Terminal Cruise 2

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The Kaleetan hunt at the Island in the Sky was not the first time the Golden Gift appeared in human history. When they first created heaven as a testing place for the humans of Earth, Chokhmah and Thaumiel discovered how information was handed down through the generations by chemical life in long twisted polymer pairs, and they learned how to manipulate this information.

There were no animals in heaven in the very beginning, other than imports from Earth, but most of the growing things in heaven moved of their own accord and nearly all of them were dangerous owing to the treachery of Thaumiel who made most of them. A grove of whipping trees could render a person down to a pile of broken bones and crushed flesh in only a few moments. Thorny ball bushes rolled under their own power by shifting their weight. There were flowers with teeth and many plants which were too poisonous to touch, let alone eat. So most of the first humans who were taken to heaven died in their first year.

In the land of Mesopotamia, Chokhmah caused a temple to be erected around her end of the fold-space tunnel, through which priests could shove human sacrifices. At first the priests sent criminals through the tunnel, which seemed to be equivalent to a death sentence because the priests never saw anyone reemerge from the altar chamber. But Thaumiel required female humans for the heavenly colony as well, so Chokhmah commanded the sacrifice of virgins from time to time. During periods of famine in heaven, the priests of Chokhmah were commanded to send along meat and grain offerings also.

As part of his research, Thaumiel changed the bodies of his colonists through selective breeding and outright genetic manipulation. They diverged from the original human stock in certain ways. Due to the high mortality rate in heaven, Thaumiel changed them to become more fertile, and with more opportunities to conceive offspring. The benei elim, as they came to be called, had two sets of genitalia rather than one. The direct descendants of Adamu and Chava remained near the location of the original farm, an oasis called Adan in the arid regions under the hot end of the sun, where ever they remained in close contact with the dragon-avatar of Thaumiel.

One day Chokhmah visited the land of Adan with Thaumiel and was moved to say, “Behold how the house of Adan remains obedient to your word and prospers even as the generations come and go.”

Thaumiel replied, “They do so only because I speak to them directly now and again. If I were to turn away from them for only a short time the benei elim of Adan would soon dwindle in unbelief.”

Chokhmah said, “Perhaps familiarity lessens awe. Perhaps the benei elim do not really perceive you as a god but as just a chieftain, and the Adanish people obey you as they would obey any other patriarch, while the other families have their own patriarchs and need not obey such a one as you.”

“Interesting. Do you have a proposal to verify this counter-claim?”

Chokhmah said, “I do. This shall be the manner by which the humans of Earth are tested: Release three servants from the peerage of the Adan Clan to bring my commandments to the humans of Earth while I remain utterly aloof from them. Then we both shall see how they fare as the years play out.”

“That would be a good test,” Thaumiel agreed. “I will make arrangements with the Grand Duke of Salem to carry it out.”

Prince Melchiyahu was the son of Grand Duke Gordiel of Salem. He emerged from the waters of Lake Tana with hyz brothers Zophiel and Kemuel. They dragged a raft covered with supplies, tightly bundled to keep them dry. After a time on the shore organizing their supplies they began paddling across the lake, which was the very headwaters of the Blue Nile.

When they reached the outflow river of the lake they encountered rapids so dangerous that men have called them unrunnable, and indeed, at one point they were required to portage around a great cataract.

Below the falls and the rapids Melchiyahu and his siblings were content to sit in their raft, paddling gently. They passed water-loving beasts and human onlookers who dared not approach. After a time they floated into the place where the Blue and White Nile merged.

Days and nights passed as they drifted past the bountiful riparian farms of one the earliest cradles of human civilization. In the cities, they saw the temples of the sun god Ra, which is what the people of Egypt called Chokhmah. When the wayfarers reached a certain town in the lower Nile delta they tied up and haggled with a man to trade their raft for animals and more supplies.

Melchiyahu and hyz kin loaded camels with food, water and everything they needed to make a long overland journey. Their destination was the land of Chaldea in the marshy lands far to the east where the Euphrates and Tigris rivers join together before flowing a short distance to the sea.

Rather than taking the direct path across the Arabian Desert, Melchiyahu journeyed northeast through the fields and cities of the Fertile Crescent. They briefly stopped at the place where the Damascus road forked with the road to Nineveh. This was the town of Harran.

Near the crossroads they found a shop run by an elderly man named Terah, at least according to the sign over the door. Terah made and sold carved idols for dozens of different gods. One of the stone idols had fallen on its face. Terah’s son Abram was helping his aged father stand it back up. Terah inspected the idol and found it was damaged. He groaned in annoyance and began repairing it with a chisel.

Abram was amused. “What is this useless thing you are doing, father? Are you not being a god to this god by healing it? Perhaps next time I should leave it bowing down to you.”

