27 September, 2016

Fallacious Politics: Seven Common Logical Fallacies the Media Uses to Silence Us

Why is it that the media loves to "fact check" people? What does that even mean? Since the RNC and DNC, I have been asking these same questions. What I found was shocking: the number of fallacies the media and Democrats have committed over the past year. I have dedicated this post, therefore, to going over the top 7 most egregious of them.

1. Quote mining

In June 2015, Donald Trump made a bunch of statistically valid remarks about illegal immigration: Despite liberal claims to the contrary, the ratio of criminals to good people is much higher among illegal immigrants than among both legal immigrants *and* people who stay in countries like Mexico. How did Trump get painted as a racist, therefore? This is how: the media harped on "they're sending rapists… they're sending drug dealers…" while completely ignoring "and some, I assume, are good people". That last sentence is the one that provides the entire context of what's being said. Quote mining is exactly this: placing quotes outside of their surrounding contexts and attacking people over them.

2. Ad hominem

"Racist". "Sexist". "Homophobic". "Xenophobic". "Islamophobic". "Basket of deplorables". Should we go on? These have absolutely nothing to do with the topics, the ideas, the key problems that this country has faced since Obama took office. Instead, they're all about attacking people personally. They're a distraction: instead of going after the issue, they're attacking a person's character directly and going off topic in the process. Yup, that's exactly what the definition of ad hominem is, and you wonder why in the world these people who claim to be the logical, reasonable ones are committing it.

3. Association fallacy

Just because someone supports an (allegedly) divisive candidate does not under any circumstances mean that the person in question is also divisive even by the same definition. Accusing people of being racist or sexist merely for associating with people, even if those people actually are, is called the association fallacy, and applying it towards people is ad hominem on top of the association fallacy.

4. False dichotomy

"I respect you as a human being, but don't agree with you on [name key issue]." "Homophobe!" "Transphobe!" "Woman-hater!" The assumption in this accusation is obvious: it's that anyone who disagrees with you hates you. Irony: notice how the person responded with name-calling? That makes the liberal twice as hateful as the conservative in this case! If calling someone a f****t or t****y is hateful — and it is hateful indeed, even by my conservative standards — then calling someone a homophobe or transphobe is equally hateful. A false dichotomy, by definition, is assuming that there are only two options when there are in fact more than two, and that's exactly what this is.

5. Poisoning the well

The fallacy of "poisoning the well" is a fallacy in which irrelevant (and abusive) information about an opponent is presented with intent to distract an audience. Since fallacy #1 (quote mining) is the fallacy that the media used to give people the impression of Trump being a racist, this fallacy was something that the media has been guilty of right from the get-go, and the "basket of deplorables" remark would also qualify as this. So, accusing Trump of committing a hasty generalization, are we? You're committing this fallacy by doing so.

6. Red herring

Ad hominem is technically a subset of this one. Any argument that attempts to distract from a topic is called a red herring, and there are plenty of them from the left to say the least. One of the most common examples is when someone responds to issues like Islamic terrorism and illegal immigration with "not all Muslims are terrorists" or "not all Mexicans are drug dealers," respectively. Yes, those are true statements, but do they have anything to do with the topic at hand? No. They fail to take into account, respectively, that the majority of post-9/11 terrorists are Muslims and that the ratio of criminals to good people is higher among illegal immigrants than among legal immigrants, which happen to be the respective topics.

7. Circular reasoning

When the left tries to attack us, do they even think about it? Unfortunately not. When the premise and conclusion are the exact same thing, that's called circular reasoning. Some examples are to the effect of "conservatives are dumb, because… conservatives are dumb," "DNA and homology point to Darwinism and not to OEC because… DNA and homology point to Darwinism," "Trump supporters are racist because… Trump supporters are racist", or, for an example that goes contrary to forensic evidence, "People who think Christianity is objectively true are closed minded… because <repeat>". Failure to use anything other than circular reasoning to defend a position makes you the closed-minded one.

05 September, 2016

Debunking the Anti-Trump Rhetoric of our Enemies

WARNING: The following are paragraphs, not individual sentences or phrases. Picking them apart and responding to individual phrases outside of their whole-paragraph contexts is quote mining.

Where are the accusations of racism from before Trump's presidential campaign began? From 2014? From 2013? 2012? 2011? 2010 or earlier? If there's an article PUBLISHED BEFORE June 2015 accusing Trump of racism, then I want to see it, because all accusations "going back decades" of racism have been raised ex post facto. If ex post facto laws are unconstitutional, then so are ex post facto accusations unconstitutional.

About the Central Park Five: The people involved weren't exonerated until 2002. Could Trump have known in 1989 that all of the people in that case were innocent of all charges? Absolutely not. Granted, he shouldn't have jumped to conclusions about it, but if these people were on death row as long as most are today, then they likely would have been on death row long enough to get exonerated for it before the government got a chance to kill them. Moreover, since 1989, forensic technology has greatly improved to say the least. We have more powerful microscopes. We have more accurate means of collecting DNA that can go almost completely undetected to would-be murderers. We have better training for police detectives in detecting the smallest of small samples. Comparing 1989 with 2016 on accuracy of finding out who's guilty and who's innocent is committing the historian's fallacy.

Now, about that wall, which seems to be the main talking point for those accusations of racism — why is it that Mexico can secure its southern border with Guatemala, and that's not racist, yet it's racist for us to secure our southern border? That's a plank in the Mexican government's eye. Tear down all fortifications ― fences, walls, everything ― on your southern border, Enrique, and then we'll reconsider our southern border wall. Don't even think about citing Snopes on their denial of the existence of the Mexico-Guatemala barrier either, because its staff are Hillary donors and therefore biased. The point isn't whether or not a wall across the Mexican-Guatemalan border already exists, the point is whether or not Mexicans are calling for one to exist, and according to a very popular Mexican newspaper, yes they are:

http://www.elmanana.com/sialmurofronterizo%E2%80%A6peroenelsurdemexico-3351816.html

Translation: "Yes to the border wall… but in Mexico's South." And, to translate the subtitle, using my 3 years of Spanish class and 9 years of experience communicating in Spanish: "In the southeast of Mexico there are two borders: one with Guatemala and one with Belize that don't bring benefits; on the contrary, only problems are induced because those crossings are being used for a new invasion: one of Central Americans using our country to cross into the United States."

The alleged hasty generalizations of all Mexicans as rapists, meanwhile, stopped a year ago. Give me one instance from March 2016 or later in which Trump hastily generalized all Mexicans as rapists or as drug dealers and then we'll talk, because if you still believe that 13 months after he said it, then you're believing old news, for one. Two, what exactly did Trump conclude that paragraph with? "And some, I assume — some are good people." Leaving that sentence out of a Trump quote is also quote mining, which means that whoever is making that charge is making it on a fallacious premise.

Finally, if you go to accuse Trump of being a hypocrite, perhaps you should look at your own candidate and, *especially*, her VP pick first. Tim Kaine claims to be a Catholic. Hillary claims to be a Methodist. On abortion, both the Catholic and Methodist churches use the Bible's position as their own, and the Bible's position is staunchly pro-life (if you attempt to quote a single Bible verse to support a pro-abortion view without also quoting everything else around it, then you're quote mining). What, meanwhile, do Hillary and Kaine both support? The self-refuting lie that is moral relativism: if it's immoral to impose morality, then it's also immoral to impose the moral claim that morality shouldn't be imposed — that entire view is false by its own standard. They think they can have their cake and eat it too on this issue by claiming to be Christian and for abortion at the same time, which is an act of blatant hypocrisy. That is a plank in Hillary's eye (and Kaine's eye) that must also be addressed before they can go on to accuse us of anything.

Google's Liberal Bias is Pissing This App Developer Off

It's been a couple of months since my most recent post regarding the 2016 election. Since then, the battles between Trump and Hillary have gotten progressively more heated, to say the least. We Trump supporters now have Julian Assange and WikiLeaks on our side, for one — foreign hacktivists, including the notorious "Guccifer 2.0", have managed to leak thousands upon thousands of internal DNC emails that provide proof positive of what Dinesh D'Souza said the Democratic Party was like behind the scenes. As if that's not enough, some of these leaked emails also include conspiracies between DNC members to rig debates and tamper with voting machines — conspiracies that unfortunately even involve the company that owns the servers on which this blog is hosted happens to be a part of, which I just busted using the Google Now assistant to deliver biased election news sources.

Let's be honest, I for one have a long history playing with Google's open source projects, to say the least. It all started long before Android and Chrome OS even got off the ground, in fact — in December 2007, I began building my own desktop computer for the sole purpose of making sure that Linux could run on it without any problems. That was a success, but it took a lot of research and a great deal of effort to say the least. I completed this project in January 2008, and installed an alpha release of Ubuntu 8.04 on it. Fast-forward to 2009, however, and something interesting happened: Google began using Linux to develop two OS'es of their own. It was in November 2009 that the source code to one of them — Chrome OS — was released to the public, and I as a Linux user was all set to begin compiling and building it to see how it runs. I also began experimenting with Android — the other Linux-based Google OS — in 2010 when I got my first smartphone, and in March 2011, I got my first Chromebook (a Cr-48).

