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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Songburst Counter-Revolution

I saw a suggestion by a friend posting on Facebook that a bunch of conservative friends get together and go down to where one of these protests was taking place and sing hymns. This struck me as a WONDERFUL way to make a statement and a stark contrast to the nastiness going on at the liberal rallies.

Just do it flash mob style.  Everyone shows up and the spontaneously breaks out in song. You could combat the catcalls and shoutdowns by equipping participants with earbuds and hook them up to a massive group cell phone call so everyone could stay on key and together whatever noise was put up against them.

You wouldn't need any signs or chants or anything intrusive. Simply choose your songs well to deliver the message you want to deliver. No need to confront. No need for any sort of aggressive behavior. Simply surround and burst out in song. If there's a problem, the participants are spread out and can fade back to safety. Let the "nasty women" and Occupy thugs do their tantrum throwing while the Songburst groups simply fade into the surrounding crowds.

I like the idea of a gentle, kindly message delivered in a powerful beautiful way with plenty of room to back away from a direct confrontation. Instead of turning the other cheek (which you might not want to do if your kids are there), you could simply and quickly withdraw your cheeks so to speak if anything ugly broke out.

I do believe this method would drive the anti-religion protest groups mad. It used to be that Christians would sing when burned at the stake and fed to the lions. These methods created new Christians at a rate that alarmed Rome. In today's media intensive society, such approaches would garner huge attention and be even more effective and powerful as messaging tools. Such techniques could be employed by church choirs, youth groups, parochial school groups, and could be organized via phone texts, Facebook and other social media.

So instead of causing conflict, counter protests could be light, flexible and adaptable to almost any situation and appear spontaneous to boot. Conservatives and Christians, sadly, do not protest well. Most of us have other things to do than show up for political rallies and we're not all that angry, so the prospect of screaming, shouting and tearing off our clothes that is associated with protest marches is less than appealing to us, so we tend to avoid it, leaving public declarations of that sort to our angrier more radical elements which is not good at all.

Songburst counter-protests might just be a powerful tool for expressing support for American and Christian values and principles.
Not only that, but such events would serve as opportunities to witness in a way that contrasts sharply with the aggressive socialist revolutionary style messaging of the left. Perhaps it's time we stand up as witnesses and not simply allow ourselves to be sent off to the gulags without any word of protest.

Just an idea.

© 2017 by Tom King

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Nobody Expects the Science Inquisition

This episode of James Burke's "The Day the Universe Change" is particularly fascinating and well worth watching. Science snobs always hate this bit. Burke's description of the structure of scientific progress is straight out of Thomas Kuhn's seminal work "The Structure of Scientific Revolution" and Burke is dead on. It upsets those who adhere to the modern cult of sciencism to think that their religion would actually hang on to bad ideas and false theories, but it does. I mean how many college professors are comfortable standing up in front of their classes and telling them to pitch out the $200 book (written by the professor) that they all were forced to buy for his class last year is all wrong. What Ph.D, wants to tell his grad students that some basic concept he forced them to memorize last year wasn't true at all this year? That's why science advances in plateaus and then big jumps. It's a lot of trouble to change out the textbooks.

I love Burke's idea that computer technology could make elitist centralized governments obsolete. The spectre of a human-utopia yields in this fantasy to a machine-utopia. Both optimistically assume that humans or machines can make things perfect, without the pesky need for God or for his work on changing the human heart. This episode dates back 3 decades or more from the beginning of the personal computer revolution before the Internet rose to it's current power. Burke had little idea just how much the existence of a machine-based free market of ideas would rattle the great halls of human power, whether for good or evil.

Of course politicians hold politics in the same reverence that scientists and science fans hold science and with the same naivete. A person's belief system greatly influences how he sees the world and what he believes to be true can lead him to do some pretty appalling things. Burke was right. If you are not comfortable with what he said in the episode about science, then you probably aren't a scientist, but a person who treats science as a religion. I expressed this, as I thought, reasonable opinion in the comment section of the video and immediately got romped on and called "vapid" an "idiot" and a "troll"

One expects this sort of reaction from science true believers when you challenge their religious devotion to the idea of the purity of science. Thomas Kuhn ruffled plenty of science fan feathers half a century ago, when, in his book, he pointed out the Achilles heel of science - the human factor. This factor tends to be ignored by science fanboys with the same intensity that Catholics ignore pedophilia amongst the priesthood. Anything that violates your religious belief (and make no mistake about it, sciencism is a religious) is rejected with disdain. Science personality Neil deGrasse Tyson does this sort of thing a lot. His predecessor Carl Sagan at least left a little room for things science doesn't know - in my opinion making him a more honest practitioner of science than deGrasse.

