US View Downton Abbey – & The UK’s Demise Of Faith

“There are countless lessons for American Christians to observe as we watch Downton Abbey. But we ought not to miss the larger story of which tales like Downton are only a part. The world that was passing away was not only a world of footmen, but also of faith. Britain would never be the same again, and that loss of faith and certitude would eventually become a tide that would sweep across every aspect of British culture,”

“But, do Americans have any idea what they are really watching?” Asks Albert Mohler.

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1000 Lashes For Saudi Blogger

A family man with three small children is to receive 50 lashes a week for twenty weeks, but the second week has been deferred because his wounds are not healed enough to take the second round of lashing. He also faces 10 years imprisonment ( he has already served two years), and fined £175,000.

While the boundaries are being pushed by Saudi’s on social media the government seems to be making an example of Raif Badawi.

Reports the BBC:

“The first round of flogging was carried out outside a mosque in Jeddah last Friday as a crowd of onlookers watched.

“A number of foreign governments, including the US, Canada, Germany and Norway, had criticised the punishment.

“Amnesty International said officials had delayed the second round of flogging because Badawi’s wounds had not yet healed.

“”Not only does this postponement… expose the utter brutality of this punishment, it underlines its outrageous inhumanity,” said Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and Africa, Said Boumedouha.

“”The notion that Raif Badawi must be allowed to heal so that he can suffer this cruel punishment again and again is macabre and outrageous.”

“Reporters Without Borders urged Saudi Arabia “to abandon this barbaric punishment”, saying it remained “very concerned” about Badawi’s health.

The Hindu report.

Channel 4 report.

The Mail reports that the Saudi king halts flogging of Blogger

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How Did The Giraffe’s Get Its Long Neck?

Simon Barnes, a sports and nature writer is highly esteemed by journalist colleagues. He recently left The Times to the surprise of colleagues. The cost-cutting move by The Times is thought by one fellow journalist to be likened to a football manager selling off their main striker; it didn’t seem to make sense. I read his article in the Daily Mail recently, titled ‘Giraffes in Jeopardy’.

When it comes to the animal kingdom and their threatened extinction due to poaching, killing for their ivory, human population expansion, etc, that does get my attention. But the essay held my interest for another reason; it did surprise me to read:

“So, there are populations of giraffe in serious decline, and it’s time we started worrying about this. Not only because giraffes have a right to exist, but because giraffes matter very much to us humans.

“Take that neck. You could say, if you wished, that the neck of the giraffe explains the mystery of life. You can grasp this by counting the number of vertebrae in your neck: the answer is seven. Now count the number of vertebrae in a giraffe neck. And the answer is … seven. (But I would have to but in here and ask, but Simon, don’t all mammals have 7 vertebrae?).

“So giraffes and humans have something rather unexpected in common. We share an ancestor — an ancestor with a seven-vertebra neck, which was little more than a handy way of joining head to body.

“But when the rich forests of Africa disappeared millions of years ago and the open wooded savannahs took their place, giraffes found it advantageous to reach higher up into the trees that were left.

“The individuals with the longest necks had the best chance of surviving, and they passed their necks onto their progeny. When it came to the next generation, those that had still longer necks now had the advantage.

“And so, in the course of countless millennia, giraffes became tall, stately, long-legged, long-necked beasts, yet with those seven — gigantic — vertebrae to show that we have an ancestor in common.”

I have read ‘a children’s funny’ about how giraffe got its long neck, but this part of Simon Barn’s essay gives what appears to me a serious explanation of how the giraffe got its long neck.

In my reading the ‘high browsing’ and stretching for food used to be taught as the reason for giraffes evolving long necks. But that Lamarckian explanation is now discredited. It was long-necked giraffes that produced long-necked offspring.

As a lay person I see the ‘historical sciences’ not like real science where things are observed and seen to be repeated. The giraffe’s neck has not been observed to have evolved nor evidence for it in the fossil record, even if there are giraffes with shorter necks they could be another species of the same kind. Like the claim about Haeckel’s Embryos that is now discredited, this explanation for the giraffe’s long neck through ‘high browsing’ as I read, is also now discarded.

However, as with Haeckel’s Embryos, there are still sites that give evidence that this ‘classic evolutionary hypothesis’ for the giraffe’s neck is still promoted, and even by the BBC.

