Saturday, May 16, 2015

Conditional immortality: what's in a name?


Gilgamesh was the legendary king of Uruk, the ancient Mesopotamian city-state. Apparently, he was a historical figure who become the subject of legendary embellishment. 

Since these were warrior cultures, it's probably the case that he was a warrior king. But in Mesopotamian mythology and royal propaganda, he become a demigod. 

It's quite possible that's the kind of figure which Gen 6:1-4 is alluding to. It demythologizes what ANE culture mythologizes. Cuts him down to size. A mere mortal who goes the way of all "flesh" (v3). 

And his legendary associations with a catastrophic flood would be a natural lead in to the account of the deluge in Gen 6-9. A historical figure, a historical flood. But in both instances, Genesis provides a corrective to what became garbled in heathen myth political or national legend.  

Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither?

I recently read a new publication in the Counterpoints series: Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither?: Three Views on the Bible's Earliest Chapters. Several snapshot observations:

i) Stan Gundry is the series editor. In that capacity I assume he picks the editor for each book in the series. If so, this book reflects his theological deterioration. What in the world possessed him to choose Charles Halton was the general editor? Halton is a flaming liberal. As general editor, he writes the introduction, conclusion, and picks the contributors. As such, the thumb is on the liberal side of the scales. 

ii) The three contributors are James Hoffmeier, Gordon Wenham, and Kenton Sparks. Presumably, the idea is that these three contributors span a spectrum: Hoffmeier (conservative), Wenham (moderate), Sparks (liberal). 

iii) Both Hoffmeier and Wenham have useful things to say. But even Hoffmeier's position is unsatisfactory. For instance, he says:

God possibly took a human or hominid (with genetic links to earlier forms of life) and made him the first true "man" (adam), made uniquely in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26-27; 5:1b-2; 9:6b), and thus a special creation. Such an approach does not militate against a historical Adam whose way of life is described as Neolithic (144-45).

Problem is, that's not how Gen 2 depicts the origin of Adam (or Eve). So that's not the historical Adam of Genesis. Rather, that begins with the theory of human evolution, lifts some Biblical language out of context, then grafts that onto a hominid.

However, he also scores some good points. Sparks' makes establishment science his standard of comparison. In response, Hoffmeier says:

Then one must ask, by what biological law or principle can the incarnation of Jesus Christ, his virgin birth, and his death followed by his resurrection on the third day be explained? (142).

Clearly, some miracles transcend scientific explanation. But once you make allowance for that fact (or even possibility), then you can't preemptively exclude the historicity of other Biblical events on scientific grounds. To be consistent, Sparks would have to go all the way with Bultmann. So his position is ad hoc and unstable.

iv) Other than a few BioLogos articles, this is the only thing I've read by Sparks. Along with Enns, he's a prominent critic of inerrancy. So it was revealing to see how he makes his case. 

Much of his position is based on boilerplate comparative mythology, etymological fallacies, and source criticism of the Wellhausen variety. I won't comment on this, in part because Hoffmeier and Wenham critique it, and because he simply ignores other scholars–conservative, moderate, or even liberal–who scrutinize the type of source criticism, etymologies, and comparative mythology he resorts to. 

He says:

From where we stand, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, in a time when we've sequenced the Neanderthal genome and traced out the DNA our shared genetic heritage with primates and other mammals, it is no longer possible for informed readers to interpret the book of Genesis as straightforward history. There was no Edenic garden, nor trees of life and knowledge, nor a serpent that spoke, nor a worldwide flood in which all living things, save those on a giant boat, were killed by God (111). 

This paragraph bristles with difficulties:

i) To begin with, the second sentence is a non sequitur. It just doesn't follow from the first sentence. Even if we grant human evolution for the sake of argument, how would that falsify the existence of an Edenic garden, trees of life and knowledge, a talking snake, or global flood? Their possibility (or actuality) is logically independent of human evolution–even if that were true.

ii) What does he mean by "the Neanderthal genome"? Is there a single Neanderthal genome? From what I've read, this was sequenced from three fossils. At best, that's a tiny sample.

For instance, Christopher Hitchens had his genome mapped. That means there's a distinction between an individual human genome and the homo sapien genome. Same principle applies to Neanderthal. 

iii) Why does Sparks think the Neanderthal genome is significant? How does he related Neanderthal to Homo Sapiens? Does he think Neanderthals were human, or does he regard them as different hominids on a separate twig or branch that died out? Or does he regard them as a transitional species? What about possible evidence of interbreeding between Cromagnon and Neanderthal?

In my opinion, there's nothing in Biblical anthropology that precludes Neanderthals from being homo sapiens. Descendants of Adam and Eve.  

iv) How does shared DNA imply common derivation? Wouldn't we expect organisms that live in the same ecosystem to shame some common genetic structures? Doesn't that follow from carbon-based life forms? 

v) He simply disregards scientific criticisms of the alleged genetic evidence for universal common descent.

vi) He disregards the arguments of flood geologists for a global deluge. And he disregards the arguments of some scientists and exegetes for a local flood.

vii) He assumes the tempter was a snake, although the Hebrew word has multiple connotations.

viii) Another oddity is that elsewhere in the same book, he doesn't think the redactors even intended many of these depictions to be factual. He says:

He [the narrator] might (for instance) intend the serpent in Genesis as a symbol of temptation's origins rather than as a literal creature that once walked upright and, having erred, was sentenced to life as a mute and slithering snake (103). 
Given the level of creativity in the paradise/fall story, it is very doubtful that the author regarded his myth as historical in the strict sense of the word. It was a theological composition, steeped in allegory and symbol… (126). 
The Antiquarian knew that serpents do not talk…While it is unlikely that the Apologist believed in a literal six-day creation and even less likely that the Antiquarian believed in a literal garden with trees… (138-39).

But if, according to Sparks, that's the case, then science can't disprove an account that was never meant to be realistic in the first place. So why does he even invoke establishment science as his standard of comparison? By his own lights, that's a category mistake, inasmuch as these accounts were never intended to describe real-world events.  He's resorting to contradictory objections to attack inerrancy.

ix) Conversely, he says: 

I continue to suspect that the much-discussed "Black Sea deluge" is behind it. Such a catastrophe could have spawned the belief in a universal flood…By the time this story reached the biblical authors, the written flood traditions were already several millennia old (131). 
Everyone in antiquity seems to have believed that this deluge took place because they were not privy to the insights of modern geology and evolutionary biology (139).

