From the Archives: July 23

I used to think that a blog had to be specialized; that I needed different blogs to present different ideas. Hogwash!

In my local paper, The Long Island Advance, there is a weekly (as is the paper) segments titled From the Archives of the Long Island Advance, in which they present some news clips from 100, 75, and 50 years ago. A lot of the news is so mundane that I find it to be very funny. I hope that you do too.

From 100 Years Ago:

  • Charles F. McNeil fell from a motorcycle in the rear of Roe's Hotel and was bruised up a bit.

  • Blanch, the 6-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Woodruff, was bitten by a dog, The wounds were cauterized and the dog was shot. The child is said to be out of danger

  • Bonaparte Overton was thrown from his carriage on West Main Street, corner of West Avenue, and received a number of scalp wounds. He is now out again.

  • John McVoy was arrested by Officer Smith and fined $5 by Justice Losee, the fellow being drunk and disorderly. McVoy was lying across the sidewalk on West Avenue, near Amity Street, partly dressed.

Bible Genealogy, v 4.0

This just keeps getting bigger and bigger. This version extends to Lot, nephew of Abram. Also, I've added asterisks next to the names of people in the direct line from Adam to David.

Click the image below to view the full genealogy.

Genesis 11 & 12

Half of Chapter 11 is very interesting, and half is a continuation of the genealogy. The first half, the interesting half, is the story of the Tower of Babel. I can only understand this story if God is weak, nervous, and jealous.

Here’s the story if you don’t know it. Everyone speaks the same language. They are all direct descendents of Noah so this makes sense. Humans decide to build a big tower “with its top in the heavens.” It seems that this tower is intended to be a symbol of their unity so that humans will not be “scattered abroad upon the face of the earth” (Genesis 11:4, NRSV).

This scares God. He is afraid that now “nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them” (11:5, NRSV) so God confuses the humans’ language and scatters them around the earth.

What the fuck?

Humans peacefully work together in the name of unity and they get punished for it. I’m done.

If you are interested in the story of Babel make sure to check out next week’s Bad Religion Song of the Week.

The first half of Chapter 12 describes Abram’s journey with his wife and nephew Lot, eventually leading them to Egypt. The Bible says that they took “the persons whom they had acquired in Haran” (12:5, NRSV). Does this mean slaves? Or does this mean people who joined their settlement? I bet it means slaves.

The second half of the chapter is interesting and confusing. There is a famine where Abram is living, so he takes his family into Egypt. Abram is worried that upon seeing his wife Sarai the Pharaoh will kill Abram and take his wife. To prevent this they lie to the Pharaoh and say that Sarai is his sister. Pharaoh does, indeed, take Sarai as a wife, and pays Abram in animals and slaves.

Consequentially, God gets pissed at Pharaoh for committing adultery (although there are no commandments yet) and afflicts his house with great plagues. Pharaoh calls Abram, gives him a piece of his mind, and sends him and his wife and his people away.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely understand how Abram’s scheme was supposed to work, and it did! It just boggles my mind that Pharaoh is punished for committing a sin, that has not yet been prohibited, in ignorance, and Abram, who essentially whores out his wife to save his own life, gets off scot free. More than that, he gets a bunch of animals and slaves as a reward.

God’s idea of justice is twisted.

Convetional vs. Religious Logic

Who has the burden of proof?

Whoever is trying to prove something. If a theist is making the argument that God exists, they have to prove it. If an atheist is making the argument that God does not exist, then they have to prove it.

Any reasonable person, atheist or theist, must be agnostic when it comes to God's existence. If they are not then they are not reasonable.

I don't believe that God exists, but I would never argue that he is,indeed, nonexistent. I have no proof of this, so it would be ludicrous for me to presume to know any more than the theist I am arguing with.

This doesn't mean that I would not argue in support of my reasoning for not believing in God. I would even try to influence people to believe the same thing as me, but I would never claim to be proving anything.