For a layman like myself this article, ‘What Giraffes Will Do For A Drink’, gives a more reasoned and responsible explanation for the giraffes’ long neck. I found it worth reading the essay but a few of paragraphs will give more than a hint why I see the giraffe’s ‘high browsing’ being responsible for its long neck is no longer a credible explanation for the long neck of the giraffe, there is much more to it than the stretching of the neck, as the following suggests:

“Many hospitals use what is known as gravity suits. These ensembles prevent fluid retention (edema) in the lower extremities. The giraffe has an in-built gravity suit that prevents blood pooling and edema. The two portions of the giraffe’s body that help in the function of this system are its tough skin and its fascia (connecting tissue). So, in order to survive, the giraffe must have evolved a long neck, a heart to push the blood up the neck, special valves to maintain its blood pressure, and antigravity suit to resist the extreme pressure that is routinely produced. Did these structures arrive by coincidence? (Sounds like ‘irreducible complexity’ to me).

“The list of what must have evolved ‘in sync’ with the rest of the giraffe’s anatomy is lengthy and impressive. Evolutionist Robert Wesson stated:

“The protogiraffe had not only to lengthen neck vertebra (fixed at seven in mammals), but had to make any concurrent modifications: the head, difficult to sustain atop the long neck, became relatively smaller. . . . Big lungs were necessary to compensate for breathing through a tube 10 feet long; many muscles, tendons, and bones had to be modified harmoniously; the forelegs were lengthened with corresponding restructuring of the frame, and many refluxes had to be reshaped (1991, p. 226, parenthetical item in orig.).

“As Wesson noted, these processes had to come into existence at the same time! The head had to be miniaturised in order to rest on the top of a 15-foot-high-giant. Plus, the giraffe’s lungs are eight times the size of an average human’s in order for it to breathe through a ten-foot-long-trachea. And every structural support must reshape to match the new form of the neck. Any statistician (or physiologist) would balk at the probability of a creature evolving these extreme characteristics.”

In his essay, ‘Why do giraffes have long necks?Brian Switek concludes with what seems to me to be an honest answer. At the close of his essay he writes:

“Ultimately, a combination of natural history, embryology, and palaeobiology will be needed to fully understand the unique anatomy of giraffes. This is not something which will be accomplished in a year or even ten, but will take the persistent investigations of many researchers working across a variety of scientific disciplines. For the moment, the question of “How did the giraffe get its long neck?” must be answered with “We do not yet know”, but that is as it should be. It is better to admit that we are still unravelling a mystery than to dogmatically assert that all is solved and that all the uncharted places on the evolutionary map have been filled in.”

Evolutionists might balk at Intelligent Design as the best explanation for the physical design of the Giraffe, but I would want to look for more serious explanations for the giraffes’ long neck other than it was stretched through ‘high browsing’.

For one looking on at the Natural Sciences v Intelligent Design debate from the outside, on this one the latter has the more credible answer for me.

See also: Origins vs Operational Science and related articles





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Solstice V Equinox

“The solstice doesn’t always occur on 21 December. Sometimes it nudges into the early hours of 22 December, which will happen again next year. The hour of day also varies. Last year’s arrived at 17:11. Next year’s will at 04:38.”  Will I remember?

The National Post with graphics on the Solstice V Equinox

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Origin of Remembrance Day and 2014

How people power created Remembrance Day: As millions flock to see those Tower poppies, the remarkable story of how ordinary Britons won the right to honour the fallen

People Power Keeps Tower Poppies: Exhibition To Stay Until The End Of The Month” announces the Singapore News.

Millions of people have turned up to see the Tower of London Exhibition of ceramic made poppies – how did we come to where we are with Remembrance Day? Alwyn W. Turner gives us his insights to the history of Remembrance Day with an excerpt from “The Last Post” published in the Daily Mail, November 7, 2014. Said the Mail, “As millions flock to see those Tower poppies, the remarkable story of how ordinary Britons won the right to honour the fallen.”

 Excerpt from ‘The Last Post’

( The Last Post by Alwyn W. Turner (Aurum, £14.99). To buy a copy for £11.99 (free p&p for a limited time), visit Offer ends December 24).

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Wales: ‘The Nearly Nation’ Is My Homeland

Simon Jenkins’ essay on ‘the nearly nation’, Wales, gives this expat that feeling of nostalgia I experience every time I return to Wales to visit family and friends, and make new friends tracing family history.