So, by his own admission, Noah's flood has a factual basis. He thinks it overstates the scale of the event, but it wasn't fictional.

Day and night

Based on a couple of passages in Revelation, some Christians think the sun and moon will not exist in the world to come:
23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there (Rev 21:23-25).And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever (Rev 22:5).
However, I regard that as figurative imagery. In addition, if we take that literally, then it contradicts another statement in Revelation:
And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name (Rev 14:11). 
Therefore, that's another reason to view Rev 22:23-25 & 22:5  figuratively. 

Powerful, Honorable, And Glorious, With Crucifixion Wounds?

The resurrection accounts in the New Testament include some details that are embarrassing or unusual and, therefore, are less likely to be fabricated. I discuss several examples in the post just linked. I want to elaborate on one of them here.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Two faces of Enns

On the one hand:

Literalism is a hermeneutical decision (even if implicit) as much as any other approach, and so needs to be defended as much as any other. Literalism is not the default godly way to read the Bible that preserves biblical authority. It is not the “normal” way of reading the Bible that gets a free pass while all others must face the bar of judgment. 
So, when someone says, “I don’t read Genesis 1-3 as historical events, and here are the reasons why,” that person is not “denying biblical authority.” That person may be wrong, but that would have to be judged on some basis other than the ultimate conversation-stopper, “You’re denying biblical authority.

On the other hand:

In the long run, however, I am not convinced that all—or even most—of these readers will feel comfortable following Collins. Collins's synthesis requires an ad hoc hybrid "Adam" who was "first man" in the sense of being either a specially chosen hominid or a larger tribe of early hominids (Collins is careful not to commit himself to either option). Although I am sympathetic to Collins's efforts to blaze such a path (and he is not alone), I do not see how such an ad hoc Adam will calm doctrinal waters, since the Westminster Confession of Faith leaves no room for anything other than a first couple read literally from the pages of Genesis and Paul, and therefore entails a clear rejection of evolutionary theory. 
Further, this type of hybrid "Adam," clearly driven by the need to account for an evolutionary model, is not the Adam of the biblical authors. Ironically, the desire to protect the Adam of scripture leads Collins (and others) to create an Adam that hardly preserves the biblical portrait. Evolution and a historical Adam cannot be merged by positing an Adam so foreign to the biblical consciousness.

[I'm quoting from a secondary source because the original review is no longer available online.]

When it serves his purpose, Enns belittles the literal interpretation of Gen 1-3. He says denying the historicity of Gen 1-3 is not equivalent to denying biblical authority.

Yet out of the other side of his mouth, he attacks the non-literal interpretation of John Collins. Enns thinks the correct interpretation requires Adam and Eve to literally be the first human beings. 

There's no internal consistency to his position. The only point of consistency is that he will say anything, however, contradictory, to attack the Bible and Bible-believing Christians. 

The churches of Revelation

i) In Revelation, why are "letters" addressed to seven churches in Asia Minor? (I put "letters" in scare quotes because that classification is disputable.)

How we answer that question has potentially larger significance for how we interpret Revelation.

ii) There are a number of fine scholars who concentrate on the 1C setting of Revelation (e.g. Aune, Bauckham, Hemer, Keener, Metzger, Thompson, Yamauchi). That's a useful perspective. However, that interpretation tends to select for scholars who are Classicists or historians by training and temperament. Their aptitude creates a hermeneutical bias. 

There's nothing necessarily wrong with that. It's good to have scholars with different abilities. There is, however, a danger when the aptitude, expertise, and interests of the scholar controls the interpretation. For the interpretation may be oriented by the scholar rather than the text.

Clearly, that's a risk of any scholar, which is why it's helpful to have different scholars with different skill sets. They offset each other's one-sidedness. 

iii) In addition, some scholars focus on the 1C setting because they don't think John could really foresee the distant future. 

iv) One popular explanation, originally proposed by Ramsey, is that these churches (or cities) lay along the same road. He also postulated that these were postal sites. 

However, scholars like Aune say that theory lacks archeological confirmation. They say Ramsey essentially began with the seven churches, then drew a road–rather than beginning with evidence for a road connecting the seven churches. 

v) A number of scholars point out that the seven churches are arranged in a horseshoe pattern, and the order in which they are addressed in Revelation follows that circuit. So that's a logical route which a messenger or letter-courier would take. 

That's certainly intriguing. If, however, these churches didn't lie on the same road, then it's unclear how that literary sequence has any intrinsic or logistical significance.

vi) In addition, there's no evidence that these letters ever circulated separately. Rather, these letters are integral to the structure of Revelation. Each church would read all seven letters. Indeed, each church would read the entire book. The letters weren't sent individually to each respective church. In that event, the route seems to lose practical significance. Addressing a letter to each church may be a literary device. 

vii) Moreover, there's evidence for more than seven churches in Asia Minor at the time John wrote. Paul mentions churches at Colossae, Hierapolis (Col 1:2; 4:13), and Troas (2 Cor 2:12), while Luke seconds the reference to a church in Troas (Acts 20:6-12. And Ignatius writes to churches in Tralles and Magnesia. Obviously, the Ignatian churches antedate his letters to the Ignatian churches. 

It's possible that these additional churches didn't exist at the time of Revelation. It depends, in part, on when Revelation was written. But whether earlier or later, there's probably some chronological overlap with at least some of the additional churches.

viii) An obvious general explanation for John's selection-criteria is his numerology. Seven is a significant, oft-repeated symbolic figure in Revelation. Indeed, I think that's the primary criterion, even apart from other considerations. 

ix) One objection to that explanation is that while it would explain why John chose seven churches, it fails to explain why he chose those seven churches in particular. By way of response:

a) If the figure is determined by numerology, then the choice is bound to be somewhat arbitrary.

b) But this also depends on whether we think those letters are about those seven churches. There are scholars (e.g. Hemer) who think the content of each letter targets the specific situation of each church. But there are other scholars (e.g. Koester, Michaels) who think the letters use generic imagery which is transferable to other churches. The conditions are not unique to each church. 

There's a certain circularity in the method of scholars like Hemer. Is the evidence driving the date? Or is the presumptive date selecting for the relevant evidence?

Unless you already know when the book was written, and unless you already know that the letters address the distinctive situation of each church, the parallels you adduce to date the book or interpret the letters has the theory driving the evidence rather than the evidence driving the theory.

x) If, in fact, the letters are more generic, the selection-criterion is largely numerological, and  seven churches function as a representative sample-group, then the significance of their historical particularity recedes into the background. Even though these were real 1C churches, they stand for churches generally. They are used to illustrate certain characteristic virtues and vices. They function as an encouragement or admonition to Christian churches at anytime and place.

