Archive for the ‘bias’ Category

>Herod's slaughter of the innocents

2009 December 22 2 comments

> National Geographic did an article on King Herod last year. I didn’t find the writing style particularly riveting though it was variably informative. The article started with this comment about Herod.

An astute and generous ruler, a brilliant general, and one of the most imaginative and energetic builders of the ancient world, Herod guided his kingdom to new prosperity and power. Yet today he is best known as the sly and murderous monarch of Matthew’s Gospel, who slaughtered every male infant in Bethlehem in an unsuccessful attempt to kill the newborn Jesus, the prophesied King of the Jews. During the Middle Ages he became an image of the Antichrist: Illuminated manuscripts and Gothic gargoyles show him tearing his beard in mad fury and brandishing his sword at the luckless infants, with Satan whispering in his ear. Herod is almost certainly innocent of this crime, of which there is no report apart from Matthew’s account. But children he certainly slew, including three of his own sons, along with his wife, his mother-in-law, and numerous other members of his court. Throughout his life, he blended creativity and cruelty, harmony and chaos, in ways that challenge the modern imagination.

The claim that Herod is innocent of this crime because there is not further documentary evidence of the event betrays an unjustified anti-biblical bias.

That Herod was capable of commanding the murder of infants is mentioned in the paragraph above: 3 sons, a wife, etc.

Herod had these people killed,

  • Mattathias Antigonus
  • Several leaders of Antigonus’ group
  • John Hyrcanus
  • Aristobulus (brother-in-law)
  • Kostobar (brother-in-law)
  • Alexandra (the mother of Herod’s wife Mariamme)
  • Miriamme (wife)
  • Alexander (son)
  • Aristobulus (son)
  • 300 military leaders
  • Several Pharisees
  • Antipater (son)

Many of these were killed to prevent a perceived challenge to his kingdom.

And if these examples do not suffice to document Herod’s paranoia and blood-thirst, Josephus records a well known story how Herod had many men imprisoned in Jericho shortly before his death with instructions they be executed when he died. The reason? So there would be mourning at the time of his death. This was not carried out.

So it is apparent that Herod was capable of ordering the death of children if he perceived a threat to his throne.

However the bigger issue here is the illegitimate implication that documentary evidence from the Bible has second class status. Or even errant status. Not only is any other contemporary (or not so contemporary) document held up as the primary standard that the Bible is judged by, the Bible is often assumed to be in error when it touches on aspects of history that no other historian has mentioned.

Matthew was roughly contemporary with these events. He wrote of Herod earlier than Josephus did.

There is documentary evidence of Herod slaughtering the children. It is recorded in Matthew 2. There is no evidence that Herod did not do such an action. There is no good reason to exempt him of this crime.

Categories: bias, Bible, history, testimony

>The unreasoning atheist

2008 October 11 1 comment

>Sam Harris of End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation fame is studying functional magnetic resonance imaging of brains with a focus on belief. I have my doubts this methodology has the ability to discover anything of worth. Part of Harris’ process is to come up with questions that give a predictable response. Of interest was the question about the reliability of the Bible concerning ancient history.

I guess I don’t find this surprising but it is somewhat irrational. About 90% of self proclaimed atheists agree with the proposition:

The Bible is a very unreliable record of ancient history.

It may be anticipated that atheists do not give the Bible much credibility concerning its theological teaching—else they might be theists. And it probably is not unexpected they disagree with the first few chapters of Genesis given that abiogenesis and macroevolution is the major competing worldview, and Darwin is the darling of atheists worldwide. But to insist that Bible history is generally unreliable, let alone very unreliable, reveals an irrational anti-biblical bias.

Other ancient texts with obvious internal errors are often treated as generally reliable. People read Herodotus, Plato, Thucydides, and Manetho; and refer to records of ancient nations; and consider the material reliable, or at least give it the benefit of doubt. These ancients write with their own agendas, with religious claims, and often times refuse to document the failings of favoured men. At minimum it seems reasonable to give the biblical historians a similar standing—especially given they frequently document the failings of their people and leaders!

Further, the archaeological confirmation of several biblical claims should increase the biblical authors’ secular credibility.

I think this atheistic response originates not from the realms of reason for which they pride themselves, but is the emotional reaction of their intense antitheism.

Categories: atheism, bias, history

>Questionable behaviour by the global warming alarmists

2008 September 17 4 comments

>I have been meaning to post on a paper by Christopher Monckton which discusses climate sensitivity. The article was interesting for several reasons. It was attempting to show that the climate models overestimate forcing by neglecting more significant attenuating factors. It was also interesting in that a disclaimer preceded the article which apparently was unprecedented and possibly incorrect.

The paper is slightly difficult to read, I struggled with aspects and I am trained in physics. There are some interesting comments in between the mathematics.