Bad Religion Song of the Week: Do What You Want

Do What You Want
Bad Religion

Hey do what you want, but don't do it around me.
Idleness and dissipation breed apathy.
I sit on my ass all goddamn day,
A misanthropic anthropoid with nothing to
Say what you must, do all you can,
Break all the fucking rules and
Go to hell with superman and
Die like a champion, yeah hey!
Hey I don't know if the billions will survive,
But I'll believe in God when 1 and 1 are 5.
My moniker is man and I'm rotten to the core.
I'll tear down the building just to pass through the door.
So do what you must, do all you can,
Break all the fucking rules and
Go to hell with superman and
Die like a champion, yeah hey!

Not too much to say about this song, it's just one of my favorites. A song about selfish, thoughtless people who live life without regard for anything but themselves.

Venn Diagram

I was browsing a website of humorous charts and graphs (yeah, I know, what a nerd) and I came across this gem. I don't really have anything to add. I think it is quite clear and I pretty much agree with the whole thing.

What do you think?

Bible Genealogy, v 3.0

This is a big one. It includes the descendants of Noah, as listed in Genesis chapter 10. I can't make this one an image, it is just too big. Click the image below to view the entire table.

Genesis 9 & 10

OK, I was right the first time. God did originally intend for humans to be vegetarians. In Genesis 1 God gives all the green plants to the humans and other creatures as food. Here in Chapter 9 God tells Noah and his sons, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” (9:3, NRSV) Take note that God does not mention any of the food laws that are to come.

God also tells them, “Whoever sheds the blood of a human, by a human shall that person’s blood be shed; for in his own image God made humankind.” (9:6, NRSV) Is this a straightforward endorsement of capital punishment or a more philosophical statement along the lines of, “what goes around comes around”? Are we supposed to murder a murderer? That’s what it sounds like.

God makes a covenant with Noah and his sons, and the sign of this covenant? A rainbow! “I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clods over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.“ (9:13-15, NRSV)

I like this. Even without any religious connection I am awed by rainbows. Just imagine how the ancients who believed it to be a sign of the covenant felt.

The remainder of Chapter 9 is an unusual story that I think is not mentioned often in Sunday school. Noah plants a vineyard, drinks his wine, gets drunk and passes out naked. His son Ham sees his father and goes to tell his brothers. They bring “a garment” and shielding their eyes cover their naked father. When Noah finds out what Ham did, he curses Ham’s son Canaan rather harshly.

I am not really sure how to take this story. I figure the first part is about respecting your parents, which makes sense. But I am not sure what moral I am supposed to learn from the second part. Should children be held accountable for the sins of their parents? Maybe another passage in support of original sin?

Chapter 10 lists the descendents of Noah. The next version of the genealogy, to include this chapter, will be posted tomorrow.

Genesis 7 & 8

Back to Noah’s mission. As we all know, God commands Noah to gather pairs of each animals, males and females together. Specifically God commands, “Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and its mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and its mate; and seven pairs of the birds of the air also, male and female , to keep their kind alive on the face of all the earth.” (7:2-3, NRSV)

My first thought about this passage was that maybe God wants the extra clean animals so that Noah et al. would have kosher food to eat for forty days and forty nights. Then I realized that the food laws haven’t been developed yet, but thought maybe God was just preparing them. We will soon see that I am still wrong.

The bible is very descriptive of when the rains started: “In the sic hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month…” (7:11, NRSV) Is there something important about this reference that I don’t know about or is it just another oddity of the bible?

I didn’t bring this up in the last installment, but they mention cubits again in Chapter 7, so I figured, “Why not?” In 7:20 the bible says that the mountains were covered fifteen cubits deep. According to Wikipedia, the most trustworthy source of information on the interwebs (am I joking? I don’t know.), a cubit was about 44 cm, so the mountains were covered by 6.6 meters of water. The ark was 132 meters long, 22 meters wide, and 13.2 meters tall. The maximum volume of the ark was a little more than 38 000 meters cubed. Enough to hold two of every animal (fourteen of some)? Probably not, but I am not up to the calculations right now, maybe another time.