In that event, the letters are not about a particular church at a particular time and place (i.e. 1C Anatolia). Even though, as a literary device, the "letters" are written to these individual churches, they are really written for Christian communities throughout church history. 

xi) Assuming that's the case, then this conditions how we should understand the threat of Jesus coming back in judgment to some of these churches. That refers, not to the second advent, but to interadventual events. 

The Significance Of Long-Lasting New Testament Manuscripts

If anybody is interested, I just put up a post on my Facebook account that elaborates on the significance of the article by Craig Evans that I discussed earlier this week.

Agricola, “Loci”, and the Birth of Systematic Theology

The question may be asked as if by a youngster: “Daddy, where did systematic theology come from?”

(For the benefit of the Roman Catholics in our audience, I am making a joke: I’m taking the question that is frequently asked, “where do babies come from”, and applying it to “systematic theology”. This should not be construed as if I’m suggesting that Protestant theologies only came into existence in the 16th century. They did not. The bases for these theologies had existed since Old Testament times. The problem is that Rome, because of its supposed position of authority and influence, had not only allowed but actually fostered some fairly distorted viewpoints and doctrines to flourish; and so the Reformers and the Reformed Orthodox, interested in “how to think rightly about God and the things He is doing in the world”, had to disentangle all of the distortions from all of the right thinking that also been carried through the centuries…)

This blog post will seek to show how the Reformed Orthodox writers (those who wrote in the generations after Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin) came upon their method first of all for understanding what the sources of theology were, and then what the topics of theology were.

Keep in mind that once you reject “Church authority” as a principle of “how we know what to believe” – and that is precisely what was done at the Reformation – you have to try to understand really what it is that you understand, and how you understand it.

That involves understanding the long-term relationship that God, who has the genuine authority, has sought to create and foster with sinful mankind, and also how He communicates to us.

Richard Muller describes “the development of theological method in the mid-sixteenth century…”

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The pope and the PLO

The Vatican has formally recognized "the State of Palestine." I suppose there's a certain logic in that. A fictitious vicar of Christ makes a treaty with the fictitious state of the fictitious Palestinian people. What it lacks in reality, it makes up for in symmetry. 

A few quick observations:

i) This is additional evidence that the church of Rome has become just another mainline denomination. It is not a moral leader, but a moral follower. It takes its cue from the secular elite.

The church of Rome has had some lingering conservatism on ethical issues. However, under Pope Francis, even that residual conservatism is rapidly eroding.

ii) It's nice to see the Vatican give formal recognition to a jihadist terrorist state. Such moral discernment!

iii) Then we have this statement:

Hanan Ashrawi, PLO executive committee member, welcomed the Vatican's recognition of the state of Palestine.
In a statement, Ashrawi said: "The significance of this recognition goes beyond the political and legal into the symbolic and moral domains and sends a message to all people of conscience that the Palestinian people deserve the right to self-determination, formal recognition, freedom and statehood."

Ashrawi was an instrumental propagandist. She's the daughter of the PLO cofounder. 

When Peter Jennings was Beruit bureau chief, she became his girlfriend. Recruiting him to the "Palestinian" cause proved to be a very strategic dalliance. It's hard not to suspect that she functioned as a honeypot or Mata Hari. Seducing Peter Jennings was a public relations bonanza for the PLO. He went on to become the ABC anchorman, in which position he could influence elite opinion, recasting Muslim terrorists in the role of freedom fighters, victimized by Israel. Having a PLO plant at the helm of a major American news network was quite a coup, facilitating a successful propaganda campaign.

Time Travel

I've been telling people for years that Pikes Peak is named after me, so they can invest in my time machine because they already know it's a sure thing. Despite this, I've still had my share of naysayers and detractors. Last night, I proved them all wrong.

I've been working on my time machine on the sly. Since these are the types of things that one must be careful with, I decided early on that I would need a disguise. A police telephone box from Britain was too on the nose, so I decided to build mine to look like a stone chest.

But the externals aren't really that important. The key is the theory that goes into it. Ever since Einstein, we've begun to realize that time and space are intertwined. And moreso, there is an upper limit on velocity. You can go through any of the three spacial dimensions--up/down, left/right, forward/back--and through time, but only a set speed. The faster you move through space, the slower you move through time, and vice versa. Once you're moving at zero velocity in time, then you are maxed out in space at roughly 3 x 108 m/s. If you could go faster than that, then you would actually end up going negative speed in time, which would mean you're going back in time.

So far, that's nothing new. Superman used it to spin the world backwards and save Lois Lane. Although why he didn't save every single person on Earth by doing that is something he has yet to adequately explain to the Hague.

But of course, it's well understood that nothing in real physics can go faster than light. Except that's not true! Consider a black hole. Once you're past the event horizon, where gravity is pulling so strong that light cannot escape, then all of light's spacial velocity is transmitted into time. But since gravity is so strong at that massive black hole, then not only does the spacial velocity become 0, but it in fact becomes negative. And that means that the extra velocity has to balance out in time. Thus, at the black hole's event horizon, time travel occurs.

The key here is to realize that spacial travel, which can be described by geometry, is equivalent to temporal travel, which can also be described by geometry. In other words, geometry alone can solve the conundrum of space travel. If one is able to draw the correct figure in the correct dimensions, one can harness the very same principals at work in the event horizon simply by carving the geometric pattern into a sculpture.

Through trial and error, I discovered that the best material to use for such a sculpture is solid mercury. However, the heat of time travel effectively renders it impossible to adequately cool mercury to a solid state. Even running at full capacity, my heat sync can only cool the interior of my time machine to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Thankfully, a close second for adequate material is the time-honored gold.

So I set to work carving the patterns needed into the surface of some gold plates I created just for the occasion. This required bit of carving in the 4th dimension, which was not without its own risks, but suffice to say I was able to follow the equations I had mapped out.

In order to function, I needed a destination time plate, and I needed an origin plate. The origin plate required at least six months of work to carve, so I had to first calculate where the Earth would be in space and time at a date in the future I could use. Then I carved that plate for the origin, as well as the plate needed to take me back to 1806 at the top of Pikes Peak.

I can tell you that it was with great anticipation that I climbed into the time machine late last night. I knew that my theory would work, but to actually watch it happen was even more impressive! While in the box, I felt a sudden whoosh, almost like I was folding up inside my chest. Then, an exhilarating drop.