Fast forward to 2016, and I have not only a Nexus 6 but also an HP Chromebook 11 G4, which I do admit I have a Linux distribution called GalliumOS on at the moment, why? To get Android Studio onto it for my Android development class at Saddleback College. Oh, and yes, that's another thing: I have something in the Chrome Web Store already — the infamous "Wake Up!" app, which I also open-sourced due to the fact that built-in Chrome OS power management is poor to say the least.

Long history with Google aside, I for one am getting absolutely fed up with how sold out Google is for the establishment. Election-rigging is clearly no laughing matter, and the fact that a company with as much industry might as Google is trying to get in on this matter is a problem to say the least. I am warning Google right now: If I see one more article from CNN, WaPo, HuffPo, NYT, WSJ, MSNBC, Salon, MotherJones, or any other liberally biased source along those lines either in my Google Now card feed or on my Google Now election card, then when I get something developed that is worth selling, I for one will be glad to personally donate all of the proceeds from Android and/or Chrome app sales to the Trump campaign.

Why, you ask? Because as I already posted in the post linked to in the introductory paragraph, Hillary simply cannot be trusted. She's a sellout. Her campaign is funded by Planned Parenthood, which is something that even African-Americans like Alveda King are fed up with. She wants to force the church to support abortion. She wants to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which is critical for making sure that Christians' First Amendment rights aren't infringed upon. She is a neo-Canaanite extremist who will do anything to continue sacrificing the unborn on the altar of convenience. Google: If your motto is "Don't be evil" then supporting someone as evil as Hillary is hypocrisy.

27 July, 2016

What happens when politics and self-refuting ideas collide

In July, I published a post to this blog pointing out that many of the claims that atheists make don't even meet their own standards. To review that post, those claims are "there is no truth" (that claim can't be true either if that's the case), "all truth is scientific" (that claim is philosophical and therefore false by its own standard), "all truth/morality is relative/subjective" (that statement claims to be true not only for the claimant but also for opponents, making it false by its own standard), "Christians are hypocrites" (A, hasty generalization, B, tu quoque, and C, anyone who tries to arbitrarily make up a standard oneself has the burden of living up to it; if they don't, then they're also hypocrites), and "you shouldn't judge" (A, that statement is a judgment, and B, quoting Matthew 7:1 without also quoting Matthew 7:2-5 at the same time is quote mining). It's the number 3 self-refuting statement — "all truth/morality is relative/subjective" — however, that even some presidential candidates still don't see the problem with.

Who can't see this problem? Hillary Clinton, that's who, and her vice-presidential pick Tim Kaine is just as bad when it comes to failure to call this self-refuting idea — and the self-refuting statement that accompanies it — out for what it is: false by its own standard. It's almost hilarious, really, that Tim Kaine hasn't been excommunicated from the Catholic Church over his relativism regarding abortion in particular, why? He claims that abortion is bad for him and his family but also claims to not care what others who might support abortion think about it. Blatant lie: because moral relativism is self-refuting and therefore false, the only thing that can be true in this regard is a moral absolute, which means that it's either good or evil. Since the Catholic and Methodist Churches, for that matter, both consider abortion to be an absolute evil, both Kaine and Hillary should be excommunicated from their said churches, at the very least.

Ah, but Trump is also an abortionist, you claim, right? For two reasons, that's a false claim: A, just because someone claimed to support abortion 16 years ago doesn't mean that claim is up-to-date (that's a fallacy called slothful induction), and B, there was reportedly a change in his position in 2011 when a friend of his wanted to abort his wife's child only to not go through with it, then seriously regret the contemplation once he met his own child face to face. Further, the Republican candidate for VP — Mike Pence — has a record as governor of Indiana that is about as pro-life as any candidate can possibly get on this matter — he reportedly used state *executive orders* to strip Planned Parenthood of all Indiana state tax funds, and as a result multiple abortion clinics in Indiana are closing down. As VP under Trump and as Senate President, Pence would likely use his Congressional powers to push acts into law that take his actions against PP in Indiana to the national level.

Also, enough with the claim that "it's a danger to women's health" to have a pro-life position! For starters, there's a difference between caring about both the life of the mother and the life of the unborn child vs. caring about the life of the mother at the expense of the life of the unborn child. "The unborn child is just part of the mother" you claim? According to the science of genetics, that's a lie. If that claim were true, then the DNA of the unborn child would be 100% identical to the DNA of the mother. That's not the case. Instead, the instant a sperm enters an egg, the DNA of both fuse together. The result? A genetically distinct cell that is genetically programmed, genetically wired, genetically predestined to grow into an embryo, a fetus, and then, finally, a child outside the womb. To jump to the conclusion that an unborn child is a part of the mother's body simply because of the location inside the womb is to flat-out deny science, and to say "it's my choice to abort" is again an act of believing the self-refuting lie that is moral relativism.

No one that tries to bring self-refuting ideas to Washington belongs in the White House. Claiming to be Christian means refraining from "nullifying the word of God" for the sake of anything else. The Pharisees, according to Jesus (Mark 7:13), "nullified the word of God" for the sake of tradition. The misnomered "Democrats", meanwhile, do the same thing: they "nullify the word of God" for the sake of moral relativism. Either they're pro-life Christians, pro-abortion atheists, or hypocrites. They can't have their cake and eat it too.

14 July, 2016

Calling ANY Field of Science 'Settled' while Claiming to be a Beacon of Reason at the Same Time is Hypocrisy

WARNING: The following is an essay, not individual sentences and not individual paragraphs. Quoting part of this work without also quoting the surrounding context ― the context that is the whole thing ― is quote mining.

It's almost laughable, the nerve that some scientists, particularly those that are also atheists, have. They claim to be beacons of reason. They claim to be rational. They go on to claim that all who don't agree with them and their opinions about Christianity must be deluded simply because they're not 100% materialistic. They group Christianity together with other religions that bear far more radical ideologies, then commit the hasty generalization of assuming that anyone who is against, for example, abortion or homosexuality is just as evil as Muslim terrorists. There's an irony in this, however: What about their own science communities? Is there discrimination there too?

Notice the standard that these accusations imply: Don't stop thinking. Always make absolutely certain to examine every piece of evidence closely. Never jump to any conclusion. This is a standard in which absolute certainty about any field of science is impossible. Do the scientists themselves do this? Do they refrain from jumping to conclusions? Do they keep thinking about everything without stopping their thoughts about anything? Do they explore every possible explanation, regardless of consensus about the evidence that they find, or do they shove all of that evidence through some materialistic worldview filter?

Ah, the answer is the latter. "[Darwinism] is a fact" they claim. "The science is settled." "There is no other possible cause for life than a naturalistic one." This is doing precisely the very thing ― namely, stifling thoughts that they disagree with ― that they accuse us of. Although I do kind of agree with them based on the fact that it's a consequence of the deadly sin that is greed, climate change is also a field of science that people pull this trick on. Same thing when it comes to other modes of politically and (ir)religiously motivated science, like science that pertains to homosexuality for instance. A consensus is NOT an objective truth! It's an opinion of a multitude of intelligent people, sure, but without God, an opinion is an opinion regardless of how many people hold it.

Moreover, if only science yielded truth as atheists claim, then guess what? The claim in and of itself would be false by its own definition. The claim that "all truth is scientific" isn't scientific, it's philosophical. I'm always willing to go back to the Craig v. Atkins (1998) debate on this issue: we have a case in which Peter Atkins claimed that science is the only thing that yields truth, and what is William Lane Craig's response? You cannot use the scientific method to prove math, nor can you use it to prove philosophy, nor can you use it to prove history… most importantly, you cannot use science to prove science itself, why? Because the mathematical formulas that science depends on must simply be assumed true in order for science to even be conducted!

So, without much further ado, it's hypocrisy to be skeptical about everything without also being skeptical about skepticism itself. Whenever you exempt a claim or view from its own standard, what you get is a breeding ground for hypocrisy, and unfortunately, that's exactly what the nature of most of these charges is.

12 July, 2016

The Apologetics of 'Bel and the Dragon'

Is Christian apologetics really 'tyranny of the experts'? Some lay believers seem to think so. They cherry-pick 2 Timothy 3:16 while at the same time ignoring 1 Peter 3:15. That aside, what exactly did the oldest of patriarchs use to defend their views? Did they resort to apologetics as often as we did? As Bill Dyer points out, even Abraham did, by believing that if God can create everything from nothing, then He can also raise Isaac from the dead — granted, Abraham also is told by God not to go through with the sacrifice. Now this is a trivial example, but is it the only one?

In fact, no — at least not if you look to deuterocanonical and/or apocryphal sources. The book of Daniel as we know it — at least the book of Daniel as Protestant Christians (including Lutherans like myself) know it — is not the same book of Daniel that adherents of Catholicism, Greek Orthodoxy, Russian Orthodoxy, and Coptic Orthodoxy know. Why? Because the Hebrew Bible was canonicalized by three different groups of Jews which each canonicalized it in their own entirely different ways.