Terah asked, angrily, “So, Abram, was it you who knocked it over?”

“Ask your gods, if they are able to speak.”

Melchiyahu grew interested in this exchange and entered the shop.

When Prince Melchiyahu was seen, the angry words of father and son dwindled to silence. Melchiyahu made a slow tour of Terah’s idol shop, looking at everything, as both Terah and Abram looked upon the newcomer with interest.

After touring the whole shop Melchiyahu signaled for hyz assistants to unpack their gold. The yeng unload much of their gold on the edge of the shop facing the street.

Five armed robbers approached with their swords drawn. Melchiyahu spotted them and reached inside hyz cloak. Hy pulled out the Golden Gift, which made its very first appearance on Earth at this time. A hissing black shaft emerged from it about the length and thickness of a spear and one of the thieves was cut into two equal pieces vertically. Another thief was decapitated. The other three robbers fled. The black shaft disappeared and Melchiyahu secreted the Golden Gift about hyz person.

Abram sank to his knees before the newcomers.

Zophiel said, “Abram, son of Terah, go forth from your father’s household and from your kinfolk to the land of Canaan.”

Kemuel said, “There in Canaan the living and true God will make of you a great nation, and your name will be mighty among men.”

Melchiyahu said, “All the Earth shall find blessing in you. These are the words of the True God. What say you Abram of Harran?”

“No.”

Melchiyahu was stunned. “What do you mean,’no?’”

That was not how these things were supposed to go. Abram rose to his feet and took his father gently by the arms. He said, “My father Terah is crippled. He never earned enough money in his shop to support himself. I do not always agree with my father, but as I love my life, I can never turn aside from Terah for all the days that he lives.”

Then Abram fulfilled the purpose of his visit. Stepping outside the shop, he delivered to his father two living lambs from his own flocks, one to kill and eat, and the other to sell for money to buy the things he needed until the next time Abram came in from the open range and visited him.

Melchiyahu understood. Hy had his servants restow the gold and they quietly left the shop, careful not to tread on the fortress of human dignity that Abram had asserted with his refusal.

The travelers departed Harran and took the left-hand fork to Ninevah and thence by stages to Sumeria, even to the largest city in the world, Ur, at the mouth of the Euphrates, with a population of nearly seventy thousand souls. But in all hyz travels on Earth Melchiyahu never met anyone like Abram.

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Theism, atheism, deism, pantheism, agnosticism, anti-theism

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Theism is the belief that a sentient being greater than man created the universe and interacts with it on an ongoing basis.

Atheism is the rejection of the belief that a sentient being greater than man created the universe and interacts with it on an ongoing basis.

Deism is the belief that a sentient being greater than man created the universe but no longer interacts with it.

Pantheism is the belief that the universe is god, and such a god is sentient precisely because we humans, as part of this god, are sentient.

Agnosticism is the position that we do not (or cannot) know if there is a theistic or deistic god because

1) Insufficient evidence has been obtained.
2) The very concept of a god is incoherent.

Anti-theism is the position that the god proposed by theists cannot exist because it contradicts itself. As such it is reactionary, and relies on a believer clearly defining his or her god, which they rarely do. But this is where I land on the spectrum.

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The Way

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The Way is a lamp whose light is these words. The darker your thoughts, the further from the Way you go. He who is far from the Way is no better off than he who denies the Way.

Celebrities are known by many and are called famous, but he who sets his foot along the Way sets an example by his deeds and is called influential.

Men are said to be superior to the animals because they can control their own environment, but he who sets his foot along the Way can control his own behavior.

The wealthy accumulate many riches but cannot keep all of them safe. He who sets his foot along the Way has few desires, and so holds on to all that he has.

Thieves take from those who do not have enough to supplement their own bounty, but he who sets his foot along the Way diminishes the overflowing to enrich the impoverished.

The moralist sits back in judgment of the causes of a tragedy, but he who sets his foot along the Way is too busy mercifully addressing the needs at hand to render judgment.

The judge demands to see evidence of good in others, but he who sets his foot along the Way does good in this moment, and does not live for yesterday or for tomorrow.

A strong man can do he wills to do, but he cannot determine what he wills. He who sets his foot along the Way makes his own awareness of injustice the determinant of his actions.

The boastful put their riches and knowledge on parade, but he who sets his foot along the Way does not tell all that he has, nor all that he can do.

The proud would rather break than bend in pliable humility and admit error, but he who sets his foot along the Way considers those who point out his faults as his greatest teachers.

Traditionalists would teach an old thing before cultivating a new thing, but he who sets his foot along the Way finds that creativity is the coin to buy his way.

Leaders examine who speaks rather than listen to what is said, but he who sets his foot along the Way knows that half of a conversation is listening.