But almost immediately I realized that something was amiss. The box began to shake and I was suddenly cast out of it at great velocity. I appeared about five feet above a meadow in a region that looked nothing like the Pikes Peak area. After falling to the ground with a rather undignified whump, I took a moment to gather my bearings and stood.

A young man was standing in the field holding a dowsing rod. His mouth was open in shock at what he had just seen. He was wearing trousers and a shirt that looked like some movies I'd seen, so I prayed I was still in America somewhere in the past, hopefully near 1807. I said, "Hello there, my good man! What is your name?"

"Smith," he replied, and I knew at once that I was in the company of someone who spoke my language. This was a relief to me, for if he had responded in German I might have felt obligated to hunt down the great-great-grandfather of Hitler. But instead, I said: "Can you tell me, my good man Smith, by what name is yonder town known?"

"This be the town of Manchester," he responded.

"I always wanted to visit England," I said with a smile, but inwardly I was at least 6% miffed. Somehow I had miscalculated and ended up completely across the ocean.

"Nay, sir. Manchester, New York," Smith responded.

Well, that was certainly closer than England, I realized. I wondered how I had miscalculated the trajectory so it was halfway across America but not the world. Then I realized he had asked me a question. "Beg pardon?"

"I asked, kind sir, what is your name?"

At that exact moment, it hit me. The final angle in my plate was wrong! I had calculated the cosine instead of the sine. "The angle!" I cried out to myself. "Moron! I--" I glanced at Smith once more. In addition to the dowsing rod, he was carrying a shovel. "Yes, that's it!"

With that, I did a quick mental calculation and determined that my time machine would have embedded itself inside the hillside just a mere twenty yards away. With Smith in tow, I rushed up the hillside and said, "Dig here."

After a few minutes, we uncovered the time machine, and I was grateful it resembled a stone box instead of a police box! We hauled it out of the ground and I opened it up. Smith looked inside in amazement. "What are these?" he asked, pointing to my origin plate.

I knew that I had to be careful. If I messed up the timeline, it could have disastrous consequences. "Plates," I hedged.

"But there's writing on it."

If Smith realized that these were calculations for time travel, it could be ruinous. "It's Reformed Egyptian," I said. "No big deal. Leave them alone."

I dug out the destination block and quickly flipped the angle on the last diagram. "Please excuse me," I told Smith, climbing into the box. I powered the machine on and seconds later appeared...exactly where I'd been before. Although things looked a little different. Smith had appeared to age. I'd say about a year.

I grumbled and hit the switch again, and for a second time appeared in the exact same spot about a year later. I hit the switch, and wouldn't you know it? It happened again! That this was annoying should be obvious to all. Smith seemed glad to see me, though.

This time I spent a few more minutes and realized that in my haste I had mistakenly left about a micron of extraneous gold on one of the ridges of the destination plate. I buffed it out, hit the switch, and appeared atop Pikes Peak exactly when I should have appeared the first time!

I cannot describe the joy I felt at becoming the first person to visit the summit of the mountain named after myself. Unfortunately, my joy was short-lived, for it was then that I realized I was missing the origin plate. Smith had taken it out of the time machine! That meant I couldn't use it to return to when I'd left.

Now more than 20% miffed, I re-reversed the angle on the original destination plate and went back. In my rush, I wasn't quite as precise as I needed to be, and thus I didn't make it back at the exact moment I had disappeared, as I'd planned. But luckily I was able to track Smith down and demanded he give me my plate back. He said he was finished with it, and I gladly took it from him without having to resort to violence. Who knows how the timeline might have been altered if I had been forced to kill him to retrieve my plate?

Anyway, I flipped the plates and this time used extra care so I returned to my own time just five seconds after I had left. I can now conclude that time travel is a hazardous adventure, to say the least. I got out of this trip without ruining our timeline, but I feel like I dodged a bullet. Next time, I must be far more careful.

Still, I've proven the concept works beyond all doubt now. So you can start investing now.

Note: This is based off a short comment I left on one of Steve Hays's posts earlier. My good friend Travis convinced me it should be fleshed out and become a short story.

Angels of the churches

He thinks it may designate lectors who read Scripture aloud at Christian gatherings. 

The celestial teapot

Apocalyptic monsters

John's Apocalypse contains some hybrid monsters. Now, the apocalyptic genre lends itself to symbolic imagery. Indeed, these are visions, so they needn't be physically realistic. Dreams and visions aren't constrained by what's physically possible. So I don't assume these are literally descriptive.

That said, I'm open to the possibility that these descriptions are physically realistic. For instance, it's the objective of transhumanists to enhance human abilities by becoming cyborgs through bioengineering. In addition, we now have genetic modification, including transgenic organisms. Then there's the specter of a head transplant:

Likewise, there was this recent experiment:

To understand how one changed into another, a team has been tampering with the molecular processes that make up a beak in chickens.
To begin to understand this, the team trawled though changes in the ways genes are expressed in the embryos of chickens and several other animals. They looked at the embryos of mice, emus, alligators, lizards and turtles, representing many of the major animal groups.
They found that birds have a unique cluster of genes related to facial development, which the non-beaked creatures lacked.
When they silenced these genes, the beak structure reverted back to its ancestral state. So too did the palatal bone in the roof of the mouth.
To make this genetic tweak, Bhullar and his colleagues isolated the proteins that would have gone on to develop beaks. Then they suppressed them using tiny beads coated with an inhibiting substance.

The team found that two proteins known to orchestrate the development of the face, FGF and Wnt, were expressed differently in bird and reptile embryos. In reptiles, the proteins were active in two small areas in the part of the embryo that turns into the face. In birds, by contrast, both proteins were expressed in a large band across the same region in the embryo. Bhullar sees the result as tentative evidence that altered FGF and Wnt activity contributed to the evolution of the beak.
To test this idea, the team added biochemicals to block the activity of both proteins in dozens of developing chicken eggs.

By tampering with genes, transferring genes, transplanting heads, &c., scientists may end up creating hybrids reminiscent of Dr. Moreau nightmarish island. The cross-species monsters in Revelation might be more realistic than we could anticipate just 50 years ago. 