These three versions of the Tanakh are called, by scholars, the Egyptian, Palestinian, and Babylonian traditions. The version that is present in most Protestant Bibles is the Babylonian one, which is also the one that most modern Jews have in their canons. The Palestinian version, meanwhile, is the one that the Ethiopian Church uses, and the Egyptian version is the one that the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches use. It's in this version of the book of Daniel — particularly the end of it — where things get interesting. It's a story of an idol — Bel/Marduk — and a dragon-like beast, and how Daniel proves both of these to be false.

First, we have the Bel idol. This bronze statue is given food, and it disappears the next day, and Nebuchadnezzar is portrayed in this epilogue as begging the question about this idol's nature, that the idol must be eating the offerings. So, Daniel pours ashes on the temple floor one day. Then, the next morning, footprints in the ashes leading to a secret door are discovered, proving that the idol's own priests are taking the food to a secret area to trick everyone. Then the people see that this idol — the one that Nebuchadnezzar is the most devoted to, mind you — is no more than a fraud, and Nebuchadnezzar's theory is debunked.

The next one is of the dragon-like creature, which Darius the Mede claims must be divine because it does eat and drink. So, what does Daniel do? Poison it. He gives it food that has been contaminated with a poison that, when the dragon ate it, would give off enough gas to make the dragon's stomach explode. The dragon eats it, bursts open, dies, and what does Daniel tell Darius the Mede? Because it's not immortal, it's not divine either. This version then goes on to say that it's for this offense — killing the dragon — that Daniel is thrown into the lions' den.

Notice how in this account, Daniel doesn't just simply assert that Babylonian idolatry is fake. He goes on to provide evidence proving the Babylonians wrong about what it is they're worshipping. That's apologetics, is it not? So, we have Abraham, we have Daniel… why should our faith be any different? We have a whole wealth of arguments at our disposal to debunk worldviews like atheism that present a similar threat to Christianity today, so why not use them the same way the patriarchs did? I for one would rather just get with the program and follow in these patriarchs' and other apolosists' footsteps.

07 July, 2016

Distinguishing Between Biological and Psychological Transgenderism

WARNING: The following are paragraphs, not individual sentences. Picking those paragraphs apart and responding to single sentences while ignoring the rest of the paragraphs is quote mining, and, therefore, fallacious.

In the history of the church, no issue has resulted in more hatred, not only from the church but also of it, than those which are LGBT-related. Just three months ago, Target made highly controversial headlines, how? By removing gender signs from bathrooms simply to support a small minority of the population, one that insists that they are female when really male, or vice versa. Why is it that people would insist this, however? Is it scientific or deluded? Is gender based on chromosomes or on thoughts?

There are, in fact, some extremely rare biological exceptions to the gender issue. One, XX male syndrome, is a genetic disorder in which someone has sex organs that are clearly male but at the same time has two X chromosomes ― thus, genetically female despite masculine anatomy. Another, complete androgen insensitivity syndrome, is a disorder in which someone who has both an X and Y chromosome ― that is, genetically male ― is neurologically insensitive to testosterone and hormones structurally similar to it, resulting in anatomic femininity. These cases are, however, extremely rare ― only 4.5 per 100,000 in the XXMS case, and similar numbers in the cases of CAIS and XYGD. How many people who claim to be transgender actually have these disorders?

Considering that only about 0.7% of the population is transgender, it seems like it's a very high percentage at first. 9 per 100,000 (provided that the figures for XXMS and CAIS are identical), however, is only 0.00009, or 0.009% of the population. What percentage of that 0.7% is this value, therefore? Divide 0.009 by 0.7, and you end up with approximately 0.013% of the transgender community. 0.013% of 0.7% of the population, based on these estimates, is truly, biologically transgender.

What about the other 0.687%? Are they rational or deluded? Psychological studies seem to suggest the latter. Back in April when the whole debate over Target's decision was going on, psychologists managed to perform brain scans of transgender people and compared them to brain scans of people who are of the opposite sex. What they found was that the transgender brainwave patterns seemed to match with the gender with which they identified. The conclusion that the article drew, however, was that the people were not deluded, that they were in fact opposite genders trapped in the wrong body. However, is there another explanation? In fact, there is. Scientists did similar brain scans of people who look at porn, and what they found was that people actually think they're having sex when they look at it. In the same way, wouldn't it make sense that people who think that they're something they aren't, if they think about it long enough, may just end up becoming something they aren't, psychologically? If you're deluded when you do drugs and deluded when you look at porn, then you're also deluded if you think you're not what you are biologically. The scientists who conducted this study completely ignored these precedents suggesting that thoughts can physically alter the structure of one's brain — ignoring precedents is just as un-scientific as ignoring science in general.

So, based on this evidence, are we to sacrifice the rights of the majority to support the rights of a minority as small as 0.7%? Doing so is tyranny of a minority. By trying to support 0.7% of the population, Target is offending 50% of the population at the same time, why? Because it opens up a security hole. Now, all a male pedophile has to do is say "I feel like a woman" to get into a women's restroom, and he'll be able to do all kinds of evils to women and girls who are already in there. Why not just add a third restroom with an "Other" sign on it, a lockable door, and no stalls? From a privacy standpoint, it actually makes even more sense ― just lock the door to the whole restroom and you'll have even more privacy than those who use the stalls. No, instead, they would rather use the bathrooms with less privacy in the name of equality, twisting the definition of "equality" in an Orwellian manner. Hopefully Target learns lessons from the resulting boycott that I happen to be participating in; if not, then shareholder action to oust the current CEO must be taken.

09 June, 2016

Atheism and Self-Defeat: The Burden of Non-Contradiction Is On The Claimant

One of the first questions I ask, before even getting into an Internet debate at all, is "Does the claim that I'm about to refute meet its own standard?" Why? Because any claim that doesn't meet its own standard is false, by its own definition! Such a claim is called a self-refuting or self-defeating statement. Below are just several examples, and I don't know about you, the reader, but I can spot their own admissions of self-defeat just by asking that question, starting, of course, with the obvious.

1. "There is no truth": If this is the case, if there is really no truth, then this very claim cannot be true either! This admission of self-defeat, however, doesn't stop atheists from using it. I've encountered it on the Internet all too often, and more than once it's used by people who claim to be beacons of reason and logic, as atheists often claim to be. Anyone who claims to be a beacon of reason only to make a claim like this one is not only contradicting his own claim in the debate but also contradicting his claims to reasonability in the process.

2. "All truth is scientific": Is this claim scientific in nature, or is it a philosophical assertion? Can one test this claim using the scientific method? Look at a written or printed copy of this claim under a microscope to see if you can find hard proof that the claim itself is true hiding somewhere in the pixels that make up the hard copy of the claim? No. It's a philosophical claim by nature. It's false, therefore, even by its own standard!

Moreover, even science itself hinges on unprovable assumptions, as William Lane Craig alluded to in a debate with Peter Atkins back in 1998. Can one prove Einstein's general theory of relativity using the scientific method? No. We have to simply assume that the general theory of relativity is true in order to conduct physics experiments. Since science also depends largely on mathematical truths — again, can we prove math using science? No we can't. We have to simply assume that, for example, F=(Gm1m2)/d^2 in order to calculate what kind of gravity an object has, or that water consists of 2 parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. Are these science? No, they're mathematical truths that science presupposes. In his book, Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make their Case, Frank Turek does a fantastic job of going over this problem.

3. "All truth is relative/all morality is subjective": If all truth were relative, then why is the claimant making this claim if I can hear or see it? If all truth is relative, then so would the claim that all truth is relative be relative! Is it? Not if proclaimed publicly. The person telling me that I can't force my truth or my morals on him or her has just claimed objectively that all truth is relative, regardless of whether it's stated implicitly or explicitly — see the problem? The instant it's shouted out loud, this claim undergoes logical decoherence from truth to falsehood.

4. "All Christians are hypocrites": This claim commits the tu quoque fallacy, for starters. Just because a worldview's adherents are hypocrites doesn't mean it's not true. Secondly, who has the burden of coherence when it comes to living up to a moral standard? The one who makes up the standard in the first place, that's who. If there is no God, then morality is either relative or arbitrary. If it's relative, then point 3 applies. If it's arbitrarily defined by people, then those people have the burden of living up to the moral standards that they arbitrarily define. If they don't, then they're also hypocrites! They, therefore, cannot raise this charge if they're guilty of it themselves. Third, only some Christians are hypocrites, not all of them, which makes this a hasty generalization to boot.

5. "You shouldn't judge": Is this claim a judgment? You bet it is. It's a self-defeating judgment not to judge! But wait, didn't Jesus make this same judgment not to judge? Those who say this have committed the fallacy of quote mining. The passage in question is Matthew 7:1-5. In this same passage where Jesus says "judge not, lest you be judged," Jesus also tells us to "take the plank out of our own eye before taking the speck out of a brother's eye". Taking the speck out of another's eye is making a judgment, is it not? Jesus was simply telling us that if we judge, we must make sure we're not also guilty of the same thing that we're making the judgment about. Much different from the self-defeating claim of "don't judge, period".

There are, of course, countless others, but these are the most common ones. I hope that by posting this I can make sure fellow case-makers can be empowered to use this law of non-contradiction to debunk these rather silly (if thought about) claims — let's be clear: if one claims to be a beacon of reason only to make claims like these, he or she is doing a terrible job of living up to that reason claim.

