Thursday, July 18, 2019

Terrestrial U.F.O. - An Unclassified Encounter

John Williams

When I saw the UFO Welcome Center billboard, a hokey Route 66 style trinket shop came to mind. If I was really lucky, I thought, perhaps I’d find a curtain that could be brushed away for $5 a glimpse to reveal a shriveled grey body. Then I recalled, this wasn’t a UFO themed welcome center at all. It was Bowman S.C.’s legendary docking point for alien spaceships on earth.

The edifice eschews architectural conventions, contemporary or classical. Its imposing appearance is supplemented by cautionary signage. The way the floor gives and the wall shakes affords those who enter a sense of slight danger; adventure, as the ancients called it.

There was a deep stillness in those first moments, save a television silently relaying the black and white programming of a serial western. I sensed that this place’s sexton would present himself abruptly, as would only be appropriate. And suddenly, he emerged. Jody; an old, thin man with long hair, a Hawaiian shirt, and a beard.

“Do you want to go up?” he asked. 
“Yes, please.”

Overwhelmed by the beauty of this place, I was reminded of the cathedral. The environment envelops man and takes him somewhere fresh and new. As I climbed ladder after ladder behind Jody, I sensed the ascension that the architect sought to convey. When we reached the penultimate floor, pictures from the windows were encouraged. 

“We’re having fun!” he observed.

“Did you make this place?” I asked, knowing the answer.

“Yes. Human hands.” He showed them to me. I admire the pride in his species. The human hand is a comparatively rudimentary technology, but even the most ardent futurist finds it is most useful in overcoming alienation from his daily surroundings.

“For our otherworldly friends?”

“Yes for the aliens.. yes the otherworldly. If they ever come back again.” 

He exaggeratedly clasped his hand to his mouth. “I’ve said too much,” he said with a grin.

“What are you going to do in your life?” he asked me.

I stood silent. I’m very familiar with the question. It feels like an insurmountable weight at times. However, in Jody’s kind face I saw the dissolution of the egoism that typically drives the interrogation. It was as if he asked “What are you going to do in your life… disregarding Babylon.”

“Have fun!” He implored before leaping back into the hull. In climbing to the highest level, we found ourselves in a small cylindrical disc covered in Pyrex saucers. I felt tremendously welcome, and believe any ET worth his salt would concur.

Upon exiting the spacecraft, we saw a clan of pilgrims resting outside the walls of the sanctum, newly joined by Jody. Two children left an old woman’s side to approach us, showing the front pages of two local newspapers prominently displaying the feat.

After some pleasant conversation, Jody excused himself.

“I have a date!”

I thanked him for his hard work before he left.

“Don’t worry,” he replied, “It’ll still be here when you’re ready to go.”

My feelings regarding the alien grey are as complicated as the technology and intelligence that it signifies. It is easy to sense the spiritual or extra-dimensional progression of things.

Greys are reported to illumine, to rape, to give purpose, to manipulate. When pondering technofuturism, I consider the ways that paradigm-shifting intelligence does all of these things to the human spirit.

But in the microcosm; in Jody’s shuttle, filled with ancient, expended technology, far removed from Crowley’s invocations of Lam, far removed from L Ron Hubbard’s social manipulation through the use of alien archetypes, far removed from the extraterrestrially inspired self destruction of Heaven’s Gate, I felt an angelic hope. A feeling that, in earnest, when I’m ready to go, the joys of ascension, fun, pure creation, and ultimate revelation will be waiting.


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Ethics and Partisan Politics

Recently, accusations of racism, pandering to fears, and questions about ethics have taken center stage in American politics. The polarization of Americans seems more pronounced than usual. What roll does ethics play in this drama?

"In a Pew Research Center survey conducted last summer, 91% of Americans said it is essential for someone in high political office to be honest and ethical – the top attribute out of nine asked about in the survey. There were no partisan differences in this assessment: Nearly identical shares of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (90%) and Republicans and Republican leaners (91%) said this."

The survey showed disagreement on Trump and his administration, as there has been for other elected officials. Similar disagreement surrounded the Clinton administration.

The Pew survey found that "People generally view presidents from their own party as trustworthy – and presidents from the other party as not trustworthy."

Read the January 2019 report here

Saturday, July 6, 2019

An Ethical Consideration of Aliens

Space Tapestry: Faraway Missions, Tate Liverpool, 2017

Alice C. Linsley

I work at the intersection of Philosophy and Science. The first discipline requires an open mind and the second requires that my mind clamp down on hard data. Both are helpful when considering aliens and unidentified flying objects (U.F.O's). There is no hard data to prove the existence of aliens and U.F.O's, and yet the obsession persists.What motivates the obsession?

It has been suggested that the Media keeps the obsession alive. This is the view of the journalist Keith Kloor in his article "America’s Enduring Obsession With UFOs: How the media keeps extraterrestrial infatuation top of mind."