There's a story out about "dino-chickens":

To understand how one changed into another, a team has been tampering with the molecular processes that make up a beak in chickens.
To begin to understand this, the team trawled though changes in the ways genes are expressed in the embryos of chickens and several other animals. They looked at the embryos of mice, emus, alligators, lizards and turtles, representing many of the major animal groups.
They found that birds have a unique cluster of genes related to facial development, which the non-beaked creatures lacked.
When they silenced these genes, the beak structure reverted back to its ancestral state. So too did the palatal bone in the roof of the mouth.
To make this genetic tweak, Bhullar and his colleagues isolated the proteins that would have gone on to develop beaks. Then they suppressed them using tiny beads coated with an inhibiting substance.
The team found that two proteins known to orchestrate the development of the face, FGF and Wnt, were expressed differently in bird and reptile embryos. In reptiles, the proteins were active in two small areas in the part of the embryo that turns into the face. In birds, by contrast, both proteins were expressed in a large band across the same region in the embryo. Bhullar sees the result as tentative evidence that altered FGF and Wnt activity contributed to the evolution of the beak.
To test this idea, the team added biochemicals to block the activity of both proteins in dozens of developing chicken eggs.
It's a fascinating experiment. No doubt some impressionable readers will consider this to be the best evidence ever for evolution. By silencing certain genes, you can watch evolution in reverse. Rewind the evolutionary tape to view an earlier stage. We see it happen right before our very eyes! 

Reminds me of a TNG episode ("Genesis") in which crew members deevolved. Even if you believe in evolution, the episode was ridiculous. Admittedly, Riker was typecast to play a caveman. But you have Barclay becoming a spider, Troy becoming a giant salamander, and Worf becoming a venomous snapping turtle. 

Seems to me the inference that suppressing certain genes caused the chicken to deevolve is fallacious.

i) Anyone who knows anything about birds knows that many birds have specialized beaks which are adapted to their particular diet, viz. flamingo, pelican, hawk, huron, hummingbird, duck, woodpecker, sandpiper, toucan, crossbill, spoonbill. The configuration of the beak is less about time (the past) than space (the environment). They have, or develop, the beak they need to capitalize on a particular food source or food stuff. 

A number of waterfowl have serrated beaks to grasp slippery food items. The appearance is quite similar to the genetically modified chicken.  

ii) Creationism doesn't deny common ancestry. Creationism denies universal common descent. But creationism grants that many current species derive from earlier species. Moreover, current species reflect adaptive modifications to their environment. 

For instance, some bats are insectivorous, some bats are frugivorous, and some bats are hematophagous. Now, it's possible that if you blocked certain proteins, the embryo would revert to a common ancestral form. But these are microevolutionary variations. 

Likewise, I assume it's possible to reverse selective breeding so that dogs might revert to a more lupine appearance. But I suppose that depends on whether artificial breeding caused a loss of genetic information. 

“The art of speaking in a probable way”

Down below, in response to the question “how do you know?” Steve Hays commented:

Why must we “know” that we have the right interpretation? Why is it not enough to have the most reasonable interpretation?

If God holds us responsible for what we can know, and if our interpretations come down to the most reasonable or probable interpretation, then that’s all that God requires of us.

A Roman apologist like Bryan Cross will tend to propose that God’s method for creation and revelation involves rigorous logical deduction. The problem with that is, the history that God has given us is not a rigorous sequence of causes and events; Scripture and history are not comprised of rigorously logical arguments or sets of arguments.

For Rome, and for Bryan following, however, “the Church” (meaning the “Roman Catholic Church”) was given by God in a logical and an ontological way in Matt 16:18, never to change. The same exact ontological structure that it has today was ontologically in place at Matt 16:18, and therefore it (and all of its rules and strictures) must be obeyed as if Rome’s rules and strictures come to us directly from the very mouth of Christ.

That, of course, is merely an assumption: it is an empty, unprovable assumption upon which the whole Roman edifice is resting: all of its historical claims to authority, its claims of epistemological certainty, its sacraments, its treadmill of religious practices – all of the Roman Catholic “things you gotta do” to appease God are resting upon a meaningless claim of authority.

There is a way of thinking about these things that is more respectful of both the natural ordering and the history of things, bypassing strictly logical deduction in favor of a more inductive, inferential way of thinking.

This is outlined by Richard Muller in his work “The Unaccommodated Calvin”:

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Is American Christianity in decline?