17 May, 2016

Why I Am A Christian and Not An Atheist: The Historical/Legal Method

Update 6/7/2016: Warning: The following are paragraphs, not individual sentences. Either read them as entire paragraphs and attempt to refute them as entire paragraphs, or your entire response hinges on the quote mining fallacy, and, therefore, is a baseless argument.

Is the Bible really accurate in its claims? I mean, as a middle schooler (and on the fine line between Christianity and atheism at the time), I had quite a few doubts about its reasonability. It wasn't until 9th grade (2007-08) that the first of those doubts began to get debunked, and it wasn't until I learned the historical-legal method in my third full year of college (2014-15) that I began to really see how accurate the claims in the Bible are (I did indeed believe the Bible to be true before the apologetics lessons of March 2014, March 2015 [McDowell], and March 2016 [Koukl], but didn't have all the answers to give for why I believed), since that's when Sean McDowell (who just turned the big 40 today — congrats!) showed up at my church and used the same method to prove that the Bible is accurate in its claims. This post, therefore, is dedicated to going through how I got to that conclusion in detail.

Let's start with the Honesty Test: The claims that women are the first ones to discover the empty tomb (in ancient Israelite culture, women's testimonies were seen as completely worthless), that one of the Apostles denied Jesus three times, that, in the OT, an Israelite soldier by the name of Achan steals an offering during the Conquest and provokes YHWH's anger as a result, and that the writers of Exodus claim that their ancestors were slaves (the chronology and archaeology are different topics altogether, but one should also take note that all who conclude that the Exodus did not happen do so because they all look in the wrong chronological period) all fall under the criterion of embarrassment. Further, the introductory statements to certain Gospels, like that of Luke for example, that don't claim to have been written by an apostle make claims that the writers *investigated* all the content available to them, using Roman forensics methods, not unlike what J. Warner Wallace did back in 1996. Conclusion: not only do the Gospel writers claim to care about truth, but the entire Bible is *loaded* with embarrassing admissions that serve to back that claim up.

So, fine, they cared about truth, but that was 2,000 years ago, so how do we know that's what they said? That's where the Telephone Test comes in. For the New Testament alone, we've got 24,000 (and counting) copies or portions (not counting mummy mask teardowns, which are making that number even higher still), not to mention a time gap of only between 25 and 50 years in the case of the Rylands Papyrus P52, and in the case of the 1st century Mark fragment obtained from a mummy mask teardown, less than 40 years. Compare that to Cicero, where the earliest manuscript dates to AD 400 and there are only 15 manuscripts available, and we have a situation in which the New Testament is (24000/50)/(15/400) = 480/0.0375 = 12,800 times more reliable than Cicero. Try to use Sallust and it gets even worse: we've got 20 manuscripts — slightly more than Cicero, sure — but the earliest manuscript is from — wait for it — the 10th century AD! We're talking a *quadruple-digit* time gap in Sallust's case, which would make Sallust and Tacitus tied at 1,000 years removed with only 20 manuscripts. This results in a situation in which the New Testament is (24000/50)/(20/1000) = 480/0.02 = 24,000 times more reliable than both Tacitus and Sallust, and this is based on the most conservative estimate possible. What about Caesar's own works, that he himself allegedly wrote? We've only got 10 manuscripts in that case and also a time gap of 1,000 years, making the case for the historicity of Jesus 48,000 times stronger than the case for the historicity of Caesar if self-published sources are preferred. Plato? Even worse: Try 1,200 years removed and only 7 manuscripts available. Thucydides? 1,300 years removed and only 8 manuscripts to choose from. Suetonius? 800 years removed, only 8 manuscripts to choose from. Even the Iliad, which is already in second place to the Bible with regard to this test, only has 1,757 manuscripts available and a time gap of 500 years! So, does one affirm the historicity of Jesus, doubt the historicity of both Caesar and Jesus, or is he or she a hypocrite? Because these numbers are incriminating evidence that affirming the historicity of Caesar while at the same time doubting the historicity of Jesus is hypocrisy.

Ah, but wait, do others outside the Bible also affirm claims within it? Some people are too hostile, so that's where the Corroboration Test must be applied. It's funny, really, that Tacitus, whom we know almost everything about ancient Rome from, despite being hostile towards Christians and despite epically failing the telephone test in comparison to the NT, happens to make the assumption that Jesus was indeed historical (see Annals 15.44.3). Tacitus certainly does not assume other radical claims like those mentioned in the Bible, but he does indeed assume that Jesus existed — why? Same thing with Josephus (Antiquities 8.3.3), a Jewish religious leader, who goes even deeper still (some claims may have been edited in by Christian scribes, but only a minority of them). Pliny (Letters 10.96-97), despite being given orders to persecute Christians, also makes a claim — the claim that the earliest believers worshipped Jesus "like a God" — that just assumes that this Jesus whom they worship actually existed.

So, honesty test — pass, telephone test — EPIC pass, corroboration test — pass. If the Bible passes all these tests, then it must be true, and if it is true, then all the claims within must be true, and if all claims within the Bible are true, then Christianity itself is true. The lesson I learned, however, is this: Although we Christians must be ready to defend our faith and make sure people know that the "blind faith" charge is patently false, blind unbelief is just as irrational as blind belief. One needs to examine (and cross-examine) both sides before taking a side.

27 April, 2016

The Biblical Connection to Lower Egyptian Dynasties XIV and XV

In my previous post, I made a rather strong case against the habit of looking for Exodus evidence in the wrong time period. Towards the end of the post, however, is a claim that refers to Khamudi as being the Exodus Pharaoh, as opposed to someone from Dynasties XIII (Rohl) or XIX (mainstream). Little do people realize, however, that the archaeological pattern from Avaris and other associated sites matches much more closely with the chronology of the lower kingdom of Divided Egypt than anything else. So, I'm using this post as an explanation for why I personally think that the Lower Egyptian dynasties are far more important, Biblically speaking, than the dynasties from Upper Egypt or from a unified Egypt.

A very important discovery was indeed made, right at the beginning of the earliest possible Avaris settlement. A Syrian-style house, very similar to the kind of house that Abraham, Isaac, and/or Jacob would have built in their hometown of Harran, Syria, was found at this location, and was subsequently flattened. On top of this flattened house, a palace was constructed. This palace was huge. It contained courtyards, speech chambers, a robing room, a front entrance with 12 pillars supporting it, and a garden in the back containing 12 tombs. Note this interesting pattern of 12's here: There was only one Semitic culture at this time, bar none, that considered 12 to be a number of cultural significance, and that culture was ancient Israel.

The one tidbit that *really* gets interesting, however, is that one of these 12 tombs behind this Avaris palace was shaped like a pyramid. Extremely unusual, why? Because only Pharaohs and queens had pyramid tombs at this time — not even viziers had pyramid tombs! Imhotep certainly didn't. Neither did any other highly important vizier in ancient Egypt, before this period or after. The person buried in this tomb, however, was a foreigner. His cult statue shows him with red hair (!), yellow skin (!), a throwstick (!) across his shoulder, and painted to look like he's wearing a multi-colored coat(!). Either this is indeed Joseph himself, or his career is identical to Joseph's.

The Pharaoh who was ruling at the exact same time that this palace and tombs were constructed in Avaris was Amenemhat III. His statue is a much more drab complexion compared to Joseph's: he's depicted with ears turned out so as to listen to people's concerns, and with a facial expression that is much more indicative of worry than of prosperity. It was during his reign that "Bahr Yussef" — the "Waterway of Joseph" — was constructed to divert half the water from the Nile into the Faiyum, a marshy lake that was used to grow crops like rice and wheat during times of plenty. Making it bigger means it's possible to grow more, and according to the Bible, Joseph interpreted the dreams of Amenemhat as seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, correct? During a time of drought (definitely a famine-causing phenomenon) on the Nile, the Faiyum would have still been large enough to hold water for much longer than 7 years.

After Amenemhat III, however, something really interesting happens: One kingdom becomes two. Dynasty XIII (the one that Amenemhat was a member of) rules Upper Egypt, and a brand new Dynasty XIV — Joseph's dynasty — rules Lower Egypt. Amenemhat was probably *so* impressed with Joseph's famine-foiling tactics that he decides to give half of his kingdom to Joseph and his descendants as a gift — the fact that he's buried in a pyramid tomb, the *only* vizier throughout Egyptian history to do so, seems to suggest exactly this.

But wait, what about the "Pharaoh who knew not Joseph"? Skip forward about 200 years to the reign of Upper Egyptian pharaoh Djedneferre Dedumose II. During his reign, Egypt goes from two peacefully coexisting kingdoms — Upper and Lower — to civil war. How did this happen? Right around this time, Dynasty XIV is replaced with Dynasty XV. A coup d'état occurs in Lower Egypt, and this new dynasty, instead of being friendly to the Upper kings, is hostile to them. This dynasty is also Semitic, but not Jewish. It was a dynasty of pagan Semites, who worshipped not Yahweh but Baal, Har, and other false idols along those lines, and the first king in that dynasty was a powerful one indeed: Sheshi. He certainly would have a motive to enslave the pious Jews, and it's to persecute them for worshipping one God instead of many.

