Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Day I Disagreed with Albert Mohler

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

If I made a personal rule not to listen to or read material from people who are smarter than me, I wouldn't have much to do. Instead, I saddle up and ride the harder trail, trying to learn some things from people I can't hold a candle to in the area of intelligence. When disagreeing with someone, a good exercise is to be able to show why you are doing so, even if it only benefits yourself. Sometimes, other people may respect that you gave reasons for your contrary view, because it shows that you're thinking.

Disagreeing with Dr. Albert Mohler on the issue of cremation. I found out that others in my family have preferred this.
Image credit: Morguefile / Kenn W. Kiser
This has to do with a topic that is sometimes controversial among Christians. In the October 26, 2016 episode of The Briefing podcast, Dr. Albert Mohler was discussing the issue of cremation. He was agreeing with the Roman Catholic Church that cremation is not acceptable for professing Christians. One of the reasons is that pagans do it, cremation is not in the Bible, and also, Christians traditionally have not done it. This strikes me as guilt by association and the genetic fallacy on the first point. To take that concept further, there are many things we "cannot" do because pagans, atheists, cultists, Communists, or whatever also do them. Not hardly! On the second point, that Christians have traditionally eschewed cremation, well, that doesn't impress me.

I disremember when, but Pastor Alistair Begg expressed strong dislike for cremation, and described the unpleasantness of the cremation funeral ceremony and of the process itself. I agree with him on that part, and think people are better off without that aspect. Giving the container to the family after the fact is fine, and they can choose whether or not to use it in the memorial service.

Interestingly, after I had decided that this was what I wanted for myself as a cost consideration for those left behind, I learned that both of my parents had selected cremation as well. My oldest brother was also cremated, as was my father-in-law (we have his cremains in the apartment right now pending further plans). There was no cremation ceremony.

This leads to some odd humor. My oldest brother died December 21, 2008, and my father died the following February. They lived in Michigan, and I was unable to travel from New York for my brother's service. When I arrived at my other brother's home for my father's service, they put me up in a spare bedroom. I asked if anyone was using the room, and my brother said, "No...oh!" He went into the closet and lifted up a lacquered box, saying, "This is our brother". The ground was frozen (February, remember), so the burial couldn't happen until the spring thaw.

After my father's service the next day, we brought things out of the funeral home, and put the container with his remains in the back of my brother's car. The container remained in the car overnight, and the next day, my brother said, "Do you want to bring Dad in?" I really think my father would have laughed at the comments and situation.

Christians have a blessed hope (Titus 2:11, 1 Peter 1:3). My oldest brother had severe Down Syndrome, my mother was taken by a malignant glioma, and my father had many issues at the end, including dementia and Parkinson's. We're going to have a joyous reunion, all of the physical and mental impairments will be gone. I'm ready to join them with Jesus. What about you? There's good news if you want it.

Back to the topic, I had reached my conclusion about cremation before I had know other family members had decided on this approach for themselves. Respectfully, Dr. Mohler, I disagree with you. I'm sure it'll happen again sometime.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Make Writing Interesting

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

Way back yonder, in days of old when nights were cold, I wanted to be a science fiction writer, and took courses on writing. These included college nonfiction writing, and a required course on speechifying (even in 1980, I was speaking out against falsehoods in evolution). One simple thing that stuck with me was to write as if your audience was about 13 years old. (I think one of the creationist sites I read has a general style guide, when not doing hardcore science, to write as if the readers were precocious teenagers.) This seemed like a good approach when attempting to inform people. Then I'd go to my next class and wade through a textbook that was "written at a college sophomore level". Seemed like a contradiction to me.

Unfortunately, the classes on writing do not work in this medium. Online articles have different criteria because people have not only demands on their time, but often have short attention spans. Part of the problem with short attention spans is social media. You'll see what I mean if you study on that.