Blind guides

Rev. Andy Stanley (pastor of reputed Atlanta megachurch North Point Ministries; son of famous conservative pastor Charles Stanley) is seriously misguided in a number of his comments on homosexuality. He comes across as someone who supports homosexual unions but can't come out and say it directly for fear of losing members. If Stanley can't clearly support Jesus' teaching on the male-female matrix for human sexuality, it is time for members of his church to consider a different church home.
(1) He finds it "offensive that Christians would leverage faith to support the Kansas [religious freedom] law." He said, "Serving people we don't see eye to eye with is the essence of Christianity. Jesus died for a world with which he didn't see eye to eye.... Jesus taught that if a person is divorced and gets remarried, it's adultery. So if (Christians) don't have a problem doing business with people getting remarried, why refuse to do business with gays and lesbians."
Stanley confuses baking a generic cake (which Christian bakers have not refused to do) with producing a "gay wedding" cake, replete with lettering (which Christian bakers have rightly refused as immoral). The fact that Jesus died for a sinful world in no way suggests that Jesus would produce goods and services that directly celebrate immorality. "Repent" was a staple of Jesus' message, as were judgment warnings for those who did not (for example, the warnings against Galilean cities in Matt 11:20-24; Luke 10:10-15). By Stanley's reasoning, Jesus would have carved a wooden plaque for the adulterous woman, inscribed with the words "We support your adultery."
Yes, Jesus regarded remarriage after divorce as a form of adultery (probably a weakened form since there is no evidence that he told divorced-and-remarried persons in his audience to separate). Yet his position on remarriage after divorce is extrapolated secondarily from a foundational male-female requirement for sexual relations, which foundation is directly overturned in the acceptance of homosexual unions. Stanley is adopting an approach that an action taken in a lesser offense would apply equally to a greater offense, which is bad logic. The closest parallel to homosexual practice in terms of severity would be a case of adult-consensual incest, not remarriage after divorce. Does Stanley believe that Jesus or Paul would have lettered a celebratory cake for an incestuous union between a man and his mother? How ridiculous.
Michael Brown nicely states: "The issue here is not one of serving a gay couple but of participating in something that causes us to violate our conscience, like a Christian photographer asking two men to pose in a romantic kiss for their "wedding" pictures, or that same photographer doing a porn shoot in order to serve the world, or that same photographer shooting a fund raiser for a new Planned Parenthood abortion clinic."
(2) Stanley also thinks that Christians should "take a break" for one year from the culture wars. Oddly enough, though, Jesus did not "take a break" from speaking out against material exploitation of the poor and sexual sin (what little there was in first-century Jewish Palestine) when he reached out to exploitative tax collectors and sexual sinners. He rather ratcheted up God's demand, removing any existing loopholes.
Again, Michael Brown has a good response: "Would this include our fighting for the lives of the unborn? Or combatting human trafficking? Our seeking to improve the education system? Or is it only issues having to do with homosexuality, in which case we should sit idly by if the Supreme Court makes a disastrous decision on marriage in June, or when our kids come home from school crying because of the latest gay indoctrination assembly they had to sit through, or when yet another believer is fired from his or her job for having a politically incorrect viewpoint? Take a year off? Perhaps the same counsel could have been given to Christians fighting against other social ills in the past, including slavery and segregation?"
(3) Stanley infers that it is not proper for him to take a clear stand on homosexual practice in view of the absence of "consensus" in his church, as though poll-taking rather than Scripture were the basis for morality. He says: "There is not consensus in this room when it comes to same-sex attraction; there is not consensus in this room when it comes to gay marriage." Would he decline to take a stance against racism and anti-Semitism, incest and polyamory, rape and domestic violence, if he lacked a consensus in his congregation?
Stanley adds: "We just can't continue to look into the filter of our politics at our spirituality. It's got to be the other way around — and specifically when it comes to this issue." Yet it is Stanley who is inserting his politics into his spirituality by letting his politics of civil support for homosexual unions alter what Scripture says. Brown is right: "The reason we stand against the redefining of marriage and the normalizing of homosexuality is not because we are bringing our politics into our spirituality but because we are bringing our spirituality into every area of life."
(4) Stanley states that regardless of one's views on homosexual relations we can all agree that the church should be a "safe place" for persons who identify as "gay." "We just need to decide from now on in our churches when a Middle School kid comes out to his small group leader or a high school young lady comes out to her parents. We just need to decide, regardless of what you think about this topic — no more students are going to feel like they have to leave the local church because they're same-sex attracted or because they're gay. That ends with us." I fully agree that no one should be made to feel out of place in the church for the mere experience of same-sex attractions. Yet, as with everything else, it is a matter of what one does with what one feels.
Does Stanley think that Paul created a "safe place" for the unrepentant incestuous man in 1 Cor 5? Paul didn't create a circumstance where the incestuous man felt that he had to leave; rather, he insisted that the offender be put aside of the community so as to bring him to his senses. A person engaged in egregious sexual immorality, in a serial-unrepentant manner that celebrates the behavior, should of course be safe from violence or genuine verbal abuse but should not be given a complete pass from gentle correction and, if need be, admonition and rebuke. The reaction of the church should be conditioned by particular circumstances: for example, whether the offender is a professed believer or not, is struggling with sin or self-affirming of the sin.
Let's get one thing clear: Jesus' call to discipleship was never "safe." It demands that we take up our cross, deny ourselves, and lose our lives. Jesus included rebuke and church discipline among the acts of love in which the community of believers ought to engage, as well as a certain 'holy gullibility' about the genuineness of a confession of repentance after numerous offenses (Luke 17:3-4; Matt 18:15-35; in Lev 19:17-18 the command to love one's neighbor includes reproof of neighbor who is doing harm to his relationship with God or with others). If I am struggling with sin, I want fellow believers neither to dismiss me as hopelessly reprobate nor to make me feel comfortable in the continuance of my sin. C. S. Lewis got it right about Christ-image of the lion Aslan: “'Safe?' said Mr. Beaver; 'Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

The Gospels and Roman biography

The Seventy Sevens of Daniel 9: A Timetable for the Future?

New Testament Autographs Lasting Into The Third Century Or Later

Michael Kruger has written a post about a new article by Craig Evans:

Evans culls together an insightful and intriguing amount of evidence to suggest that literary manuscripts in the ancient world would last hundreds of years, on average. Appealing to the recent study of G.W. Houston, he argues that manuscripts could last anywhere from 75 to 500 years, with the average being about 150 years….

In other words, it is possible (and perhaps even likely) that some of the earliest copies of the New Testament we posses may have been copied directly from one of the autographs. And, if not the autographs, they may have been copied from a manuscript that was directly copied from the autographs. Either way, this makes the gap between our copies and the autographs shrink down to a rather negligible size.

In the end, we do not possess merely copies of copies of copies (etc.) as some skeptics maintain. The early date of our copies, combined with the likely longevity of the autographs, can give us a high degree of confidence that have access to the New Testament text at the earliest possible stage.

If so, then there are no reasons to think that there were wild, unbridled textual changes taking place in this earliest period. On the contrary, Evans’ study provides good reasons to think the NT text was transmitted with a high degree of accuracy and fidelity.

In an article several years ago, I wrote:

Bruce Metzger notes that some patristic sources refer to the preservation of some of the original copies of the New Testament documents (CNT, n. 4 on 4-5). Metzger cites the example of Tertullian's claim that the church of Thessalonica still possessed the original copies of the letters Paul sent them.

These issues also have implications in contexts other than textual transmission. For example, if the Thessalonian church possessed originals of both letters Paul wrote to them, a comparison of handwriting and other details would provide evidence for authorship attribution.

Reflections on prayer

The “least of these” are not the poor but the Christian baker, photographer, and florist

Prayer, prophecy, and time travel

This post isn't really about time travel. It simply uses time travel as a theological illustration. An analogy for prophecy and prayer. 

i) Time travel is a popular scifi convention. Indeed, time travel accounts for some of scifi's popularity. 

ii) There are variations on time travel. Traveling into the future or into the past.

There's also the question of changing the past. The familiar scenario of a time-traveler who goes back in time, and either intentionally or inadvertently changes the past–which, in turn–changes the future. 

That can generate antinomies, like the grandfather paradox. 

One question is whether it's possible to make discrete, self-contained changes to the future. If so, retrocausation might not be incoherent in those cases. If, however, even one change has a ripple effect, then his action destroys the future he came from–which is incoherent.

iii) However, the principle can operate in reverse. Suppose a man travels into the future. He may do so out of sheer curiosity. Or he may do so to escape the present.

Suppose he's appalled by what he discovers. In-between, there was a global catastrophe. He therefore returns to the present, forearmed with his knowledge of the future, and attempts to avert the dire outcome. 