Supporting this hypothesis is what happens when the Israelites reach the border with Canaan but decide to grumble instead of conquer (Numbers 14:33), then conquer 40 years later. If they had absolutely no contact with this region, why did the Israelites grumble? It was the promised land! How did they know about the Canaanites and Amalekites and how horrible they were if they went through that land hundreds of years earlier and found no one there? The only feasible explanation for this is that Dynasty XV, which began with Sheshi and ended with, that's right, Khamudi, happened to be of either Canaanite or Amalekite origin.

Making Khamudi the Pharaoh who confronted Moses (and, by extension, Apepi II as the Pharaoh that instituted the drowning policy and whose daughter adopted Moses, according to Exodus 2:23) would also make perfect sense from a standpoint of how this powerful Lower Kingdom was able to get overrun and how this bloody civil war ended so abruptly: The plagues and the Red Sea crossing would mean that Khamudi would suffer the loss of his slave force, the loss of his crops, the loss of his firstborn, and the loss of his army. The Exodus would weaken the Lower Kingdom, sure, but the Upper Kingdom? The Upper Egyptians would be saying "You know this Lower king, Khamudi? His slave force is free, his army is under the Red Sea, and all his firstborn are dead — here's an opportunity for us to take him out." Right after the Exodus, this is exactly what happens: Khamudi is killed by an Upper Egyptian Pharaoh by the name of Ahmose I, who conquers the now largely abandoned Lower Egypt and founds the reunified New Kingdom on top of the Lower Kingdom's plagued, pillaged, abandoned, tattered ruins.

25 April, 2016

The Absurdity of Hollywood's Flawed Biblical Chronology

It's almost laughable, really: Why is it that some people make claims that there "was no Exodus"? If there is archaeological evidence, where is it? When does it date to? This last question, little do people realize, is the only one that deniers get wrong. On Saturday, April 16, 2016, two days after my 23rd birthday which happened to also be the day when the mocked incident occurred, there was an SNL skit that simply reinforces this problem. It was a mockery of John Kasich, how he linked the Passover and Last Supper together. Apparently the woman — would have to look her up to find out her name — who was hosting this SNL episode used chronological snobbery to deny that Jesus' last supper was a Passover Seder and accuse Kasich of "fanfictioning" Jesus into the Passover. Accusations aside, when did this SNL host claim that the first Passover occurred? "Around 1300 BC", right? Wrong!

This is based on Exodus 1:11, which makes a mention of (Pi-)Ramses as the city that the Israelites built. This city only has a brief history, archaeologists claim. The question is, is this an anachronism or a hard marker? Genesis 47:11 also makes a similar claim — the "land of Ramses" was also mentioned hundreds of years before the city existed as the place where Joseph's family settled. So, is Genesis 47:11 an anachronism, is Exodus 1:11 an anachronism, or are both of them anachronisms? Moreover, the city was only known by that name — Ramses — for that short period, but Pi-Ramses is itself built on top of a much older city. Unlike Pi-Ramses, where there are in fact no Asiatic (Semitic) settlements at all, this older city is loaded with artifacts that are clearly Semitic in origin. What exactly is the name of this older city that Ramses happens to be built right on top of? Avaris.

What Bible verses do we have regarding the chronology of the Exodus, that are in fact far more explicit references than Exodus 1:11, and may in fact point to Avaris as the site of this reference? For starters, we've got 1 Kings 6:1. According to this passage, it was 480 years since the Israelites "came out of Egypt", emphasis on "came", that Solomon started building his temple, which was built in 966 BC according to the chronology that most scholars use. Meanwhile, since 1 Kings was written much later than the Pentateuch, there was a time gap here, and during that time gap, Egypt's borders expanded to the point where the Jordanian, Sinai, and northwestern Arabian Deserts became part of Egypt at the time 1 Kings was written (around 1000 BC — the Assyrians and Babylonians didn't push the Egyptians out of the Jordanian Desert until much later). Since "coming out of Egypt" would therefore mean "crossing the Jordan River" to the target audience of 1 Kings, this likely means that the conquest of the Promised Land occurred 480 years before 966 BC, which would be 1446 BC.

Ah, but the year of the conquest wasn't the first time that the Israelites reached the Jordan, according to Numbers 14:33. No, they first got to the Jordan 40 years before that, when, what happened? Instead of conquering the Promised Land, they see the walls of these fortified cities — Jericho, Hebron, Hazor, etc. — and grumble in fear, flee, and wander the deserts for those 40 years. 40 years before 1446 BC would mean that this event occurred in 1486 BC.

This, then, raises another question: How long did it take for the Israelites to get to the Jordan River in the first place, before grumbling in fear and coming back? According to Exodus 16:35, the time it took to go from the Red Sea, to the Ten Commandments sermon, to the "manna" and quail in the deserts, to the "border with Canaan" that would have been understood as the Jordan River to these people, was a total of, that's right, another 40 years. Start at 1486 BC and go back an additional 40 years from there, and what you end up at is a very significant year indeed: 1526 BC.

This late 16th century BC date marks a time that's just as important in Egyptian chronology as it is in Biblical chronology: it's the end of the Hyksos Period. Yes, that's right, the Hyksos, a people who brought countless artifacts of Semitic origin into Egypt, and the Israelites are one and the same people according to this reference. The ideas that the events occurred in 1300 (or 1250) BC, and that Ramses II was the Exodus Pharaoh when Khamudi is a far more likely candidate, are ideas that therefore must die. They're based on very "flimsy" Biblical indicators, according to Trinity University Professor John Bimson, despite the existence of far more explicit references to other periods, including the three I gave here that point a finger directly at Avaris as being the site of the Biblical Goshen. But no, in Hollywood, this chronology-denying ignorance still abounds, unfortunately.

25 March, 2016

"You Cannot Do Them All At The Same Time": Why Moral Relativism is Self-Refuting

Ever get into a debate in which the only response out of someone who finds out that you're Christian is "LOL" or something similar? I have, many times. Atheists claim to be intelligent. They claim to know everything, yet what is coming out of their mouths or off their fingers? Numerous capitalization, punctuation, and spelling errors, for one, and for two, profanity, ad lapidem, ad hominem, proof by assertion, and other grave logical fallacies, regardless of whether the logical fallacies in question are inside the context of the discussion or in a discussion with an entirely unrelated topic.

The issue, they claim, is "Who are you to force your opinion on us?" If it's an opinion, then why are they even bothering with it? The only possible way to remain truly neutral is to simply stay out of all positions, period. Claiming to be neutral is one thing, but the minute anyone attempts to persuade anyone to take any position, regardless of whether the position in question is political, (ir)religious, (a)theological, cultural, or even scientific, the claims of "neutrality" refute themselves. A classic example of this is a former president of Planned Parenthood, who once claimed that "teaching morality does not mean imposing my moral views on others". She then, in blatant violation of her own claim, went on to lobby the government to silence the pro-life crowd. There's a word for this: It's called hypocrisy.

Notice that there's also an irony in the very claim being made? The claim that "you shouldn't impose your moral views on others" is inherently an objectivistic claim. In order for it to even be made, one needs to contradict his or her own view, then get back to it. It's as if so-called "relativists" are hiding objectivism in a closet and only want to use it when they feel it supports them; no different, for the record, from the claim that "there is no truth" which would in itself be false if its premise were true.

That claim is not the only objectivistic claim raised by them, however: What about the so-called "problem" of evil, or, to put it more plainly, the evil dilemma? If there's a good and powerful God, they say, then why does evil exist? Notice how they have to make an assumption that there is indeed evil in the world. What does relativism claim? It claims that there are just different points of view on what is good and what is bad. This reduces the very topic of this dilemma ― evil ― to an undefined variable. Evil can only exist if there's a standard of good to hold someone's actions to. Therefore, the skeptics who bring this issue up have a dilemma of their own:
  • If moral objectivism is true, then evil has only one definition and therefore does indeed exist
  • If moral relativism is true, then evil is undefined, and if evil is undefined, then everything is good and evil is impossible
This is also true for religious pluralism. As some of you probably know, Professor Greg Koukl, president of Stand to Reason, spoke at my church just three weeks ago on this very issue, and some of what Greg taught has greatly influenced this blog post. My notes from that very discussion are here for those who might want to read them. He puts this plainly: "When you die, you either go to heaven or hell, or lie in the grave, or go to 'astro worlds', or get reincarnated, but you cannot do them all at the same time. All religions cannot be true because they have contradictory truth claims."

On this day, Good Friday, March 25, A.D. 2016, my thoughts, prayers, and logic all go out to those who still insist on believing this flawed content, even as I grow in my faith and put it into practice by posting stuff like this. It's sad, really: some have become so hostile to even the remotest possibility that Christianity might be true that, instead of investigating their objections as J. Warner Wallace, Josh McDowell, C.S. Lewis, and, yes, I did (had some doubts as a middle schooler that I chose to investigate while in high school), they choose to raise stuff like this that takes "unreasonable" to an even greater low than the low that they claim Christianity is at, not even realizing how unreasonable their objections actually are.