Born and raised in Wales by Welsh speaking parents, they went to school to learn English; I went to school to learn Welsh, – that was the change in one generation. I worked in Wales for 17 years, the rest of my working life has been in England, so I found it interesting to read Simon Jenkins’ roundup of Wales. His essay has a very mixed reception reading through the comments.

Not part of the political scene I can’t really comment on the pros and cons of politics in Wales but I would personally be disappointed if Wales should choose the route for independence – just as disappointed if Scotland had chosen independence. Like Scot, Leslie Duncan, I wouldn’t want to have to have a passport or visa every time I entered Wales! And why give up being part of Great Briton where we still have voting rights to place ourselves under the control of EU where there are no voting rights. As the Scots have demonstrated, they have achieved more through ballot box than the UK will ever achieve under the EU!

For England, the English can’t deny that the mix of the Welsh, the Scots and the Irish bring a richness to England. And apart from Anne Robinson, the English I know who have visited Wales enjoy its geographical features and have an appreciation of its Welsh culture, although from my experience much of that has been lost with the closure of its many chapels with the consequent absence of many of the local Gymanfa’s; many chapel buildings have given way for other uses. But taking part in the South Wales 700 strong schools choir in the National Eisteddfod in Caerphilly was an experience never to be forgotten – well now, that is dating me!

If my family had not found work nearby, my wife and I would probably have made our way back to Wales after my retirement. Although so much has altered in Wales we love to return on our frequent visits to family and friends, with our only complaint being charged to cross the bridge! Although not everyone agrees with him, I found Simon Jenkins take on present day Wales, an interesting read.


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Scotland Remains Part Of The UK 2014

There is a hangover from Scotland’s Vote for Independence – disappointment for the Yes voters and relief for the ‘No’ voters. Will there be another move towards Scottish Independence by the next generation? My last post remains for posterity – if articles are accessible, will most newspapers have become paid subscriptions by then?

The Telegraph gives a comprehensive overview of the Referendum resulting in Scotland remaining in the UK. It is a relief to most that we still belong together.

The E. U. is also relieved over Scotland’s NO vote – although the article in the Irish Times does reveal EU intentions – the idea of nationhood is anathema to EU aims.

“Belgian EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, whose native Flanders region is in thrall to a growing nationalist movement, said a Scottish split would have been “cataclysmic” for Europe, triggering a domino effect across the continent. “If it had happened in Scotland, I think it would have been a political landslide on the scale of the break-up of the Soviet Union, ” said De Gucht, a liberal who does not support demands from some of his fellow Flemings for their own state. “A Europe driven by self-determination of peoples … is ungovernable because you’d have dozens of entities but areas of policy for which you need unanimity or a very large majority,” he said, adding that “parts of former countries” might behave in a very nationalistic ways.” I guess the EU must think the UK troublesome!

It does seem to me a contradiction for Scottish Nationalists to want to break away from the UK to eventually lose their identity in the mix of the EU to ultimately be governed from Brussels. At least the UK government, trying to keep ahead of UKIP, or feeling pushed along by UKIP, is offering an in-out referendum to the UK if the EU rules become non-negotiable, which most of us think will be the case. It is the UK which allowed for a Scottish say over its future, the Irish Times article makes quite clear that the EU sees nationalism as anathema to its overall aim, a Federal State.

There is now a lot of talking and negotiating, not just about Scotland but also about England, Wales and Northern Ireland. All must be treated fairly. Among other things there is the Lord Barnett Formula to discuss and decide on, which even Lord Barnett now sees as unfair. There is also the West Lothian Question; a busy autumn for Parliament.

But at least, Leslie Duncan can relax – she, along with so many others who might have been thinking the same, they don’t have to move over the border now!

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Scotland: A Nation Divided By The Referendum

This is a historic moment for Scotland and the UK. The decision Scotland will make today will have all sorts of repercussions, whether it ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – and my hope for the no vote. As a fellow Celt I don’t want to see Scotland seceding from the Union any more than I would like to see Wales going it alone.  Although below the border 7 out of 10 want Scotland to remain as part of the United Kingdom, there is an objection in Westminster to the bribes and unequal treatment that Scotland is being offered to stay within the Union. Whichever way today’s Referendum vote goes it may leave those of us south of the border divided over the Scottish Referendum too!