Warriors retaliate for suffering an indignity by committing yet another indignity, but he who sets his foot along the Way knows the greatest revenge is not to be like him who did the injury. The greatest conqueror is he who has conquered himself.

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Eve

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I admire Eve. She was the world’s first scientist.

Yahoo and the talking snake offered competing theories about the fruit in question. Yahoo said if the fruit was ingested it would be fatal within 24 hours. The talking snake said the fruit was harmless, and would confer a working mental framework of ethics. Eve decided not to harm Adam and tested the fruit on herself first.

The fruit did not lead to her death within 24 hours, and it conferred a working mental framework of ethics. To evaluate any effects that might be sex-specific she offered the fruit to Adam. He too survived the test (and went on to eventually attain 930 years of age) and he also obtained a working mental framework of ethics. The talking snake’s hypothesis was validated and Yahoo’s hypothesis was falsified.

Yahoo, acknowledging that Adam and Eve now had a working mental framework of ethics, then banished them from the garden lest they continue to eat of the fruit of the tree of life and be godlike in every respect.

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Terminal Cruise 1

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The Kaleetan people live unmolested by the Oglala Sioux but they remain outcasts who wander the edges of the good hunting grounds as a kind of permanent punishment detail for unspeakable religious offenses, although not even the oldest among them can recount what they ever did to merit being shunned. In practice the Kaleetan situation remains a convenient way for Oglalas to deal with criminals and competing alpha males. There are women among the Kaleetan, to be sure, though not nearly enough.

To the north the Kaleetan are beset by the Dakotas, who possess the sacred Black Hills and the plains and badlands around them. The Kaleetan name them the Northern Raiders, and if the mainline Oglalas help to fend them off from time to time it is more to protect their own land than to do the band of outcasts any special favors. In the richer grasslands eastward the Kaleetan have the Pawnees to contend with. To the south along the Oregon Trail they are buffeted by the Arapahoes and run the risk of bumping into fearful white settlers or the army troops who protect them. To the scrubby lands westward they have the Cheyennes to fear. The whole northwest they avoid in dread of the Crows and Blackfeet.

But in the sliver of meager grasslands grudgingly allotted to them by the leaders of the Oglala Nation their hunters ride. Wanica, the best of the Kaleetan hunters, rides in the lead, downwind of a herd of bison drinking water at a ford in a curiously constant stream that is named Indian River by the Whites, although here near its source it is really more like a large creek.

When the Kaleetan hunters descend into the lush ravine carved by the meandering stream, Wanica signals for his men to bring their horses to a halt. They dismount and tie their horses off to roots of bleached stumps. As Wanica leads his men up along the riverbank on foot some of the animals seem to grow nervous, though they cannot see any of the hunters yet. Wanica and his hunters creep through the brush to watch the herd. They cast no shadows, for the day is relatively dark with a low overcast. It is cold, but it does not rain.

The alpha male of the bison stops drinking and stares east and downstream, sensing danger. Judging the moment to be right, Wanica suddenly stands from behind a shrub and looses an\ single arrow. The bolt strikes a cow in a flank, but it’s not a lethal shot. All the animals hear the cry of the cow, panic, and run.

A rapid series of shots are made by other hunters, but all of the arrows miss or make non-lethal wounds. The bison flee the hunters, ascending a slope to the northwest. They make for the cover of the low cloud bank, although they are too stupid to have planned such a move. The hunters return to their horses, then follow the herd away from the river and up the hillside. A thick fog envelopes all of them.

Bows are held at the ready, turning left and right, but nothing is visible to the men in the oppressive whiteout. But after they toil uphill a bit longer the fog clears, patches of blue sky are seen, and three of the bison are isolated and exposed. Arrows are loosed and strike home, dropping one of the animals.

The two surviving bison run back down off the hill into the fog, seeking the safety of numbers. Young braves are tasked by Wanica with carving up the body of the fallen animal. Meat is loaded on a skid made of wooden staves and animal skin to be dragged away. Nothing of the bison is wasted.

Satisfied with the progress of the younger men, Wanica turns away with his other companions and they ride up the slope until they can go no higher.
Briefly, the summit of the high hill stands alone over a sea of clouds for a rare and beautiful moment. Wanica deeply sufficiently moved by the sight. He says, “I name this place the Island in the Sky.”

The herd of bison slowly wanders back, grazing warily on the mountaintop even with the hunters close at hand. They seem to sense that the humans have done their worst and will leave the rest of them alone.

A flying machine drifts out of the sea of fog on loud jets of flame.

The bison and most of the men scatter at the noise of the machine. Only Wanica and his fearless steed remain to watch what happens. Wanica’s first thought is that this is some new stunt by the Whites. Wanica has heard some of the Whites travel on burning horses made of iron.