Many things that I have read, and still read, are desert-sand dry and tedious. Others are cute and funny, but become distracting, and it's easy to miss the point of what the author is trying to communicate. One of the watchwords for my life has been balance, and that applies here, too. My regular readers have probably figured out that I don't want to be boring, but still get important points across. Adding "color" to articles is a good thing. I'll put in the cowboy lingo to break things up and keep my online persona going, but have to taper back so I don't defeat my own purpose and get distracting. At times, I have to use wording that is appropriate for the subject, assuming that those who are reading the post or article are familiar with the necessary expensive words. 

Sometimes, I get put off by sesquipedalian loquaciousness, where I get the feeling that the writer is not so much interested in communicating as in showing off his or her extensive vocabulary. At the other extreme is when someone writes so simplistically, it's rather insulting, and you may feel that the writer is talking down to you.

Much of the time, writing style depends on the audience. Three creation science examples: the Journal of Creation is not going to have cute terminology (see "What life is"), nor is "Answers Research Journal" (see "Do Varves, Tree-Rings, and Radiocarbon Measurements Prove an Old Earth?"), and don't expect to see it in the Creation Research Society Quarterly Journal (see "The Extraterrestrial Search for the Origin of Homochirality"). Authors may put some personality in their articles, but the material is primarily written for scientists, or those with strong science backgrounds. I certainly don't understand much of that material. Major creation science organizations publish material on the layman's level, fortunately, and even include some clever wording that adds color.

There are different approaches to writing material, depending on the audiences. Attempting to reach a balance between simplistic and complicated is important.
Image credit: Morguefile / pippalou
Rent-a-Friend-2000, "a gentleman and a scholar at a very reasonable hourly rate" (Bryan Melugin) writes over at "A Bit of Orange", and I first became of his work because of his videos. I'm partway through a series on "Defining Evolution", and I'm quite taken with both the style and content. There is a storyline of sorts: four friends meet on Thursday nights after work for nachos and conversation. (One small quibble of mine, Mr. Melugin named a seafaring character "Bluebeard", but the Bluebeard legend is about a non-nautical serial killer that may or may not have been real.) The premise is developed through the four-way conversation of the characters. His writing includes humor, side notes, incidental activities, character attitudes, and more. I believe the creation-evolution discussion is effectively and entertainingly presented.

The RaF2K material reminded me of something at the other extreme of using dialogue and a storyline to communicate a concept. It was a novel I read in the 1980s, Genesis by W.A. Harbison. That bad boy was over 600 pages, and I found it to have very little action. Instead, it used dialogue to establish the premise that UFOs are not extraterrestrial at all, but the results of man-made secret projects. There was so much of this dialogue, I felt cheated. (Also, there was also an excessively detailed sex scene in the book that did not advance the storyline as far as I can recollect. If sex between that man and woman was important to the story, there was no need for the prurient details.) Melugin had his communicative dialogue in balance, Harbison did not.

So what's the point? Different audiences react to different writing styles. Many of us prefer to use a lighter approach, especially when trying to have others understand ideas that may be new to them. In my case, I hope readers will follow the links to the featured articles and explore on those sites for more in-depth material if they want it. In the meantime, I'll write in a manner that I hope people can understand, keeping a balance between "talking down" and using excessively complicated language. Oh, and I have to keep from letting my efforts at adding "color" distract the readers.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Conditioning and Political Correctness

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

This is more of a lament than anything else. I can't prove what I say, but I think my observations as a guy living in the United States may have some merit. Although I can't change the way things are going, and to some extent, I have to accept them, I still feel several things: frustrated, angry, offended, sad, wistful.

Political correctness is so off the rails, people like me get afraid to say something nice to some co-workers.
Image credit: Pixabay / skeeze
To make this subject manageable enough to lead into the corral, I'll go with sexual harassment. I believe that women have been conditioned to mistrust and even hate men. Liberal courts have gone along with this in many cases. Occasionally, false stories are shown for what they are, and people have been found innocent [1], [2].