If you've ever hung around scientists and are at all free from the grip of overwhelming science adoration, you will be disturbed to find that scientists can be as prissy, self-centered a gang of egotists as the college of cardinals or attendees at an international congress on climate change. It is ironic that the religion of science, which purports to be so objective, is so prejudiced against opinions which differ from the accepted canon of science. Truly objective science allows for data from all sources. It doesn't puff itself up and push away any idea which challenges it's own opinion. The truth is that whether it's the practitioners of some narrow religious dogma or the "I believe in science" true believer who believes that science is the only pure way, either group deliberately wears blinders to anything upsetting. It's a form of cowardice.

I have found that there also exists a group of folk in the world who are scientists, theologians, philosophers, farmers, philosophers, and teachers who are not afraid of knowledge or of the experience of others which may challenge their own preconceived ideas. Such folks are the most wonderful examples of Homo-Sapiens I've ever known. Whether it's science, theology, psychology or philosophy, there are individuals within each intellectual pursuit who tend to ossify around a set of core beliefs. They shout down anyone who challenges their belief.  

The best of those who practice these intellectual disciplines realize that whether it be the physical, spiritual, mental, or intellectual world, there are mysteries yet to discover. Anyone who decides their particular belief system and their core collection of beliefs is the only unchallengeable one, is missing the incredible intellectual crossover benefits one gets from examining data from other sources than the ones familiar to you. Newton established ground-breaking physics principles that held to be the standard for centuries until folk like Einstein noticed some holes in them. Newton wrote books on theology too. Einstein famously said that he did not believe God played dice with the universe. C.S. Lewis drew upon science in his great works on Christian apologetics. Freeman Dyson once said that it looked like the universe knew we were coming. The best of scientists, theologians, philosophers and psychologists tend to have the broadest minds.

Neither science, nor theology, nor psychology, nor philosophy is at it's best when it sits back on its haunches and confidently proclaims, "I am all there is that is worth consideration." This is a terribly narrow view for science especially, which relies so heavily on informed speculation to support its theories; theories which, by the way, have a disturbing habit of being over-turned every half century or so. Every advance of science, every great discovery, every miraculous advance in technology happens because someone dares consider an idea that the rest of the herd at first thinks is a load of claptrap and then fastens it into a web of knowledge that has been woven by generations of previous scientists who also dared to think independently.

It is disturbing to see how rigidly narrow so many Americans have become around the "I believe only in science" faith. We are, after all, the descendants of a culture which embraced physical science, medicine, philosophy and theology with such unbridled enthusiasm that we changed the world forever. It would be a shame if we abandoned that heritage to embrace an entirely too limited faith in science that rejects any other opinion or idea that challenges the narrow views of its adherents.

In the old days, they used to burn people with different opinions at the stake, imprison them, chop off their heads, banish them or whip them. It starts with calling anyone whose opinion challenges the status quo a "Troll".  I like James Burke. I don't agree with everything he believes (he's pretty sure global warming is on the way), but he does make one think, which practice is the thing that drives the increase of human knowledge.

Just one man's opinion,

Tom King © 2017

Monday, January 09, 2017

Grandpa Saint Arnold and the Bottomless Beer Mug

One of my sainted ancestors has
his very own stained glass window.
I've been working on my family tree in my down time lately and discovered that if you shake your tree very hard, there's no telling what may fall out. If you get into the records of the nobility, it gets really weird. My wife and I share several ancestors - some Frankish kings, some barons and earls, and even a couple of saints. Apparently, one of both mine and my wife's shared ancestors managed to get himself canonized as a Saint, largely because he led an outfit during the First Crusade and exterminated a lot of pagans, Jews and Muslims. Wow! Pope Urban certainly had different ideas about what made one saintly than I do!

Another of my saintly ancestors was Saint Arnulf of Metz or Saint Arnuiph depending on who is spelling it. He supposedly dislike violence in the court where he was adviser to King Theodosius II and threw his bishop's ring into the water. Later his servant caught a fish and when he was cleaning it to prepare for Arnulf's supper, he found the ring inside the fish. The "miracle" he performed supposedly after his death and the one that earned him sainthood would have pleased his McClure descendants mightily....