The flying machine settles to a stop on the summit of the Island in the Sky. The jets of flame cease. Only Wanica remains to watch the object become smaller in size and change its shape to become like a man. The faceless white man walks toward Wanica, then sits on the ground. He says no words. He is not a white man as like a European white man, but rather as white as snow. And he has no eyes, no mouth, no nose nor ears.

The head of the white man opens in six petals, revealing a golden object. Wanica dismounts and draws near to look at the shiny thing. Tentatively, respectfully, he takes hold of the golden object while the limbs of the white man remain motionless at his side. The golden object fits neatly in Wanica’s hand like the hilt of a knife.

Wanica squeezes the Golden Gift to produce a hissing opaque black beam.
Sweeping it around, the beam carves trenches in the stony ground of the hilltop entirely without effort. When Wanica no longer actively squeezes the Golden Gift, the black beam retracts into it and disappears.

The petals of the head of the white man close once more, betraying no seams. The white man changes his shape to become an inert white dome on the mountain summit.

After Wanica witnesses all these things, he conceals the Golden Gift in the pack tied to his horse.

The curiosity of Wanica’s companions overcomes their fear. They slowly return to the summit. There, the hunters see the white dome on the very summit of the Island in the Sky, and they also see Wanica standing next to it, alone.

Wanica lifts a stone and sets it near the white dome. The companions of Wanica join him, stacking stones around the dome as though they were building an igloo out of rock. The men finish their work and stand back to look. The white dome is concealed by a rock cairn.

None of the Kaleetan hunters understand what they have seen. But they all agree it was no mere vision of the Sky Father, for all of them have shared the same experience. It is fitting, they deem, to have built a hallowed lodge for the Sky Father after his manifestation to them, which they take to be his blessing for the hunt. The small mountain Wanica named the Island in the Sky has become forever sacred to the hunters of the Kaleetan. And Wanica still has the Golden Gift, which he keeps secret.

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The Teleological Argument

A common strategy used by creationists is the teleological argument, or argument from design.  In a nutshell, it says if we find something very complicated like a watch, we intelligent_design_allergicmust infer a watch maker.  If you shake a box full of watch parts for as long as you like, it will never assemble itself into a working timepiece.  Since the universe is far more complicated than a watch, it must also have a designer, but one who is correspondingly greater.

The overall strategy lately involves a tactic called intelligent design, a Trojan horse crafted as an alternative to the modern synthesis of descent with variation (which creationists with typical imprecision term “Darwinism”) as it is currently taught in biology textbooks in public schools.  The 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School decision sent the ID crowd back to the drawing board, but like Arnold Schwarzenegger you know they’ll be back.

Intelligent Design, in turn, rests on a key concept called irreducible complexity, which argues that key organs such as an eye, or a wing, are too optimal to have come about by random variations taken one step at a time.  Returning to the watch analogy, and running it in reverse, imagine taking out a single gear from the mechanism.  The watch will no longer function.  Only if all the pieces are in place will it work.  ID proponents argue that unless all the pieces of a wing are in place and working, the limb is worse than useless, because until it is fully assembled it represents an appendage that does nothing to promote the survival of the organism which possesses the proto-wing, and in fact hinders reproduction.  I will show why this is misguided below.

Imagine there is a small river in the mountains marked by boulders and debris from falling trees.   Now imagine that at one place a rolling stone finds a stable position on the left bank.  That’s one mutation.   Later, another rolling stone finds a stable position on the right bank opposite the first one.  That’s the second mutation.   Still later, a third rolling stone happens to settle in between the two .   By a series of three single steps, completely random, we now have a useful “organ” in the form of a kind of primitive bridge. It is possible to cross the stream at that location by hopping along the three stones.  Statistically, such an arrangement of three stones in a line, though rare, is bound to happen.

Now imagine that a log floating in the river reaches these three stones and becomes wedged against them.  So we have two bridges existing side-by-side, but the log bridge is better than the stone bridge because people don’t have to risk their neck jumping from one stone to another.  This is a mutation that results in an improvement to the “organ”. Travelers end up preferring the log to the stones, and their many crossings depress the ends of the log into the river bank, making it very secure.

Now imagine that the river flowing under the log washes the three stones away one after the other, leaving only the log.  Many generations later, people come out and admire this Cadillac of a bridge and remark that it must have had a bridge maker.   It couldn’t possibly have formed by chance, because even if one end of the log happened to wedge in a riverbank by chance, the other end would be bent by the stream and the whole log would have swept away.  The bridge would be offered by proponents of the Intelligent Bridgemaker as an example of irreducible complexity, and yet, as was shown, the real history of the bridge was a series of single steps, made by nature entirely by chance, but reinforced by the improvements made to its fitness as a bridge.

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