This isn't prima facie incoherent in the same way that retrocausation is. He didn't originate in the future he changes. And present events cause the future. So his action doesn't necessarily disrupt the linear direction of cause and effect.

Of course, on this scenario, we're dealing with two different futures. The future which will eventuate if he doesn't act on his foreknowledge, and an alternate future which will eventuate if he does. The alternate timeline that replaces the future he initially visited is subsequent to the former. So that's still consistent with the linearity of time and causality. 

It's possible that this is subtly incoherent, but, if so, that has to be teased out.

iv) There is, however, another possibility. A more fatalistic scenario (on one definition of fatalism). Perhaps he doesn't change the future he visited the first time around. Perhaps his efforts to change the future unwittingly contribute to the very outcome he was endeavoring to avoid. 

He knows something about the present, and something about the future (that he encountered). But he didn't witness the intervening events. He doesn't know the chain of events linking the present to the future. Hence, his efforts to change the catastrophic future might be a necessary condition for that to happen. Due to his ignorance of the intervening events, he ends up precipitating the very disaster he was laboring to preempt or prevent. 

v) Apropos (iv), some freewill theists consider predestined prayer to be otiose. If the future is etched in stone, then nothing we say or do in the present can change the future.

However, prayer could be like the time traveler in (iv). What he does in the present has results. He contributes to the future he prays for, not by changing the future, but by acting at present in ways that, unforeseen to him, fascinate the outcome he prayed for. Prayer needn't change the future to be instrumental in realizing the future object of prayer. 

vi) Some time travel scenarios focus on a different dilemma. The traveler has seen the future. He's aghast. He returns to the present to warn his contemporaries. He desperately exhorts them to take necessary countermeasures, before it's too late, to avert disaster.

But he confronts a conundrum: how does he convince anyone that he knows what he's talking about? Although he has seen the future, they have not, and they have no reason to believe him. Indeed, they think he's a raving mad man. 

Out of frustration, he takes matters into his own hands. He attempts to sabotage the source of the impending catastrophe. 

As a result, the authorities view him as a crazed domestic terrorist, and lock him up in a secure facility. Indeed, he might have been involuntarily committed just for crazy talk, but his subversive activities seal the deal. 

In theory, this, too, could precipitate the catastrophe. Due to his actions, they tighten security measures, thereby ensuring the disastrous outcome.

Confined to his padded cell, his prevision becomes a curse. He can't make anyone take him seriously. The harder he tries, the worse it gets. 

Depending on the story, the character may know enough about the near future to make a few short-term predictions that indicate he really does have advance knowledge. That may persuade a key person. 

However, that may confirm the suspicion of authorities that he's a domestic terrorist who's privy to terrorist plots. He only succeed in persuading them that he's dangerous!

This is much like the situation of OT prophets. Having previewed the future, they warn their contemporaries to repent before it's too late avoid judgment. But like the hapless time traveler, his contemporaries dismiss him as a crackpot. A cranky lunatic. They find out the hard way that he was right all along. 

“How do you know?” – How do you begin to know?

Before we go too far into PRRD, Muller clarifies a couple of things about how the Medievals thought about religion. Keep in mind, too, that Muller is distinguishing “the Reformers” from those writers who followed, the “Reformed Orthodox”, in order to show both “continuities and discontinuities” from the times of the Reformers (including Calvin) until the later “Reformed Orthodox” writers of the later 17th and early 18th centuries, from their actual writings. He does this as a response to some of the “Calvin vs the Calvinists” writers of the 20th century who sought to create a wedge between these two.

I want to reiterate that I’m not picking up this information to suggest that we go back to living and worshiping as these men did. Theirs was a completely different era. And yet today, there is a notion that we must “recover” their “Confession” and their “Theology, Piety, and Practice”.

I’m suggesting that there are tremendous things that we can learn from these generations of writers, without “recovering” their every move.

There is a story from an old book that meant a lot to me as a young man, “The Perfect Joy of St. Francis”. This was a “biographical novel” about Francis of Assisi, who, as we know, embraced a simple life of itinerant poverty, and after whom “Pope Bergoglio” seems to have fashioned himself.

Yes, this is directly to address Scott Clark, and the method of “recovery” that he has adopted and that he has been advocating. But Clark is not imitating Francis of Assisi. In this respect, Clark rather reminds me of “Brother Jack”, a character from that novel (and for all I know, a real-life character) who sought in a very simple way to imitate Francis:

Everything was a peaceful as a scene in the Gospels. Francis was in the little chapel, praying. And Brother Jack was behind him. Whenever Francis bent over, Jack bent over too. When Francis sighed, Jack sighed also. When Francis coughed, Jack coughed after him. That was simply Jack’s way of following Francis …

Thereafter he imitated Francis in everything he did … Jack, like the simple dove that he was, merely said, “Francis is a saint. So if I imitate him, the devil will have no hold on me” (pgs 119-120).

The theologians of this era served their times by thinking through what the Christian faith meant to their own times. They did it using a language (Latin) and a philosophical thought-system (largely Aristotelian) that was prevalent in their own era. They wrote “confessionally binding documents” not for people who would live three and four centuries later, but for themselves … to set themselves apart from their own world, in terms that their own world would understand.

They lived at times when “being a Christian” (and specifically, “being a Protestant”) meant going to war and standing up to persecutions while at the same time producing “a clearer identification of the theological task in its university setting. From the very beginning of Luther’s protest, the university and university-trained theologians were at the center of the movement”.

The great mark of this era was not that the great theologians had somehow conformed themselves to some kind of outward “Piety and Practice” or another (although those things were important too, but not in the “Brother Jack” kind of way). It was because they had thought through the challenges of their own day, and they sought to address those challenges in their own terms.

Moreland on Nagel

Pacifism, abolitionism, and military ethics

i) There's a striking parallel between abolitionism and pacifism. Abolitionism is to pacifism as prolife philosophy is to military ethics (e.g. the double-effect principle). 

Pacifism leads to moral paralysis. So petrified are pacifists by the "problem of dirty hands" that their phobia about moral contamination generates moral dilemmas for their position. Consider some stock objections to pacifism:

However, the pursuit of purity can also be criticized for being other-worldly, unrealistic, and utopian...The pacifist who seeks, regardless of the actions of others, moral purity often requires subsidizing or free rides on the moral impurity of others. 
The pacifist who claims that he has no duty to intervene in saving others affairs treads a precarious moral path here; the immediate retort is why should the moral life of the pacifist be morally more important than the life of the threatened innocent? For the sake of his own beliefs, could the pacifist consistently ignore the violence meted upon others?