In Chapter 8 the flood subsides. “And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided…” (8:1, NRSV) Did God blow the water into space? Or did the wind aid evaporation? Just kidding; it’s a metaphor!

Again in 8:3-5 and 8:13-14 we have very specific dates mentioned. Why?

When the flood subsides, Noah builds an offer and makes a burnt offering of the clean animals (that’s what they were for!). God smells the offering and says, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth…” (8:21, NRSV) This sounds like God is in support of the idea of original sin. We start off evil, and must become clean; not the other way around.

Bad Religion Song of the Week: Destined for Nothing

Destined for Nothing
Bad Religion
The Process of Belief

Who do you believe can put some meaning in your life
meaning in your life
meaning in your life
Who do you conceive to provide you guidance and light
guidance and light
guidance and light
Are they waiting for you in the by and by
Do you even have to try

Headed for eternity and destined for nothing
The future isn't difficult to see
It's easy to confuse grand design with life's repercussions
Lament not your vanquished fantasy
It's only destiny

Why do you consent to live in ignorance and fear
ignorance and fear
ignorance and fear
Ancient people succumbed to it can it happen here
can it happen here
can it happen here
Does it make you suffer cause you have to die
Is it best to live a lie

Headed for eternity and destined for nothing
The future isn't difficult to see
It's easy to confuse grand design with life's repercussions
Lament not your vanquished fantasy
It's only destiny

Why can't you see
there ain't no destiny
for you and me
there ain't no destiny
Why can't you see
there ain't no destiny
for you and me
there ain't no destiny

Headed for eternity and destined for nothing
The future isn't difficult to see
It's easy to confuse grand design with life's repercussions
Lament not your vanquished fantasy
It's only destiny

I went to Warped Tour this weekend at Nassau Coliseum. I really only went to see Flogging Molly and Bad Religion. We got there around 1pm so of course my bands didn't go on until 7pm. We saw a couple of other good bands, and were first in line for the Flogging Molly signing.

Both bands were awesome, as usual, I just wish I could see them for a full concert. Thirty minutes just isn't enough.

Anyways, the above song is one that I once put on a CD for my high school philosophy teacher because the topic of my final paper was destiny.

I don't believe in destiny. How could I feel in control of my life and be responsible for my actions if I believed that everything was predetermined? Back in the day religion and superstition ruled people's lives, and while we live in a much more secular and, dare I say, rational world today some people still rely on beliefs like this.

It really bothers me when people say to me, "Everything happens for a reason." No. Not everything does. Some things just happen. People say this when someone else gets the fellowship you applied for, or you don't get a job you've been after, or the house you've been looking at gets sold before you can make an offer. Does this make some people feel better? Probably.

And of course sometimes it turns out that it was good that you didn't get that job, because a better one came up and you got that one, but this is not the reason you lost the first job. There are plenty of times that you miss one opportunity and then a better one doesn't appear.

I won't go as far as to say that everything is random, but things certainly aren't destined to happen.

Bad Religion Song of the Week

Modern Man
Bad Religion
Against the Grain

I've got nothing to say
I've got nothing to do
All of my neurons are functioning smoothly
Yet still I'm a cyborg just like you

I'm one big myoma that thinks
The planet supports only me
I've got this one problem:
Will I live forever?
I've got just a short time to see

Modern man, evolutionary betrayer
Modern man, ecosystem destroyer
Modern man, destroy yourself in shame
Modern man, pathetic example of earth's organic heritage

When I look back and think
When I ponder and ask, "Why?"
I see my ancestors spend with careless abandon
Assuming eternal supply

Modern man, evolutionary betrayer
Modern man, ecosystem destroyer
Modern man, destroy yourself in shame
Modern man, pathetic example of earth's organic heritage
Just a sample of carbon-based wastage
Just a fucking tragic epic of you and I

I’ve posted these lyrics a long time ago on the message board I ran freshman year. I was really into Bad Religion then and I still am. This is one my all time favorite BR songs. It’s short, catchy, and it’s got great lyrics.

My Take:

We are apathetic lemmings, just following along with everyone else, but we are not imbeciles. We could make better decisions but we do not.