04 February, 2016

Biological Evidence of the Need for a Savior, Part 1: The Fight-or-Flight Response

One of the most common questions raised by atheists, and I have seen this raised countless times, to be fair, is the question of why a good God would send people to Hell. This question fails to take into account that all 7 billion people on this planet, not to mention billions of ancient people to boot, are in rebellion against God by nature, for starters — people who rebel get separated, that sounds like a natural consequence to me. In response to this assertion, one atheist on YouTube replied that he thought we were good, and not evil, by nature, at which point I had to give him a little history lesson. There are in fact several biological factors that are evil by nature, and the one I'll be covering in this post — the fight-or-flight response — is the beginning of a multi-part series on biological evidence explaining why we need a savior.

Has anyone reading this ever gotten this sudden urge to lash out in anger when a certain trigger is flipped? When provoked in a certain manner? When physically attacked, to want to just attack in return? I confess, even I have in the past, to my (and this is a serious understatement) ultimate regret. When certain triggers are tripped, the adrenal glands release large amounts of epinephrine. Heart rate increases. Breathing rate skyrockets. The person quivers. At this point, he or she has only two natural, biological instincts: lash out in anger, or be a coward, run away, and let sloth take over. This, by definition, is the fight-or-flight response.

Note how anger and sloth — the products of this biological reflex — are two of the Seven Deadly Sins. What did Jesus preach on the Sermon on the Mount about this matter? He told us to love (!) our enemies, to, "when slapped on one cheek, turn the other", and to keep going the extra mile. Doing all this means suppressing this response that is hard-coded into not only human beings but also into animals of all sorts. Without divine intervention, suppression of the fight-or-flight response is physically impossible.

This, therefore, brings us to the ultimate reason why we must believe to be saved from eternal separation: it's just one of several pieces of evidence (others of which will be covered in other posts in this series) that human beings, all 7 billion of them, are evil by nature. And if we're evil by nature, then it's only by acceptance of the gift of substitutionary atonement that we can possibly get out of this.

Since it is physically impossible for us to suppress this reflex, we have Jesus, who *never* used it on another human being — even when threatened with crucifixion — and became the ultimate sacrifice, as God incarnate, to atone for these natural-yet-sinful instincts, to pay for them so we don't have to. Stay tuned, because every Thursday from now until March 3, another member of this series will be posted.

14 January, 2016

Touch-Friendly Chrome OS is Slowly Becoming a Reality: 20160114 Canary Build

It's now Thursday, January 14, 2016. I've only had my 4th Chromebook since 2010 ― the ASUS C201 ― for a mere three weeks, and already ran into a new feature in the Chrome OS Canary builds worthy of showing off.

Back in October, rumors abounded, thanks in part to a WSJ article, that Google may in fact be folding Chrome OS into Android. Google execs, however, were quick to respond: Not only is Chrome OS "here to stay" according to Hiroshi Lockheimer, SVP in charge of Android, Chrome, and Chromecast, but, in perhaps a 180 as far as evidence is concerned, Android's version of Chrome, unlike all the desktop versions, still does not have access to the Web Store. Moreover, while the amount of apps available (not counting sideloads, in which case the sky is the limit) for ARC has indeed skyrocketed since 2014 when ARC was first debuted, the number of Cordova ports of packaged Chrome apps ― which have been around longer than ARC, mind you ― is not only unknown but, presumably, still very small, especially since the neither Google Play nor Apple's App Store have dedicated sections for them. Therefore, if a merge does take place, it only makes sense for it to be the exact opposite of initial rumors: not Chrome OS folded into Android, but Android folded into Chrome OS instead.

A new feature pushed to Canary builds today adds all the more support to this theory. Accessible via a flag (chrome://flags/#enable-fullscreen-app-list), this feature will make the current Chrome OS app launcher ― the one that shows up when the Search key is pressed ―  fill up the entire screen IF, and only if, either A, a touch screen is present, or B, chrome://flags/#ash-enable-touch-view-testing is enabled and Ctrl+Alt+Shift+8 is toggled:

Top: Current Chrome OS app launcher. Bottom: Chrome OS app launcher with chrome://flags/#enable-fullscreen-app-list enabled.
Note the centered, smartphone-like appearance in Screenshot 2. I'm actually surprised Screenshot 2 was even saved at all, to be absolutely fair, since the Ash desktop crashed when I attempted to take it; however, to my absolute surprise, it was actually there when I opened the file manager after the crash/restart was complete. Anyhow, even though it looks rather immature/"meh" for now, as the full-screen app launcher does eventually mature, it seems like it could easily, easily take Chrome OS onto not only tablets, as it almost did with the Pixel C, but also, in what was, just a few short years ago, an unimaginable twist of fate, onto smartphones.

Add an ARC version of the Play Store with ARC Welding (pun intended) super-powers onto this Chrome OS mode, and the result is exactly what I envisioned: not Chrome OS within Android, but instead Android within Chrome OS. Not Android on desktops, with Aura/Ash as a second-class citizen, but instead a scaled-down, re-laid-out version of Chrome OS on smartphones, with perfect Android app backward-compatibility and access to both the Chrome and Android app catalogs simultaneously, no matter what size the screen. Definitely seems just around the corner if all this evidence is taken into account, that's for sure.

05 November, 2015

AQAP Stronghold Becomes Tropical Cyclone Magnet: More Divine Retribution?

Cyclone Chapala was, once again, a storm for the record books, to say the least. In the western hemisphere, this behemoth would be called a Category 4 hurricane, but this cyclone formed not in the Atlantic… or the eastern Pacific… or the western Pacific (where they're called typhoons)… but in the Indian Ocean. Not unprecedented if it happened in the Bay of Bengal, but in the Arabian Sea? Yup, that's precisely where this monster formed. Also not unprecedented, but most storms there end up either being fish storms or making landfall in western India. Where exactly was the landfall location of this beast, by stark contrast? The typically extremely arid city of Al-Mukalla, Yemen.

Cyclone Chapala as it approached the Yemeni coast on All Saints' Day, 2015. Two days later, on the day immediately following All Souls' Day, this beast would hammer the city of al-Mukalla, occupied by AQAP throughout much of 2015, with hurricane-force winds, storm surge, and a decade of rain in less than 24 hours, causing a flood of biblical proportions.


The devastation (and devastation potential) was certainly hard to underestimate, that's for sure. Tropical cyclones not only bring fierce winds and city-busting storm surge with them, but also typically dump double-digit rainfall wherever they make landfall. This area, however, typically gets less than 2 inches of rain per year. The soil there is very much like Arizona's as a result: extremely impervious to water. When it rains in the desert, it floods, and when the desert gets a decade worth of rain in less than 24 hours, it floods big time. As if that deluge wasn't enough, guess what? Another tropical depression just formed, and is forecast to hit the same area as another hurricane-strength storm in the next week or two (Update: this one has been given the name Megh).

Making matters worse, the country has been in a civil war for decades. While the government has tried to keep the country in order, Islamist groups like Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have tried to tear Yemen apart. So, without much further ado, what city is AQAP's de facto capital? Al-Mukalla. This arid city turned tropical cyclone magnet is also a city that such notorious terrorists as Nasir al-Wuhayshi, founder of the AQAP branch, and Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi, commander of the two men who perpetrated the Charlie Hebdo shooting, called (and their group still calls) home.

In October 2014, I wrote and published another post that makes a hard case about areas where persecution of Christians takes place and how natural disasters are often precariously timed to coincide with days following Jewish and Christian holidays. Cyclone Chapala made landfall on November 3. November 2 is All Souls' Day — or "la Día de los Muertos" in Spanish — and at least in the Catholic Church is a very, *very* important holiday. Could Cyclone Chapala be yet another example — in addition to the AD 79 Vesuvius eruption and 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake/tsunami 1-2 punch — of this kind of divine retribution at work?

The interpretation of this is up to the reader, but it definitely makes sense. Av 10, December 26, and November 3 are all days immediately following important Jewish (Tisha b'Av) and Christian (Christmas, All Souls' Day) holidays, to be sure. Although A.D. 79, 2004, and 2015 are all worlds apart in a historical context, these disasters IMO are a reminder of who's in charge here.

29 September, 2015

Google Flagship Outlook 2016: Nexus Pixel...????

The announcement this morning by Google has unveiled some rather interesting products, to say the least. We got not one but *two* new Nexus phones, a new Chromecast, and some products that weren't even on anyone's radar until now. They sure blew my mind when I watched (part of) the live stream before having to leave for work in the middle of it.

With that being said, while there were similarities, there were also huge differences between this year's announcement and last year's. Previous announcements have always had not only phones but also tablets being released. In 2012 Google released the Nexus 4, Nexus 7, and Nexus 10 — one of which a phone, the others tablets. In 2013 they went on to release an improved Nexus 7 and the Nexus 5. In 2014 they changed it up slightly, releasing the Nexus 6 and the Nexus 9. In 2015, however, the release announcement consisted of two Nexus phones — the 5X and 6P — but no Nexus tablets.