In his “Ten Things To Know About Scotland’s Independent Referendum,  London based NBC reporter, Alistair Jamieson,  gives us an appraisal on what the Referendum outcome will mean. But his last sentence indicates Jamieson’s fears about the Referendum, a concern that has been reported on quite widely, on an unhealthy belligerence that has no part in a democracy,  with fear and intimidation dividing voters of both camps. Says Jamieson,  “Fiona Scott, whose father taught Salmond at school, wrote in an open letter to The Herald newspaper on Saturday that the referendum “has succeeded in creating divisions across Scotland that were not there before and will still exist after the referendum, no matter which way the vote goes.” She added: “Relationships between neighbours are now threatened if you indicate which way you are voting.””

The Financial Times sees Scotland making a ‘Fateful Choice’  Others suggest the rest of the UK might be better off if Scotland secedesThe Mail says we are Better Together . The Mail reports Gordon’s Passionate Speech For The Union – and passionate it was. Impressed with Gordon’s speech, Robert Hardmen titled his article: ‘Gordon the Street Fighter Was Simply Stupendous’. The Mail answers 30 Questions on Scottish Independence .

The Telegraph says ‘Scotland will find few friends and allies in Europe’ seceding might give encouragement to other ethnic groups to want to follow suit, contrary to EU principles.

The Guardian reports on Westminister Ministers rebelling against party leader’s Scottish Funding Pledge

Pro the ‘no’ campaign the Guardian says ‘Don’t let Alex Salmond blind you to the Yes campaign’s dark side

And the Guardian also reports that Wales is against Scottish Independence – so no break away intention by Wales.

The Guardian view on the Referendum:  “And yet, as we have already argued, if this newspaper had a vote, we would vote no. The yes case has been, as Scottish law might put it, not proven. The implications have not been worked through, the risks not fully addressed. What’s more, a decision of such gravity – to break away from a 300-year-old union – should be the settled will of a nation. The very fact that Scottish opinion is so closely divided is itself a weakness in the case for independence. Moves of such import should command enduring and overwhelming support, as the creation of the Holyrood parliament did in 1997. Above all, the Guardian retains its belief in solidarity, in a world of fewer rather than more borders and in the union itself – as the best method of sharing the rewards and risks of our collective life together on what is still a small island.”

A view I share. A paradox perhaps since, as my blog has shown, I am opposed to being part of the EU. The difference is that I can vote for change in the UK government every four years, I can’t vote for change in the EU. To quote, or misquote Winston Churchill, ‘Democracy may be a bad form of government, but it is the best we have got,’ something to be valued and not given away. Everyone has had their say, we must now wait to see what our Scottish neighbours decide on today.  Whether Yes or Non, its a historic moment to record for posterity.

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Scientist Fired Over Dinosaur Find

Whatever the truth of the ‘dino’ discovery and of the sacking of a scientist, both sides of the origins debate taking up their cudgels with which to beat each other into becoming the next round of fossil finds!

Science Direct, gives brief news on the case, and here is an actual press release from the scientist’s legal counsel. This is said to be one the more balanced articles reporting on the case (which might not include the comments that follow the article)!

While the issue has been addressed by CMI recently – December 2012, it was also addressed by CMI back in May 2009. It has been considered again by CMI in January this year, 2014.

Someone has said that the subject of origins is much too important to be left to the boffins, especially as boffins are in fact no less prejudiced and no more honest than the rest of us. Point taken. Take the history of hoaxes in the issue of origins to promote evolution. One is Haeckel’s Embryos. Other hoaxes are added to it here.

Jonathan Wells’ Icons of Evolution’ has its critics from the opposite camp but a reader can assess the many reviews of the book on Amazon. Enough to say the subject of origins should not be left to the boffins! We wait the outcome about any injustice done.

Posted in Faith and Science, Injustice, Religious Liberty | Leave a comment

Sudanese Christian Has Death Penalty Quashed

“Sudan court throws out death sentence against Meriam Ibrahim, convicted of marrying Christian man” says the National Post.

ABC News reported that Meriam Ibrahim was released today. Is the news reliable? The BBC appears to think so. I have been following her story and I am as pleased as must be everyone else at her release.

She was reported to have been incarcerated since last September, and recently gave birth to her second child in prison while her legs were shackled. Many prayers have been said on this woman’s behalf. But does she not represent so many others who suffer persecution and are deprived of their freedom?

Posted in Faith Issues, Marriage, Political Issues, Religious Liberty, Social Issues | Leave a comment
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