Friday, June 11, 2010

A legion of lesions in his brain

A 50 year old businessman with a bachelor's degree in theology from the Baptist University of America and a doctorate in theology from Bob Jones University was brought to the emergency room by his friends because of severe progressive memory problems.

At baseline, the patient had normal cognition, exercised regularly, and maintained an active schedule, driving himself to appointments with friends and business associates. Ten days prior to admission he met a friend for lunch and had a normal, clear, precise conversation, except that he did remember the name of the hostess, whom he had known for years. Four days later, the same friend spoke with the patient on the phone and discovered that the patient had no recollection of having lunch or in fact any of their conversation. He seemed normal otherwise. The next day the patient missed an important business meeting. When the patient's son contacted him over subsequent days, his conversation seemed appropriate except that he was totally unaware of current events including the BP oil spill.

On examination patient was normal except for profound problems with recent memories and milder problems with remote memories. He said the year was 1990 and realized he was in a hospital but did not know which one. Attention and immediate recall were normal with a digit span forward of 7 and backward of 5. He was able to repeat three words immediately when asked to memorize them. After 5 minutes, however, he did not even recall the task, and he got zero out of three words correct even with multiple choice. When the examiner left the room and came back 5 minutes later, the patient had no recollection of having met him before.

One week later, the patient had no knowledge of recent current events and was completely unaware of the highly publicized health care reform bill signed by President Obama. More remote memory was better but still not perfect. For example, he was able to describe his hometown, childhood, family members, marriage, and the fact that he had left his religious beliefs behind and become an agnostic-atheist. However, he could not recall let alone formulate any logical reasons or give any sort of evidence for why he no longer believed in God. When he tried to offer reasons for no longer believing in the existence of God, he was surprised to hear that his objections had already been answered years ago. With some prompting, however, he was able to generate a couple of names in response, although he couldn't do much more than name names: Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett. In addition, he confused John Loftus with a cowboy in Brokeback Mountain, Dan Barker with the former host of The Price Is Right game show, and Ed Babinski with the Chacma Baboon.

There was also an increasing tendency to confabulate. For example, when asked why he was in the hospital, he said he was "here to research the connection between religious experiences and brain science." When asked if anyone had visited him while he was lying on the hospital bed, he mentioned several prominent atheists including Robert Price and Richard Carrier, despite having had no visitors. He reminisced about going through NT manuscripts looking for errors with Bart Ehrman. When Ehrman was contacted, he had no idea who the patient was.

At this point his mental status exam results were within normal range but gradually falling. That is, although he had a normal attention span, pleasant affect and behavior, normal language, average calculations, slight but not significant difficulty with elementary reading comprehension and writing, as well as interpretation, and normal drawing of three dimensional objects, his condition began to worsen.

As his condition progressively and then severely depreciated over the next several weeks, he reached and then crossed a critical threshold when he no longer perceived himself as a human being. Instead he thought he was an ox and began eating grass and straw. He spent his days in the hospital courtyard, with his head planted in the soil. At first the hospital orderlies attempted to bring him inside, but, when physicians and other staff determined he could not be restrained without routine difficulty and more importantly there was no harm to the patient involved in leaving him outside during daylight hours, they left him alone during the day and brought him back when he was tired at night. Eventually he became unshaven and unkempt. His hair grew as long as eagles' feathers, and his nails were like birds' claws. Finally, the epidermal layer of his skin metamorphosed into something resembling straw.

In short, he went from this:

To this:

Perhaps because of too much of this:


  1. The first pic of this post... I saw it in a blogger profile of an apostate guy who posted in a couple comment threads at Pyromaniacs some months ago. He was big on strawman arguments and small on reading comprehension. Is this post a treatment of his comments on this blog (b/c I haven't seen any) or am I out to lunch?

  2. Nevermind. :D I scrolled down a bit further and have seen your posts on your conversations with him.

    He didn't make it very far over at Pyro either.

  3. At first, I thought this was satire about Ergun Caner.

  4. Steve,

    If you're choice of images is correct, isn't that like admitting to yourself (perhaps unconsciously) that you're attacking a "straw man?"

    By the way, the Wizard of Oz at least mentions the organ known as "the brain," an organ that is never mentioned not even once in the entire holy book that you revere.

    Lastly, I've seen at least one caricature of myself on the web, as well as some cartoon caricatures OF YOU (drawn by J.P. Holding and Dave Armstrong, who share the same creedal beliefs you do). What's with all the childishness? J.P. Holding's also taken aim via cartoon caricature at Rev. James White.

    As for the question of “who” is suffering from “what,” it does not appear that the cosmos revolves around the Bible, nor round the deity who allegedly exists and inspired such a collection of books. Atheism need not be correct in order to ask such questions (I have never been been an atheist), but the biblical god of the ancient Hebrews being true, inerrantly so? Have you studied the rise of henotheism, monolatry, and the rise of monotheism in the ANE?

    There’s some excellent summations of recent research by ANE scholars concerning such questions:

    1) Speaking of the rise of henotheism, monolatry and monotheism in the ancient world, and traits shared by ancient Near Eastern deities including Israel’s deity, see the book, Method Matters: Essays on the Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible. One chapter in particular worth reading online at Google Books is titled, “Religio-historical Approaches: Monotheism, Method, and Mortality.” As in the case of book 1) the number of pages one can view is limited so you must select that chapter and start reading there before skipping round the book, otherwise you can’t view the entire chapter. It’s a fascinating read that sums up the latest scholarly research on that question.