Ah, but wait a minute! There was a tablet released by Google at this event, but *not* under the Nexus moniker. Nexus devices typically, though not always (cases in point: Nexus Q, Nexus Player) are designed by Google but the blueprints handed over to others to manufacture, rather than manufactured in-house. However, there is a team within Google that does build hardware. It's existed since 2013, and has indeed churned out two Chromebooks since its inception. Yup, I'm talking about both generations of Chromebook Pixel, and Google turned to the internal team that developed those devices to develop this tablet. The result? A convertible Android tablet called the Pixel C. Designed *and* manufactured by Google, not just designed, and it's a powerhouse to say the least.

I don't know about anyone else, but the fact that Google actually announced the Pixel C in place of another Nexus tablet may be a very good clue IMO as to what Google may have in store for 2016. If the Pixel team can build an Android tablet internally, why can't they go on to build an Android phone from the same internal Pixel lab? Call it the "Nexus Pixel" if you will. It would make a whole lot more sense from Google's point of view, given that in the past, there have been issues with supply that have bogged down Nexus device sales, resulting in very, very rapid sellouts and slow restocking rates.

With something both designed and built internally by Google, Google can easily avoid that problem. What's more, the Pixel team, unlike other manufacturers, really, really knows how to design a device to look and feel like something capable of swaying away Apple users. So does Huawei as the N6P shows, but imagine, just imagine a pure unibody aluminum phone with the calling card of the Pixel team — that lightbar — etched into its front face. Something that can make even Apple users jealous. Yup, that right there is what I call awesome.

19 July, 2015

Dolores Deluge: Rare July Precipitation Event with an El Niño Fueled Tropical Connection

19 July 2015. For the past two days, conditions have seemingly gone topsy-turvy for some here in Southern California during what is typically the driest month of the year. An Angels game had to be cancelled due to "inclement weather" for the first time since 1995. Two formerly raging wildfires, including one that scorched 20 cars on the 15 freeway, are now 100% contained thanks to extremely high humidity and rare July rainfall. People in an assisted living community had to evacuate, not due to fire, but due to flash flooding ― and this is in July, when average annual precipitation is only 0.02 of an inch. People have been quick to directly blame El Niño, but in actuality, it's really only indirectly related.

Hurricane Dolores as a Category 4 storm Wednesday evening, hammering Socorro Island. Eventually, after dissipating over cooler waters, this system shot a plume of moisture up the coast as a tropical storm, then made landfall in SoCal as a remnant low
The real source of this rare July bonus moisture was, yes, that's right, former Category 4 Hurricane Dolores. On Wednesday, Socorro Island, a volcanic island about 200 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas that contains a Mexican naval base, got hammered by sustained winds clocking in at 130mph, coupled with a 15-foot storm surge and horizontal rain, all from this beast. After that, the storm began to move into cooler waters and, naturally, weaken... ah, but slowly. Dolores remained a weak tropical storm as far north as Vizcaíno ― rare for July ― and produced tropical storm force winds even after becoming post-tropical, as far north as San Clemente Island. The result? A boatload of tropical moisture streaming over Southern California during what is usually the driest month of the year.

El Niño years tend to make this more likely to happen, for several reasons. One is the weakening and/or reversal of the trade winds. Normally, they blow from east to west ― that is typically why hurricanes also move in that direction. When the trades weaken or reverse, westward movement slows. Second is the large-scale collapse of blocking patterns that typically dominate over much of the North Pacific during the summer months. This allows low pressure systems to form in the North Pacific even during the dry season ― troughs that can grab tropical cyclones and pull them north. Third, with the resulting overall lack of upwelling, waters immediately off the California and South American coasts become much warmer than normal, giving tropical cyclones more overall fuel that can sustain them further from the tropics than usual. All of these factors put together can cause some rather interesting effects as the hurricane season in the eastern Pacific basin (which happens to be the very source of the wind shear that suppresses Atlantic activity) rolls on up.

Although this kind of situation is definitely the first of its kind for July in the known historical record, it's not the first of its kind period. In September 1997, for example, moisture from Hurricane Linda ― which currently holds the record for strongest in Eastern Pacific history, although probably not for long ― streamed across California, causing torrential rains and even hail the size of golf balls in some locations. That same year, moisture from the much weaker Hurricane Nora also managed to cause some interesting totals, especially in the Inland Empire, where flooding was rampant. Going further back into history, one of these eastern Pacific behemoths made landfall in Long Beach as a strong tropical storm back in 1939 ― also an El Niño year ― and even further back, in 1858 — again, El Niño — a Category 1 hurricane brought 85mph sustained winds and 10 feet of storm surge to San Diego.

Given how many impacts we've had already ― heck, even way back in May and early June we had some remnant moisture from Hurricane Blanca as well ― it shudders me to think of possible impacts later in this season, including possible repeats of the 1939 and/or 1858 events, given that 2015 accumulated cyclone energy is already ahead of 1997 levels. Although, I for one would definitely take a direct hit from a tropical cyclone as an added bonus on top of already extreme winter El Niño impacts over this drought any day… catch-22, I guess. These are definitely exciting times indeed.

13 July, 2015

Prolonged solar minimum + increased greenhouse gases + PDO + ENSO = recipe for oceanic disaster

July 13, 2015. A study by solar scientist Valentina Zharkova et al. suggesting that we may plunge into another Maunder Minimum type event by 2030 has gathered a great deal of buzz/press, including speculation that the Sun may "go to sleep" and that, despite the fact that greenhouse gases are at double the concentration today as they were during the Medieval warm period (which had absolutely no associated greenhouse gas spike), another "Little Ice Age" type event would soon get triggered by this. The reality couldn't be further from the truth.

To get a far more accurate representation of the effect of solar forcing on climate, one must look to the place that the sun shines its brightest year-round on the planet: the tropics. It's here that the most solar forcing out of anywhere on the planet creates a kind of thermal low, called the Intertropical Convergence Zone, that winds flow into from the hemispheres. The stronger the solar forcing, the deeper the ITCZ and equatorial troughing, the stronger the trade winds, the stronger the western boundary currents that carry warmth from the equator to the polar regions.

So, what happens when the very source of energy for the ITCZ — the sun — dims? Yup, that's right, the ITCZ levels out, then tropical cyclone activity increases north and south of the equator, then the trades, which depend on the existence of the ITCZ, weaken or reverse… and before long, a 200-year period in which 150/200 are El Niño years is staring you in the face. According NOAA's ENSO archives, the mid-1400's to late 1500's, matching precisely with the Sporer Minimum, were marked by moderate El Niño events almost every other year for 200 years straight, and reconstructed PDO records show that same period  as marked by constant +PDO forcing with few, if any, breaks in it, and the Wolf, Maunder, and Dalton Minima all show the same thing:

1000 years of PDO history, with all four 'grand minima' superimposed. Note how decreases in solar activity actually cause a *warming* of the PDO

Add greenhouse gases to the mix and you actually exacerbate this problem. While solar forcing affects the equator far more than the polar regions, greenhouse gases affect the polar regions, mid-latitudes, and subtropics far more than the equator, adding --AO, --AAO, and an increased likelihood of cross-equatorial tropical cyclones, not to mention more Southern Hemisphere Boosters, to the mix.

The result? It can actually lead to more warming. The best example I can throw out there is the mid-Pliocene warm period: PRISM ERSST data shows that the equatorial Pacific was consistently warm throughout the Pliocene with absolutely no gaps in it, and sediment/ice core records show increased levels of methane, among other exceptionally strong greenhouse gases, in the air at the time. Because water temps were constantly warm both north and south of the equator, it would have easily, easily allowed tropical cyclones to form on both sides of the equator, more often at once, allowing westerly wind bursts to become far more numerous and powerful. Lack of solar forcing to keep the trades in check makes this scenario much, MUCH more likely than the medieval one, and the result can be disastrous indeed, especially for places like Australia, Indonesia, and India that get dried out by strong ENSO/warm PDO events.

06 July, 2015

July 2015 ENSO update: Equatorial anomalies, WWB's continue to ramp up

If I haven't been posting much to this blog in recent weeks/months, I apologize. Part of the reason has been my exceptionally high Twitter activity… ah, and activity there tends to be a distraction. Anyhow, I've been using a myriad of tools to track this pending El Niño event – everything from retweets, to WWB time-lon forecasts, to surface current anomalies, to observed SST anomalies, to SST anomaly forecasts, and all of them are beyond impressive.

SST anomalies: Exceptionally impressive to say the least


My last update (in May) showed a marginally warm strip along the equator. Now, however, it's July. What do we have here? Well…



Compare that to May, and clearly it's a sign that this event is, hands-down, the strongest since 1997. Do SST anomalies alone tell the whole story? Of course not, but it goes to show just how impressive this event is, with more WWB's and downwelling Kelvin waves (next paragraphs) on the way. What makes this map clearly differ from 2014 (especially) is the Banda Sea cold pool: it forces high pressure over Indonesia, thus keeping the atmospheric response locked in place.