We are self-absorbed as a species. All we care about is ourselves and we believe that everything in nature belongs to us. We are concerned with our own preservation at the expense of everything else.

Evolutionary betrayer – in the process of evolution organisms adapt to their changing environment, but humans change their environment to adapt to their lifestyle.

Ecosystem destroyer – humans are responsible for the ruin of many ecosystems and the extinction of countless species.

However, we, the current generation, were not the ones who created this mentality. Our ancestors, either due to ignorance or greed, consumed natural resources as if they would never run out and with no regard for the environmental impact of their gluttony.

An aside: It was once said, by someone, that before Europeans came to the New World a squirrel could travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River without touching the ground.

We are a waste of life. We evolved such a powerful intelligence and thus far we have used it only for evil (as far as the environment is concerned).

We don’t have to continue on this course though. I think that we are slowly but surely mending our evil ways and learning to become a cooperating member of the global ecosystem. We need to speed up the process.

Bible Genealogy, v 2.0

This one's a little more complicated...more to come.

The number in the right most column is the age at which the person "begot" his named son (and the age at which he died)

Genesis 5 & 6

Chapter 5 of Genesis is strictly a list of Adam’s descendents down to Noah and his sons. These are the people that fathered children into their second century (Noah was actually 500 when his sons were born) and lived into their 900s. There isn’t too much going on in this chapter, but it is interesting how long these men are reported to have lived.

Let me start by saying that there is no way that these men physically lived 900 years. I think there could be several reasons why the men who wrote the bible inflated their ages by such a degree. The most likely is that these people were alive longer ago than any others, and often times details from long ago get exaggerated, i.e. Paul Bunyan.

I think that maybe another reason to inflate the ages of these men could be to increase the temporal distance from the creation. It is still only nine generations after Adam, but because of the years between generations the time that has elapsed amounts to 1556 years from the creation of Adam to the birth of Noah’s sons (which is already about 25% of the history of the earth according to some young earth creationists).

One last thought: During the time of Noah God decides he must destroy mankind because of how evil they have become. If the generations between Adam and Noah were, let’s say, 20 years, only 180 years would have passed. It might seem unreasonable for humans to have become so evil in so little time. In 1556 years, though, anything can happen.

Chapter 6 of Genesis is where the shit starts to hit the fan. But first there is an odd statement by God (at least one that I do not comprehend). “Then the Lord said, ‘My spirit shall not abide in mortals forever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred twenty years.’” (6:3, NRSV) I’ll admit that I peeked ahead to see how old the sons of Noah grow to be, and it is well beyond 120 years. Maybe he means that it will be 120 years until the flood, but he hasn’t even mentioned the wickedness of man yet. Maybe it is just a bit of poor editing.

God also says that, “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days…These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown.” (6:4, NRSV) The Nephilim might have beent very tall, very strong and resilient men. There are men like this in other cultures, such as the heroes of prehistoric Greece from the Iliad and the Odyssey. I am not an historian but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are men of this stature in many other cultures of the time. Now that I think of it, some of the heroes, Achilles for example, actually had divine ancestors, and another hypothesis for the Nephilim is that they are the offspring of fallen angels and human women.

So God sees the wickedness of humankind and he was sorry that he had made them. He decides that he will “blot out from the earth the human beings [he] has created – people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air.” Say what!?!? This is an excellent story, with at least an okay moral of how being righteous has its rewards, but taken literally this story is too farfetched. (I know that not everyone takes the bible literally but enough people do for me to get this off my chest.)

1) Why does God choose to kill the animals and creeping things and birds? Have they also become so evil that they must be destroyed?

2) Could Noah and his family have been the only eight people on the planet who deserved to survive?

3) God created the universe, or at least the earth, in just six days. If he wants to exterminate the evil humans why can’t he just make them disappear, or at least just drop dead?

Numbers one and two stump me, but for number three I think it could be that having Noah build the ark and gather the animals is one final test of his righteousness, proving once and for all that his family deserves to survive the flood.