St Arnold nee Arnulf
It was July 642 and very hot when the parishioners of Metz went to Remiremont to recover the remains of their former bishop (Arnulf). They had little to drink and the terrain was inhospitable. At the point when the exhausted procession was about to leave Champigneulles, one of the parishioners, Duc Notto, prayed “By his powerful intercession the Blessed Arnold will bring us what we lack.” Immediately the small remnant of beer at the bottom of a pot multiplied in such amounts that the pilgrims' thirst was quenched and they had enough to enjoy the next evening when they arrived in Metz.  -Wikipedia: Arnulf of Metz

So apparently the pope decided that if Christ could turn water into wine, Arnulf's "miraculous bottomless beer mug" should earn him a place among the saints. I know many of my Irish ancestors would have agreed. The Germans certainly did. There is a brewery in Houston named after him and he has his own Feast Day on July 18.

Edward I Longshanks
The Cranky King of England
Turns out my family also has several Western Roman emperors up the old family tree, and, to my shame, Edward I "Longshanks" is my great great + grandpappy. You may remember him as the villainous King of England in the movie "Braveheart." We Kings are also related to Clovis I, the first king of the Franks and to Marcus Arelius the Roman general. We're also related to Charles Martel who turned back the Islamic invasion of Europe at the Battle of Tours, October 10, 732.

And don't get me going on the Vikings. There's a whole string of Erics, Olafs, Ragnars and folks with the sobriquet, "The Bold", "The Valiant", and "The Brave". There are also a disturbing number of "The Simples".
And I haven't even got started on the Irish side of the family yet.

Genealogy apparently shakes out the good fruit along with the rotten apples. The nobility kept good records of their family trees. Lots of limbs just disappear into the darkness of the unrecorded peasantry, of course. The nobility did scatter a lot of extraneous seed about, though. A lot of the mothers were unwed mistresses apparently. In several cases the old family tree grows together among its upper branches. One gal had the same Grandmother on both sides of her family. It's kind of fascinating. I'm still adding from my own research and have caught onto several little brand new branches of my family tree in doing so.

It's really an interesting sport.

Charles "The Hammer" Martel - The Scourge
of Islam (we call him Grandpa Chuck).
In digging up the McClure side of my family tree (my Dad's formidable mother's people) I hooked into someone who did a lot of research and shared my great great great grandfather. Through him I got hooked up with some Scots nobility that the McClures went back to through several unwed mothers. It's incredible who you bump into if you're related to the European nobility. They kept quite meticulous family records in order to maintain their position in the nobility and can go back an astonishing way. And many of my progenitors, like Charles Martel, Louis II and others turned out to be historically interesting figures.

I've found records on my wife's side that go back beyond 1520 BC. She has one line that hooked onto a Levite family that claims connections that to go back to Ruth and Boaz and Ruth's side gets into some serious biblical genealogy and goes back all the way to Adam and Eve and you can't go much farther back than that.

My own kin ten to be rather more prosaic by and large and heavily charged with peasant genes. That said, our bloodline does include some very naughty fellows. We have some Swedish kings including a King Olaf (not the snowman from the Disney flick), several dozen princes or so, and a scattering of Earls and barons and baronesses, and, believe it or not, one really unsavory count who bore the cheery nickname of Vlad the Impaler.

Behold, my great, great, great,........etc. Grandpa!
Grandpa Vlad (the Impaler)

That's right I am the great great great+ grandson of Count Dracula. It would certainly explain my problematic relationship with garlic (which it took a long time for me to come to appreciate) and silver (which I cannot seem to collect in any quantity) and my tendency to stay up late at night. I like to make pointy things out of wood though. Go figure!

If you're interested in digging up some of your own ancestors, forgo the shovels please and go visit the Mormons at It's free and as you start to enter your family members into your tree, the software will suggest possible matches from other family trees that other researchers have placed on the website and if the birthdates and stuff match, you will suddenly have all sorts of new ancestors to explore.  How much fun is that? Who knows you too could be related to Boris the Bloody, Ragnar the Vicious or, perhaps, Vlad the Impaler might be great grandpa to both of us. If he is, I recommend lots of sunscreen when you go outdoors. I've seen the movies.....

© 2017 by Tom King