Westerly trades: Cross-equatorial tropical cyclones, redux


You may recall that what initially kickstarted this event was a pair of tropical cyclones on both sides of the equator at the same longitude back in March: Cyclone Pam (yes, that's right, that monster, the one that ended up being a direct hit on Vanuatu, completely obliterating heavily populated portions of the island) on one side of the equator, and Tropical Storm Bavi (which never made it to typhoon status) on the other. Fast-forward to July 1 Australian time (technically late June 30 in California) and that exact same thing happened again: TS Chan-hom on one side of the equator, Cyclone Raquel (also a TS when the Saffir-Simpson Scale is applied) on the other. Although Cyclone Raquel was clearly weaker than Pam, it was still paired with another cyclone on the opposite side of the equator. When this occurs, it's like a WWB pitching machine: winds rotate counterclockwise north of the equator, clockwise south of it, and between the two, winds have only one way to blow: from W. Here:


As you can clearly see, what we're looking at is easily the most powerful westerly wind burst since March, and moreover, when Raquel dissipated, the Southern Hemisphere Booster followed right behind. Now, there's a pressure gradient of high in W, low in E, which can keep that WWB progressing further E. In ~5 days, this westerly wind burst could reach the far E Pacific, where more hurricanes (starting with Dolores) should form. For a review: the word "typhoon" is only used W of the date line; E of it, they're still hurricanes.

Kelvin waves: 3 and counting


You may recall that the April/May Kelvin wave was set off by the westerly wind burst induced by the Pam/Bavi cross-equatorial pair. However, the May westerly wind burst set off a second downwelling Kelvin wave. While the Kelvin wave in April only contained small patches of +6°C anomalies at depth, this one brought with it anomalies at depth of +6°C across the board, with patchy +7°C T-Depth anomalies. Then, Chan-hom and Raquel pitched in, and the result was a third Kelvin wave. Although it doesn't look too impressive at the moment, it's very fast-moving: in just a matter of, like, 3 days, it's gone from 165°E to the date line, and the WWB that spawned it continues to move east as well. On top of that, there's now a strong MJO superimposed on top of the Niño signal, adding to those westerly anomalies, and as mentioned above, there's also anomalous cooling of the Banda Sea helping to lock that signal in place.

Conclusion


So, we've got everything coupled… it's just a waiting game now. Let's see how strong this event gets, shall we? It would definitely mean the world to us in CA, especially in conjunction with cooling AMO, since cool Atlantic in general tends to want to shift the storm track south, and with the Hudson Bay now also heating up with warm anomalies, blocking should reposition over Canada… everything looks to be coming together. Everyone, this is going to be a wild ride.

03 July, 2015

6 Hours with a Nexus 6: By Far the Best (Albeit Biggest) Phone I've Used

Google's Nexus devices are certainly an awesome, developer-friendly bunch, to say the least. Being a registered (albeit student) Android and Chrome OS developer myself, it makes sense to have access to the latest and greatest software features Android has to offer, and that's where the Nexus phones deliver. Before November 2014, however, with AT&T, there was one caveat: Nexus devices simply weren't upgrade options. Until now.

This afternoon, I was able to, between last month and this month, come up with enough cold hard cash to pay off the remainder of my AT&T Next installment plan from last year and upgrade. Finally, I have what I've been waiting for: a Nexus 6, which is arguably the powerhouse of the whole line.

There's no doubt it feels great, despite its massive size: The phone is about as tall as the iPhone 6 Plus, but wider by about a half inch. Physically, it looks more tablet than phone: AT&T actually had a promotion where I got a free LG G Pad 8.3 with an upgrade. The G Pad 8.3 and Nexus 6 superimposed on each other look only marginally different in terms of the sheer size of the devices!

Although that may be a turn-off to some (and I don't blame them: even my huge hands cannot possibly wrap around the thing when I'm touching the screen; to make a call, I have to dial with two hands and THEN hold the phone up to my ear with one, or hold the phone with one hand and dial with the other), to me, it's simply part of the challenge of having a powerhouse: phones that are bigger also tend to be more powerful.

And the Nexus 6 is no exception. Sporting 4 cores of raw 2.7GHz Snapdragon power, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, a 13MP camera capable of shooting 4K video (that should come in handy for El Niño storm chasing this coming winter, in the best quality possible), and a screen resolution coming in at a whopping 2560x1440 (that's right: even the *screen* is near-4K), it's definitely among the most powerful phones on the market. Even the similarly large iPhone 6 Plus only has 2 cores, 1GB of RAM, and only half the screen resolution of this powerhouse.

Unlike similarly powerful phones such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, LG G3, and Samsung Galaxy S6 (which my mother now has), however, the Nexus 6 is developer-friendly no matter what carrier it came through. AT&T, you may recall, is notorious for locking bootloaders on its devices. Not the Nexus 6: a fully unlockable bootloader on my new phone was only a single toggle away. Yup, that's right: even the AT&T model is that easy to unlock! Oh, and the number of bloatware apps automatically installed on setup: Zilch. Zero. That's especially surprising given AT&T's track record, but it only makes the experience feel that much better.

Also, with access to M developer preview images, I hope to flash one of them soon, which should get rid of that hideous boot jingle and AT&T splash screen automatically. Of course, beta software means beta bugs, but as a developer with experience reporting bugs for other Google products (including Chrome OS Canary — that's right, I'm the one who figured out how to get Canary builds on my Chromebook, all on my own), I know precisely how to handle them.

For now, I'm just going to enjoy this phone as is. It's fast, it's powerful… oh, yeah, and it's as timely as humanly possible when it comes to OS updates, no doubt about that. It's clearly the device to beat.

30 May, 2015

Five Reasons Why TouchWiz is Horrible

I must admit, despite being a person who uses countless Google products, I've also been a rather staunch Samsung-hater. Yes, I have had a Galaxy S4, but it wasn't by choice, it was by force. But why, you ask? Why would I go out of my way to call TouchWiz "POSware"? Why does it even matter? It all goes back to the footprint it makes on the device and on the user experience. There are numerous factors, but the top five are definitely the most important ones. So, yup, time to count down those top five nagging TouchWiz headaches.

5. Knox: The evil of user freedom evils


Something is eerily NSA-like here. Not only are the bootloaders in Samsung devices hellishly locked down to the point where even Towelroot won't work in some cases, but there's this little switch, called a "qFuse", that spies on the phone's system partition, Big Brother style, and threatens to void the manufacturer's warranty on the device if it detects even the slightest degree of modification (removing #4, for instance). This is especially problematic for registered Android developers like me: merely testing apps is enough to trip it, and oh, yeah, it pretty much guarantees a hellishly evil ride for anyone trying to break out of the TouchWiz cyberprison.

4. Bloatware, bloatware everywhere!


This tends to be both an AT&T problem and a Samsung problem, but it's still a problem regardless. The amount of disk space for me, a registered developer, mind you, with developer needs, to use to develop and/or test apps is crucial. More disk space used up by Samsung and AT&T bloat means less disk space available to me, the developer, and the amount of running system processes adds to the burden by slowing the phone down and taking away precious testing time due to the latency. Android in general isn't an issue with this, but when Samsung and AT&T start adding on their own stuff on top of Google's and preventing that stuff's removal, wasting precious disk space in the process, the problematic details really add up. And apps that are "disabled" aren't uninstalled either. No, they're simply disabled, which means no, they won't function, however, they still waste precious disk space regardless.

3. Launchers Don't Change Everything


You may ask, 'Why not just install the Google Now Launcher on a Samsung device?' Because the launcher is only the home screen. What about the notification shade? The system/status icons? They all remain the same regardless of what launcher the user has installed, and moreover, they take up precious space on disk besides. Not to mention #2, due to the fact that Knox, among other serious barriers, prevents the user (or developer) from removing the old launcher once the new launcher is installed.

2. Multiple preinstalled apps that accomplish the same task


The KISS principle is seriously being violated by Samsung with this one. Simplicity is essential to the overall usability of a device. By attempting to copy Apple in every which way, what Samsung has done instead is made Android even more complicated than it needs to be. Take, for example, S Voice. Wait, S Voice still exists despite the fact that Google Now is the standard?!?! Yup. That means two virtual assistants, S Voice and Google Now, both preinstalled on the same device, creating an unnecessary duplication of a feature ― Google Now ― that the duplication in question should have just been ditched in favor of from the get-go. Another example is the Samsung Account. If I am prompted to sign into Google, why should I also be prompted to create or sign into an account with Samsung as well? It makes the device setup process even more hellishly convoluted than the setup process for (pardon me while I take a break to cringe at the word) Windows! And the fact that I'm typing this on a Chromebook sure says a whole lot about how I feel with regards to THAT operating system.

1. A user interface that complicates and bogs down performance


A comment I hear quite often from Apple zealots with regards to Android is the complaint, from personal experience with a device that isn't pure Google, that Android is "slow". And when it comes to Samsung in particular, man, are they right! Because of everything Google, Samsung, and AT&T, instead of just Google in the case of pure Android, have all contributed and poured into the device's system, the result is a slow, painful user experience that's being strangled by the OS, eerily Vista-like. Instead of keeping it simple, they make it complex. Instead of keeping it unified, they make it convoluted, and the resulting software salad, the über-OS that got forked into oblivion instead of kept natural, is, quite literally, what I would call the OS from Hell.