Verses 11 through 22 of Chapter 6 are God’s instructions to Noah, about how the ark should be built and how Noah should gather the animals. While not the most intriguing passage of the bible it sets a precedent for the Old Testament of God relying heavily on very clear, specific instructions and laws. We will seeplenty of these in the books to come.

Bible Genealogy, v 1.0

This is easy so far, but just wait until next time.

Genesis 3 & 4

Ok, so everything was going great for all of two books, and then the serpent appears; the first, and one of the few, talking beasts in the bible. “The woman says to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’’” (Genesis 3:2-3, NRSV)

God is a liar. He tells the man and woman that if they eat fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that they will die. Then they eat of the fruit. Then they don’t die. One of the most important things I learned in the last year and a half of teaching is that if you want your subordinates to do or not do something you have to assign a reasonable punishment and then follow through. Death doesn’t seem reasonable and God doesn’t follow through. He is new at this, however, and perhaps this will be a learning experience for him.

The woman “…took of [the tree’s] fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.” (3:6, NRSV, emphasis added)

I always thought that she ate the fruit without the man knowing, and then went to him and was like, “Here, eat some of this fruit that I didn’t pick off the tree that God forbade us to eat from.” Au contraire! The dude was right there, and then when God gets pissed the man tries to pass all the blame onto the woman: “’The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate,’” (3:12, NRSV), and even worse, God buys the man’s B.S. and rebukes the woman and gives her painful childbirth. Gender equality: 1 (from 2:23-24), Patriarchy: 1.

Shortly after this God says, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.” (3:22, NRSV) Who is God talking to? This is the first of many passages in the Old Testament that refer to other gods. In this passage God might actually not be talking to other gods, but he is at least talking to the cherubim or other order of angels. The issue of the existence of other gods will be more important in a few books.

The man and woman are banished from Eden and they “know” each other resulting in the fabled sons Cain and Abel. Abel offers to God the “firstlings of his flock” and Cain offers to God “the fruit of the ground.” For some unexplained reason God favors Abel’s offering and rejects Cain’s. This seems contradictory to God’s pro-vegetarianism statement in Genesis 1.

Once again God is acting unfairly toward one party. Each brother made an offering in his own kind, but God isn’t satisfied. The only explanation I can think of is that perhaps God was testing Cain, to see how he might react. I think it is fair to say that Cain fails the test. Then god exiles him, but bestows upon him a mark (the Mark of Cain) so that people will not kill him. Who are these people that Cain is afraid of, by the way? Cain is the son of Adam and Eve, the first and only people created by God. How could there be other people that might kill Cain? Did God only create some humans? Did God create other humans after Adam and Eve and we just don’t know about it? Either way it is obvious that we cannot take the bible to be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Finally, Cain’s great-great-great grandson, Lamech, “took two wives.” Gender equality: 1, Patriarchy: 2.

Time Travel in Popular Culture

The following is a paper I wrote for an independent study from junior year. If you want to read the whole thing, download the PDF file linked to below the excerpt.

Time Travel in Popular Culture


Justin King

How many of us have wished we could go back in time to correct a mistake? Or visit the future to see our world 100 centuries from now? I bet we all have, and this is why time travel has become so pervasive in popular culture. If time travel were possible, we could travel to the past and visit the dinosaurs or witness the sermon on the mount; you could go back to last week and give yourself the correct answers for an exam; you could even travel into the future to a time where ears cars no longer run on gasoline, when we all have personal assistance robots, and when space travel is as common as driving to the market. It is this last possibility that is the most intriguing aspect of time travel, and is the focus of most time travel literature and film.

As we examine time travel in popular culture we will begin with early examples of machineless time travel, but our focus will be on time travel via time machine. Appropriately then, our first example of machine facilitated time travel will be H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, published in 1895. Since then stories about time machines have been bountiful, but we will look at the Back to the Future trilogy and Planet of the Apes. I have chosen these because the former is probably the most well-known time travel story, and the latter because it is one of the most scientifically accurate time travel stories.

Time Travel in Popular Culture