Some 20 temperature feedbacks have been described, though none can be directly measured. Most have little impact on temperature. The value of each feedback, the interactions between feedbacks and forcings, and the interactions between feedbacks and other feedbacks, are subject to very large uncertainties….

This does not necessarily mean the uncertainty of climate is high, it depends on how much influence these feedbacks have in the models. They may have negligible effects in predominantly solar models but are the major contributor to CO2 models. Which means the uncertainty of anthropomorphic climate models is high.

Even satellite-based efforts at assessing total energy-flux imbalance for the whole Earth-troposphere system are uncertain. Worse, not one of the individual forcings or feedbacks whose magnitude is essential to an accurate evaluation of climate sensitivity is mensurable directly, because we cannot distinguish individual forcings or feedbacks one from another in the real atmosphere, we can only guess at the interactions between them, and we cannot even measure the relative contributions of all forcings and of all feedbacks to total radiative forcing.

20 different feedbacks and they cannot be empirically distinguished. How can the modellers even know whether these things exist?

The discussion makes some interesting comments,

The IPCC’s methodology relies unduly – indeed, almost exclusively – upon numerical analysis, even where the outputs of the models upon which it so heavily relies are manifestly and significantly at variance with theory or observation or both. Modeled projections such as those upon which the IPCC’s entire case rests have long been proven impossible when applied to mathematically-chaotic objects, such as the climate, whose initial state can never be determined to a sufficient precision. For a similar reason, those of the IPCC’s conclusions that are founded on probability distributions in the chaotic climate object are unsafe.

With the subsequent conclusion noting 9 serial contingencies; 9 nested if/ then statements!

What motivated me to get around to this post is Monckton’s publication this month (pdf), Hockey Stick? What Hockey Stick? How alarmist “scientists” falsely abolished the Mediaeval Warm Period.

This paper analyses the events surrounding the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, focusing on the infamous hockey stick graph. It reports a

swamp of misrepresentation, deceit, concealment and malfeasance

to such a degree that even if anthropomorphic global warming were a true phenomenon, the IPCC would be unable to discover it.

I will add that I do not find the evidence for a medieval warm period given in the later half of the paper particularly convincing. I think there was a medieval warm period, but I am not convinced by the examples and methods he reproduces.

Monckton’s conclusion is worth quoting at some length

The continuing affair of the “hockey-stick” graph is a microcosm of the profound collapse of the rigor, objectivity, and honesty that were once hallmarks of the scientific community. The need to look to the State for very nearly all science funding has inflicted upon the scientific community a dull, dishonest uniformity, so that the deliberate falsification of results to support the current official orthodoxy has become commonplace, particularly where the climate question is concerned.

It was bad enough that one of those behind the “hockey stick” affair should have told a fellow researcher, “We need to get rid of the medieval warm period.” It was worse that the authors of the bogus graph attempted to do just that, by ignoring, undervaluing or even suppressing proxies for northern-hemisphere temperature that did not suit the result they wanted; by falsely stating that they had used data they had in fact replaced with “estimates” of their own that gave them a less inconvenient answer; by overvaluing by many orders of magnitude the contribution of datasets that suited the result they wanted.

It was worse still that the IPCC, several leading journals and numerous former co-authors of the three fabricators of the hockey stick should have continued to cling to it as though it were Gospel even though it has been justifiably and utterly discredited in the scientific literature, and should have gone through an elaborate pantomime of rewriting and publishing previously-rejected papers with the connivance of a dishonest journal editor, so that an entirely fictitious scientific support for the false graph could be falsely claimed by the IPCC in its current Fourth Assessment Report.

The IPCC might have regained some of the scientific credibility that it lost by its publication of the 2001 graph if, in its 2007 assessment report, it had had the integrity, honesty, and common sense to apologise for the failure of its soi-disant “peer-review” process to identify the multiple and serious scientific errors that led to the publication of the graph.

As it is, the IPCC, rather than apologizing, has chosen to participate in the falsification of subsequent results purporting to uphold the original graph,… No serious scientist, therefore, can any longer take any of the IPCC’s conclusions seriously for a single moment longer. As Lord Lawson of Blaby has long argued, the IPCC should now be abolished. It cannot serve any useful purpose in future, because it has dishonestly lent its support not merely to the falsification of scientific results but to the persistent maintenance of that falsification. The IPCC is finished….

Is there, therefore, the slightest reason for the childish panic that the environmental extremist movement and its servant the IPCC have attempted to whip up? No. Should any government devote a single further penny to the climate scare? No. Even if humankind is contributing significantly to warmer weather (which is highly unlikely), adaptation to warmer weather as and if necessary would be orders of magnitude cheaper than the measures to reduce carbon emissions that the world’s extremist politicians are now so eagerly but purposelessly advocating.