That's eerily similar to abolitionist scruples and conundrum. Consider this complaint:

Abolish Human Abortion
Making an exception to murder children so long as they have not yet lived in their mothers' wombs for 20 weeks is a wicked compromise with the culture of death.

ii) That's a half-truth. AHA is right to see an evil in this setup. However, it misidentifies the culprit. 

Prolifers are analogous to just combatants who are confronted with a human shields. Let's take a couple of real-world examples:

One of the reasons for the firebombing of Japanese cities was the decision by Japanese leaders to disperse key manufacturing facilities across urban areas, rendering European-style daylight bombing raids essentially fruitless. We were faced with the terrible choice between area bombing and leaving much of the enemy’s war machine essentially unmolested — in the midst of an existential struggle for our existence. We chose area bombing.

A more recent example is how Hamas deliberately stockpiles weaponry in civilian population centers. In both cases, the enemy plays a game of chicken. The enemy gives you a forced option. It dares you to exercise the right of self-defense by killing innocents. 

Now, there's definitely evil to be seen in that situation. It is not, however, those who attack military installations nestled in civilian population centers that commit evil; rather, the enemy did evil by maliciously narrowing the options to two terrible alternatives: either surrender to the enemy by refusing to defend yourself against jihadist attacks or else defend yourself at the cost of killing noncombatants. 

It's not as if Americans were trying to kill Japanese civilians. Rather, the Japanese authorities went out of their way to make that unavoidable. Same thing with Hamas in relation to Israel. 

Likewise, it is evil when the power elite imposes a choice between saving some babies and saving all babies. However, prolifers aren't guilty of evil. Rather, it is evil to confront them with those alternatives–just as it is evil to taunt soldiers with human shields. But within those parameters, it would be evil to save no babies if you could save some. Pacifists and abolitionists suffer from a failure to appreciate that omission can be a source of moral compromise no less than commission. Inaction doesn't avoid the "problem of dirty hands."

In that situation, prolifers are basically operating from the double effect principle (or some refinement thereof). That's not a "wicked compromise." It is wicked to be put in that situation. But given that situation, it is not wicked to save those you can. 

iii) Indeed, we can mount an a fortiori argument: If, in a human shield situation, it is morally licit to sacrifice some innocent lives to save other innocent lives (when you can't save them all), even though the requires the just combatant to directly kill some innocents, then it is morally licit to sacrifice some innocent lives to save other innocent lives when the prolifer isn't killing anyone, but preventing some from being killed. If the greater is permissible, then lesser is permissible (a maiore ad minus).

For more on the double effect principle:

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Is Dawkins a great biologist?

“Dawkins at least is a credible intellectual in his field. He coined the term “meme” and is one of the world’s greatest living biologists”
Dawkins certainly has credentials. However, I cringe every time I see him characterized they way you do. To begin with, as far as I know (and I looked into it) he hasn’t published a novel piece of research in evobio in decades, unlike his long running rival, S.J. Gould, who kept publishing technical papers and books right to the end of his life. Also, Dawkins’ opinions on evolutionary theory are by now hopelessly dated, and not just because of what he thinks about epigenetics. So, yes, credentialed intellectual; no, not the world’s greatest living biologist, by a long shot.
For a world-famous science prof., this is a remarkably thin bibliography of scholarly publications:

Extended Phenotype – But Not Too Extended. A Reply to Laland, Turner and Jablonka
Biology and Philosophy 19: 377–396, 2004.

Parasites, Desiderata Lists and the Paradox of the Organism
Dawkins utilizes parasites to prove his argument that the most basic unit in the hierarchy of life is the organism itelf.
S63-S73, 1990

The Evolution of Evolvability
Dawkins discusses the model (or environment and conditions) that he created to allow evolution to take place.
Artificial Life, SFI Studies in the Sciences of Complexity, 1988, pp. 201-220

Replicators and Vehicles
This article asserts that the principles of evolution allow DNA to protect itself and DNA in turn has a greater purpose to our existence.
Current Problems in Sociobiology, Cambridge University Press, pp. 45-64, 1982

Do digger wasps commit the concorde fallacy?
Richard Dawkins, H. Jane Brockmannt
Animal Behaviour, Volume 28, Issue 3, August 1980, Pages 892–896

Twelve Misunderstandings of Kin Selection
This article addresses the 12 common misunderstandings in kin selection theory and denies them.
Z. Tierphyschol, 1979, 51: pp. 184-200

Joint Nesting in a Digger Wasp as as Evolutionarily Stable Preadaptation to Social Life 
Behaviour, Vol. 71, No. 3/4 (1979), pp. 203-245

Evolutionarily Stable Nesting Strategy in a Digger Wasp
Brockmann, Grafen, and Dawkins examine the nesting behaviors of digger wasps and concludes that their strategy is evolutionarily stable.
 J. theor. Biol. 1979, 77: pp. 473-496
Replicator Selection & the Extended Phenotype 
This is a modified version of a lecture given in the plenary session on “Sociobiology: at the 15th International Ethological Conference, Bielefeld, 1977.
Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie, 47: 61–76

Hierarchical Organization and Postural Facilitation: Rules for Groom in Flies
Richard and Marian Dawkins examine the parameters of grooming sequences in blowflies.
Animal Behavior, 1976, 24: pp. 739-755

Decisions and the Uncertainty of Behaviour
Richard and Marian Dawkins assert that behavior can be described through changing uncertainty or through a structural behavior pattern.
Rec. 1972, Vol. 20, No. 4: pp. 83-103

The Hunting Behaviour of Individual Great Tits in Relation to Spacial Variation in their Food Density
James N. M. Smith and Dawkins respond to data collected in variations of food density and spacial changes present when testing great tit birds.
Animal Behavior, 1971, 19: pp.695-706

A Threshold Model of Choice Behaviour
This article suggests a model for the underlying mechanisms of making choices from an evolutionary standpoint.
Animal Behavior, 1969, 17: pp. 120-133

The “Peck/No-Peck Decision-Maker’ in the Black-Headed Gull Chick
Using the Choice Threshold Model, Dawkins and Impekoven determine the absolute number of responses to stimuli in black-headed gull chicks.
Animal Behavior, 1969, 17: pp. 243-251

The Attention Threshold Model
This article utilizes selective attention theory to validate Dawkins’ Choice Threshold Model.
Animal Behavior, 1969, 17: pp. 134-141