Another explanation for the longevity of the UFO-alien obsession is cult-like groups. According to William H. Swatos, Jr, many of these groups have a religious quality. Swatos explains:
To their alleged encounters, "contactees" such as George Adamski and Orfeo Angelucci attached religious meaning, which often incorporated spiritualist and theosophical principles with apocalyptic and millennialist themes. These themes reflected growing American cultural fears of communism and nuclear destruction, combined with faith in the salvific nature of technology. Masonic and Rosicrucian ideals and rituals also appeared within some of the early groups and, most recently, in the Order of the Solar Temple. Contemporary UFO groups additionally borrow from "New Age" and Christian doctrines (as did Heaven's Gate) as well as from the general science fiction milieu. The range of beliefs among these groups is quite wide, including people who claim to have seen UFOs, alleged contactees, alleged contactees who have visited ships or other worlds, reputed victims of alien experimentation, and alleged aliens who live among humans.

In another article by Keith Kloor he asks, "A community of believers in extraterrestrial visitations continues to push its story, and the media and Pentagon continue to listen. Who benefits from these tales of close encounters?" 

The speculation gains legitimacy when the Navy issues guidelines for reporting UFO's. In an age when people read only the headlines and the headlines are often misleading, few will note that the Navy is not acknowledging encounters with alien spacecraft. Rather, it is acknowledging the importance of recording unusual sightings by trained military personnel.

Perhaps some people follow alien lore as a way of gaining attention. Attention seekers thrive by keeping a speculative conversation going, and there are attention seekers in every arena of society. Add an element of conspiracy and religious indignation, and the movement is bound to draw followers.

Claire Coffey finds that what was once a fringe belief system has taken hold of the imagination of many. The religion of the UFO is also the religion of technology and is disseminated and popularized through the narratives of Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and The X-Files. She sees this as a new religion with adherents as loyal as Roman Catholics who claim to have had visions of the Virgin Mary.

In an attempt to find legitimacy in the Bible, some insist that the Nephilim of Genesis 6:4 refers to aliens. Here we have a case of selective reading or what some call "cherry picking" biblical passages. The verse makes it clear that it refers to men, not aliens.
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

The nephilim were powerful early rulers, also known as gibboriym, which means the mighty ones. They are also called "the mighty men" of old in Genesis 10. Further, the term "nephilim" comes from the same root as the Aramaic npyl (nephil) which means great in rank or stature. This is equivalent to the Arabic nfy, meaning hunter. It is said concerning Nimrod that he was a “mighty hunter” or a “mighty man” before the Lord.

Since there is no hard evidence for aliens and U.F.O's, how should one respond to those who adhere to this belief? Humoring is perceived as condescending. Confrontation is likely to stir antagonism. People don't like to have their worldviews challenged. Empirical reasoning is useless since the worldview of adherents is a substitute for empiricism.

In today's world one may discuss ethical encounters with aliens. It is time we talk about ethical engagement with alien-embracing religionists.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Why We Observe Memorial Day

Each year on Memorial Day Americans pause to remember the fallen and honor their sacrifice. First established as Decoration Day after the Civil War, the holiday was set aside for families and friends to visit and decorate the graves of troops lost in the conflict.

As time went on, the observance instead became known as "Memorial Day," until 1971, when Congress declared it an official holiday set to fall annually on the last Monday in May. 

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans -- the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) -- established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30.

It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

Read more here and here.

Related: The Poppy Wall of Honor

Monday, May 13, 2019

Features of Islamic Extremism

Apologists for Islam claim that Islamic terrorism is the work of a few religious fanatics. However, that Islam demands this level of extremism from its adherents as is evident from Islamic writings and  teachers.

Devout Muslims believe they have a duty to expand the rule of Islam. They justify abuse of "infidels" and "idolaters" and under the right circumstance, any one of them can be turned to violence. The most prominent leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, admits that the "killing of apostates is essential for Islam to survive." He simply is reiterating what is said in the Qur'an.

"If anyone desires a religion other than Islam, never will it be accepted of him." (Qur'an 3:85)

Qur'an 9:30 states that Christians and Jews are perverse. Allah himself fights against them.

"He it is who has sent His Messenger (Mohammad) with guidance and the religion of truth (Islam) to make it victorious over all religions even though the infidels may resist." (Qur'an 61:9)

The Qur'an contains 109 verses that call Muslims to war against non-Muslims in order to advance Islamic rule globally. Some include commands to chop off heads and fingers. Terrorist acts are encouraged. "If thou comest on them in the war, deal with them so as to strike fear in those who are behind them, that haply they may remember." (Qur'an 8:57)

After capturing Mecca in 630 A.D., Mohammad delivered this speech:
"Bear in mind that every claim of privilege, whether that of blood or property is abolished...I reject all claims relating to life and property and all imaginary honors of the past, and declare them to be baseless... A Muslim is the brother of another Muslim and all the Muslims are brothers of one another and constitute one hand as against the non-Muslims."
The Turkish journalist Uzay Bulut studies religious movements. She has written:
"Sadly, the founder of Islam did not leave behind a humanitarian message to respect people of other faiths and to be on an equal footing with them. What the Islamic State (ISIS) and other barbaric Islamist groups have been doing to people is horrific beyond words; but it is meticulously based on Islamic scriptures. So it is not the West causing these human tragedies; it is Islam and Muslims."

