reality, we all are herded down the same path, away from intimacy with our Creator. The accepted places of prayer are noisy entertainment venues. No bowing on prayer rugs facing the east. Rather a casual worship in jeans, sipping a Starbucks, and keeping God at a distance.

Related reading: Islamic Iconoclasm; Muslim Style Segregation; The Heresy of Worshiptainment