Because of the culture of fear and political correctness, employers have taken a "zero tolerance" for sexual harassment in the workplace. But — what is it? Employees are subjected to mandatory training upon hiring, and often have to undergo annual repetitions of the training. I don't reckon this is so much because they care about hurt feelings, but to cover themselves in case a harassment complaint is filed. But such complaints can be made by someone who is vindictive, seeking attention, or just plain nutty.

Don't get me wrong, I know full well that some sidewinder in authority will say, "Miss Jones, you're an attractive woman, and you can use your considerable, uh, assets to advance in this company". Or a co-workers can keep hitting on someone for some mattress dancing action, making the target uncomfortable, unproductive, and possibly leaving the company. I agree that no means no, you savvy?

One training module I completed said that you can get in trouble for saying wrong things. Fine. Also (if you still have your job), you can't retaliate, which can result in adverse employment action. Fine, again. But one of the ways of "retaliation" according to this training is not speaking to the person. Pardon? If someone's mouth gets him or her into trouble, not speaking seems like the sensible thing to do. Weird.

The culture of fear means that some people are afraid to say anything. Not just that a remark could be taken the wrong way, but the "offended" person could make a complaint. Although my supervisor of snake wrangling at Pernicious Whatzit Widgits is a smart lady, I'm afraid to tell her she has nice eyes. Nor will I say to a woman I work with, "You look nice in that dress", or something. Not that I'm necessarily afraid of offending them, but I'm afraid that someone, somewhere, may take action against me, even if my comments are unobtrusive to a reasonable person.

Then I may appear unfriendly or stand-offish. So be it, I don't want to lose my job or have my reputation tarnished by someone with a chip on his or her shoulder, or has been conditioned by society to be fearful and suspicious. I get kind of sad about that.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Saying What I Believe

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

Once again, I was inspired to write an article by listening to a podcast. A recent episode by Matt Walsh began with some introductory remarks that fit what I'm doing. I disremember if he used these words, but essentially, he's not going to carry water for the Republican party; if someone deserves criticism, he'll give it to them. Walsh likes to say what he thinks and believes, and believes that's the right way to go.


A personal glimpse at what happens in my writing and screening processes. The main point here is that I say what I believe, and don't do creation science for its own sake.
Image credit: Morguefile / Irish_Eyes
Although I'm a cowboy at heart and tend to take quick action when I feel it's necessary, I want to say what I believe; I want to think I'm doing that very thing. My calling is biblical creation science, but I'm not carrying water for all creation science ministries, individuals involved, or each article. There are some cults out there that claim to be biblical creationists, as well as greenhorns, and even folks that are just plain nuts, so there's no reason for me to support everything.

Most of what I share on The Question Evolution Project is something I've read, watched, or heard. Sure, I occasionally share something sight unseen because I think it needs to be posted quickly, but most of those come from sources that I trust. Even so, I usually check it out if I didn't beforehand.

Over at my main site, Evolutionary Truth by Piltdown Superman, I try much harder to read or hear the articles that I'm featuring.

"How do you listen to articles, Cowboy Bob?"

Glad you asked. I send most of the articles I come into contact with to my e-book reader using a service that converts and formats them. Since I listen to many podcasts, I add articles to the list. Occasionally, I use an online service or Balabolka freeware that converts text to speech (TTS) and produces MP3s. (Dr. James White listens to converted books this way on his long bicycle rides.) Some of the more difficult articles, I listen to more than once, and even supplement the hearing with reading.

So anyway, my usual format at that site is Introduction/Excerpt/Link to read the rest of the article I'm featuring. Often, I supplement the item with my own thoughts, additional material, links, videos, and so on. But I don't want to give away too much information in my introductions. Sometimes, I get criticized for not backing up something I said in an introduction. Well, if'n y'all bothered to follow the link, you'd see what's going on.

Occasionally, I'll make a mistake, whether in my introduction sections or in my own articles. When I catch it, I try to fix it. (Some sidewinders will bite if I correct something, or complain if I did not correct something.) Although it's my Weblog or social media Page and I can do what I want, if something is changed or corrected after it's been out for a period of time, I think it's good to indicate that it's been edited. If it posted within a few minutes or hours, not so much. Longer periods of time, yes. Important content edits, definitely. F'rinstance, a post on human-chimpanzee genome similarities needed a big change, so I made one. I'll admit to tweaking wording when I realize I wrote something poorly, but feel no need to indicate editing.