The real cost of the flagrant abuses of the scientific method surrounding the question of climate that are so well illustrated by the affair of the “hockey stick” is a terrible, unseen cost in human lives. The biofuel scam that arose directly out of the climate scare has taken one-third of US agricultural land out of food production in just two years. Similar
economic disasters have occurred worldwide, not because of “global warming” but because of the catastrophically bad policy-making that the “global warming” scare has engendered among politicians too ignorant of science and too lazy to do other than swim with the rising tide of pseudo-scientific nonsense.

The environmental extremists, who have already killed 50 million children through malaria by their now-canceled ban on the use of DDT, the only effective agent against the anopheles mosquito that spreads the infective parasite, are already eagerly killing millions more through their latest scientifically-baseless scare – the “global warming” panic pandemic. Food riots are occurring throughout the world among the poorest of the poor in many countries: but the desperation, starvation, disease, and death that accompany the sudden famines that the biofuel-driven doubling of world food prices has engendered are scarcely reported by our news media. In Haiti, they are eating mud pies made of earth, water, a tiny knob of butter, and a pinch of salt; or they sell the mud pies to less fortunate neighbours at 3 US cents each. Has any Western news medium reported this, or the hundreds of other agonizing stories of famine and starvation all round the world? No. Instead, every icicle that falls in Greenland is paraded as an omen of imminent doom: and, as for the crooked pseudo-scientists who invented the hockey stick, supported it, and continue to parade it in the mendacious documents of the IPCC, no journalist would dare to ask any of them the questions that would expose their self-seeking corruption for what it is. These evil pseudo-scientists, through the falsity of their statistical manipulations, have already killed far more people through starvation than “global warming” will ever kill. They should now be indicted and should stand trial alongside Radovan Karadzic for nothing less than high crimes against humanity: for, in their callous disregard for the fatal consequences of their corrupt falsification of science, they are no less guilty of genocide than he.

If the alarmists are right, then it is important to bring attention to these “omens.” The issue may need to be addressed. But ideas have consequences. If they are wrong it is possible they have blood on their hands.

Categories: bias, climate change, physics

>Bible glasses

2008 April 11 6 comments

>Young Earth Creationism claims that the world is about 6000 years old and God created it in 6 24-hour days. Geology is interpreted as being in a large part due to Noah’s flood. These views are held because it is claimed that the meaning of the Bible, especially Genesis, demands this chronological interpretation and that the Noachian deluge was global in its extent. There is good grammatical reason to assert this belief. And I see few difficulties with scientific data finding it more compatible with this belief than biological or stellar evolution.

While my initial creationist beliefs were strengthened thru scientific evidences, my conviction is probably stronger now because of biblical considerations. Not because the science is less convincing than the biblical evidence but because philosophically I think that truth is more firmly grounded in Scripture.

This change to a more biblical approach has been quite helpful. When I was younger I wondered how the Bible could be reconciled with secular evidences, especially archaeological “facts” that pre-date creation, ie. are “older” than 6000 years. This “problem” is actually more acute as these “facts” only need to pre-date the Flood to cause a dilemma given the Flood’s removal of antediluvian artefacts. This led to ideas like favouring the Septuagint chronology because it “gives more time.” My approach now is, “How can secular claims be reconciled with Scripture?” The Bible is assumed to be true and contrary claims are treated with scepticism.

This is actually quite reasonable. Why should every secular interpretation be held up as the standard that the Bible is judged by? Especially given that these interpretations change, are inconsistent with each other, and often derive from an anti-biblical bias. Further, the Bible has been vindicated multiple times, and its documentation of the failings of its heroes points even more so to its authenticity.

The Flood was approximately 4500 years ago. Any claim for artefacts that pre-date this I assume is incorrect. I assume some bias by the claimants, even if it is not revealed. And I think that the true solution will be compatible with the biblical record.

This is my default position. I think that God intended for Scripture to be a true description of reality: historical, moral and prophetic. It is not exhaustive for sure, but correct in what it does assert.

Is this a biased approach? Definitely. But all approaches are biased. Do I base my bias on the pride of men or on the revelation of the true God? The secular bias is very real. It assumes that its foundations are firm, that Middle East dating should be based a reconstructed Egyptian dating, that any ancient historical text should have precedence over the Bible. All of these assumptions are based in the ideas of men and there are even good non-biblical reasons to reject them.

It is astonishing how much of what we read and hear has this bias. Claims about history are especially affected by secular assumptions. These secular biases are frequently present in study Bibles which give a multitude of unlikely synchronisms, conservative reasoning based on underlying liberal theology, wrong assumptions about the the origins of monotheism. I think it is prudent to hold secular historical claims and several other factual claims very tentatively.

And there is a need for developing a completely biblically based history and chronology thru which all claims, historical, archaeological, and others, can be filtered.