    2) Another recent book containing a wealth of information is Religions of the Ancient World: A Guide, Sarah Iles Johnston, general editor (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press,2004). It features chapters on “Monotheism and Polytheism” by Jan Assmann; “Cosmology: Time and History” by John J. Collins; “Pollution, Sin, Atonement, Salvation” by Harold W. Attridge; “Ritual” by Jan Bremmer. The book ends with discrete sections that discuss what ANE religions held in common:
    Sacred Times and Spaces
    Religious Festivals
    Religious Personnel
    Religious Organizations and Bodies
    Sacrifice, Offerings, and Votives
    Prayers, Hymns, Incantations, and Curses
    Divination and Prophecy
    Deities and Demons
    Religious Practices of the Individual and Family
    Rites of Passage
    Illnesses and Other Crises
    Death, the Afterlife,
    and Other Last Things
    Sin, Pollution, and Purity
    Ethics and Law Codes
    Theology, Theodicy, Philosophy
    Religion and Politics
    Controlling Religion
    Myth and Sacred Narratives
    Visual Representations
    Sacred Texts and Canonicity

    3) A few bibliobloggers are attempting to read the large three-volume CONTEXT OF SCRIPTURE in a year and blog about their readings (THE CONEXT OF SCRIPTURE is a huge recently published collection of ANE texts translated into English and pertinent to biblical studies).

    ANE studies continue to shed light on the Bible. Tens of thousands of clay tablets have been recovered and studied. As a result, Evangelical OT scholars continue debating what constitutes “inspiration” and “the word of God.” Peter Enns and Kenton Sparks’ and John Walton’s works being some of the more obvious attempts to come to grips with the mounting evidence. N. T. Wright cites Walton’s view of Genesis 1 approvingly, and Ben Witherington is the head editor of a new Cambridge series of biblical commentaries including a new one on Genesis that admits the Hebrew raqia was firm.

  5. Speaking of other interesting facets of ANE studies, the law code of Hammurabi preceded the time of Moses. And an ancient stele and writings depict Hammurabi as receiving his law code DIRECTLY FROM A GOD, which was BEFORE the time of Moses and the depiction of Moses having received his laws DIRECTLY FROM A GOD.

    The idea and outline of the covenants in the Bible also appear to have been based on previously known suzerainity treaties in the ANE between major conquering nations and the lesser nations they ruled over. The outlines of both are similar even using similar threats of blessings and curses. By employing the outline of a suzerainity treaty the Hebrews were saying they didn't want to be ruled over by any outside nation, so they made a covenant not with other nations but with their God as a sign of defiance. The same type of defiance appears to be visible in the covenantal law code of Moses as pointed out in a recent book mentioned in an endnote in my paper on ANE cosmology.

    Gods were believed to be the founders and rulers of nations. Enuma Elish depicts Marduk as the creator of the world, as well as the nation of Babylon, its city and temple. The same was true of how the nation of Israel later viewed its God, likewise depicted as creating the world, nation, cit and temple of Israel.

    Even BEFORE the days of King David, and the story about his receiving INSTRUCTIONS DIRECTLY from YAHWEH ON HOW TO BUILD YAHWEH'S TEMPLE, king Thutmose had already been depicted as receiving INSTRUCTIONS supernaturally from HIS God on HOW TO BUILD THAT GOD'S TEMPLE.

    The same theological worldview is also shared concerning how to interpret all actions, bad or good that befall a nation. Such acts were interpreted as being caused by a deity's anger or their approval including good or bad weather, invasions or successful defenses, the comings and going of droughts, famines and pestilences. Inadequate worship of the nation's God is often blamed as the source of such woes in the ANE, among Egyptians, Hittites, Babylonians, Hebrews, etc. In this respect I heartily suggest Chapter 8 of the book, Disturbing Divine Behavior: Troubling Old Testament Images of God by Eric A. Seibert There is limited viewing of this book at if you use their “Look Inside” feature, but to view the maximum number of pages in chapter 8 begin reading the book with that chapter, “Israel’s Theological Worldview,” and then you should be able to read the entire chapter, which is quite enlightening.

    I also suggest my own chapter on “The Cosmology of the Bible,” and the endnotes. There is no science in the Bible far in advance of its day and age. The flat earth view is merely one of many debts that the Hebrews owe to the cultures around them as stated above. Such debts also include the Hebrews' focus on the "breath" of life and the "blood," animal sacrifices, and their focus on the "heart, kidneys, bowels," and their use of circumcision and building of temples and founding of priesthoods, and facing their temples east, and having places of increasing holiness in them and rites of passage through such areas, and sacred festivals, with the creator having set the stars and moon in the sky as signs as to when such sacred festivals must begin and end (compared both Enuma Elish and Genesis 1, the word in Genesis 1 for "seasons" is a Hebrew word employed in the Pentateuch for religious festivals).

  6. Edward T. Babinski said:


    If you're choice of images is correct, isn't that like admitting to yourself (perhaps unconsciously) that you're attacking a "straw man?"

    By the way, the Wizard of Oz at least mentions the organ known as "the brain," an organ that is never mentioned not even once in the entire holy book that you revere.

    Lastly, I've seen at least one caricature of myself on the web, as well as some cartoon caricatures OF YOU (drawn by J.P. Holding and Dave Armstrong, who share the same creedal beliefs you do). What's with all the childishness? J.P. Holding's also taken aim via cartoon caricature at Rev. James White.

    Hey Ed,

    A few things:

    1. Sorry to disappoint you, but you'll have to blame the childishness on me, not Steve.

    2. Speaking of "admitting" things to yourself "unconsciously," perhaps you've got a chip on your shoulder when it comes to Steve - given how you're evidently so quick to attribute this post to him and how readily your chiding of him comes to you, how quickly it rolls off your tongue?

    3. Strange how you never miss an opportunity to keep plugging your ANE cosmology stuff, despite the fact that you're well aware that we (among many others) have already responded to it.