Consider these words of the Islamic theologian Syed Abul A'ala Maududi:
"Islam wishes to destroy all states and government anywhere on the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and program of Islam regardless of the country or the nation which rules it. The purpose of Islam is to set up a state on the basis of its own ideology and program."

Related reading: Islamic Violence Against Women; Facing the Facts About Islamic Extremism; Is Islam Ethical?; Islamic Extremism and Iconoclasm

Monday, April 1, 2019

Moratorium on Heritable Genome Editing?

Bioethicists have voiced a global plea for a moratorium on heritable genome editing in the wake of the recent Chinese experiment aiming to produce HIV immune children.

From Science Daily. Read it here.

In an article in the latest issue of international scientific journal Nature, Professor Jing-Bao Nie together with another 16 academics from seven countries, call for a global moratorium on all clinical uses of human germline editing to make genetically modified children.

They would like an international governance framework -- in which nations voluntarily commit to not approve any use of clinical germline editing unless certain conditions are met -- to be created potentially for a five-year period.

Professor Nie says the scientific scandal of the experiment that led to the world's first genetically modified babies raises many intriguing ethical, social and transcultural/transglobal issues. His main personal concerns include what he describes as the "inadequacy" of the Chinese and international responses to the experiment.

"The Chinese authorities have conducted a preliminary investigation into the scientist's genetic misadventure and issued a draft new regulation on the related biotechnologies. These are welcome moves. Yet, by putting blame completely on the rogue scientist individually, the institutional failings are overlooked," Professor Nie explains.

"In the international discourse, partly due to the mentality of dichotomising China and the West, a tendency exists to characterise the scandal as just a Chinese problem. As a result, the global context of the experiment and Chinese science schemes have been far from sufficiently examined."

The group of 17 scientists and bioethicists say it is imperative that extensive public discussions about the technical, scientific, medical, societal, ethical and moral issues must be considered before germline editing is permitted. A moratorium would provide time to establish broad societal consensus and an international framework.

"For germline editing to even be considered for a clinical application, its safety and efficacy must be sufficient -- taking into account the unmet medical need, the risks and potential benefits and the existence of alternative approaches," the opinion article states.

Although techniques have improved in recent years, germline editing is not yet safe or effective enough to justify any use in the clinic with the risk of failing to make the desired change or of introducing unintended mutations still unacceptably high, the scientists and ethicists say.

"No clinical application of germline editing should be considered unless its long-term biological consequences are sufficiently understood -- both for individuals and for the human species."

The proposed moratorium does not however, apply to germline editing for research uses or in human somatic (non-reproductive) cells to treat diseases.

Professor Nie considers it significant that current presidents of the UK Royal Society, the US National Academy of Medicine and the Director and Associate Director of the US National Institute of Health have expressed their strong support for such a proposed global moratorium in two correspondences published in the same issue of Nature. The editorial in the issue also argues that the right decision can be reached "only through engaging more communities in the debate."

"The most challenging questions are whether international organisations and different countries will adopt a moratorium and if yes, whether it will be effective at all," Professor Nie says.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Murder of Journalists in Mexico: "Historic High"

National Public Radio (2107)

According to the New York-based nonprofit, six journalists were killed in Mexico this year, putting it just behind Iraq and Syria as the deadliest places in the world to work in the media.

Another reporter may be added to Mexico's murdered list for 2017. On Tuesday, Gumaro Pérez Aguilando was killed in the state of Veracruz. The 35-year-old crime reporter was gunned down while attending a Christmas party at his son's elementary school.

Pérez was registered in the state's journalist protection program. But Wednesday, state investigators said he was no longer a working journalist and had ties to organized crime. That drew an angry protest by the secretary of the state's Commission for the Attention and Protection of Journalists.

"A discussion of a person's character, with the intention to judge him and criminalize him, does not help those of us who desire justice for journalists who have been assassinated," said Jorge Morales Vázquez.

Read it all here.

Related reading: 50,000 Murdered in Mexico in Twelve Years; Three Journalists Found Dead in Veracruz; Mexico Fails to Protect Wornat and Monroy; Mexico Leads Latin America in Media Professional Murders; Zetas Dismember Female Journalist; Mexican Drug Lords Killing Journalists

Friday, January 18, 2019

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.

Concerning Christians who believe that Jesus is the Son of God, we find this condemnation:

And on the Day of Resurrection you will see those who lied against Allah (i.e.attributed to Him sons, partners, etc.) their faces will be black. Is there not in Hell an abode for the arrogant ones? (The Groups: 60)

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 of feel-good religion, away from intimacy with our Creator. The accepted places of prayer are noisy entertainment venues. No bowing on prayer rugs facing Mecca. Rather a casual worship in jeans, sipping Starbucks coffee, and keeping God at a distance.

Related reading: Facing the Facts About Islamic ExtremismIslamic Iconoclasm; Muslim Style Segregation; The Heresy of Worshiptainment; Secularism: A Christian Heresy?

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Ethics and Christmas

'Tis the season once again for shopping, long lines and short tempers. This is the only Christmas many Americans know. How have we become so detached from one of the holiest days on the Christian calendar?

The ethics of Christmas are discussed in this PBS video.