Ever have those times that you have an inspiration and think it's going to be something great, and you lose it? I try to scratch out notes when I get an idea at the workplace, but even then, I've looked at them and drawn a blank; what in the world was I writing then? Here's an irony: I've never been able to stand South Park, don't think I've seen an entire episode, but I use "memes" from there on occasion. Like the one about the deposited money, "...aaand it's gone".



Kind of went off track and gave some "behind the scenes" material, didn't I? Still, it's about writing what I believe and what goes on in my writing processes.

People I respect and admire have written material that I dislike, have dealt with before, bring nothing new, or even disagree with. I'm not doing creation science for its own sake, and I won't turn the Pages at Facebook or Google Plus into what I call "link mills". Those guys call themselves "ministries", but they plaster any old thing up there, often quite a bit of stuff.

This brings us back to the beginning: I'll say what I believe. People will disagree, and I'll foul up on occasion or not rite goodly, but I'm striving to be intellectually honest. My purposes are to glorify God, to be obedient to his calling, and to edify the saints. And have a bit of fun now and then. Can't rightly do any of those things if I'm not presenting material that I think is false, now, can I? Not hardly!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

When Does It End?

Can you spare a couple of minutes? 

I have to deal with spells of depression (and will not go back on the meds after several years away from them),  and have a tendency to look on the dark side of life. But still, this is important. (Did you know that Elijah, Jonah, and others in the Bible struggled with bouts of depression? Well, never mind about that now.) I'm saying that I get a bit reflective, possibly more often than some folks.

My parents and oldest brother have passed away. None of that was a shock, we knew their times were near. Several years ago, someone I knew who had self-medicated with a powerful medication she bought on the street overdosed and died, never having reached age 30. A couple of weeks ago, one of the few people I met on the Internet and also met in real life died. Then I learned that Kerry Stoutenburgh of Kingston, NY was swimming in Maryland, and "died from a rare infection caused by an amoeba known as Naegleria fowleri". She was 19.

Most of these people thought they had tomorrow waiting for them.

I had a recent visit to the doctor, and she wants me to have some tests done because the condition could turn cancerous; I could die. Although that would cause much rejoicing among certain atheists, and apathy among some Christians, I'd prefer to keep going on the work that God has given me. But when he whistles and says, "Saddle up, it's time to go home!", you can bet I'm a-goin'.

How long do we have? Sooner or later, and often unexpectedly, we all have to stand before our Creator. I'm ready. Are you?
Image credit: Morguefile / mensatic
Do I have tomorrow? I might not make it home from work, what with the way people drive here in Kingston. (I suspicion that they drive like maniacs everywhere nowadays.) For that matter, there have been a few times in my life when I almost wound up taking a dirt nap from traffic or other quirky circumstances. Or maybe that heart thing will act up. Until that time, I must remain faithful to my calling.  

By the way, I have an offbeat sense of humor as regular readers of my sites have seen, but it occasionally gets a bit dark. I could be gone, but people wouldn't know it based on scheduled posts and articles, those could keep dropping in for days. Well, seems funny to me, anyway.

Will any of our lives make an impact? Will I be in the Creation Science Hall of Fame? (Not hardly! LOL!) It doesn't matter about our achievements, money, fame, prestige, power, status in The Company, or anything else. Only what we have done for God will matter in the long haul.

Whether I die moments from now, in a few weeks, or am left here to proclaim the truth of creation, refuting evolution, and the authority of Scripture, trying to edify and equip the saints — what about you? I don't care about your religion and rituals, "lack of belief", excuses, "reasons" for disbelief, compromise, that you watched a couple of religious movies. Guess what? Neither does God, because stuff you do doesn't make you right with him.

We are all going to stand before him, ready or not. I'm ready. God accepts me despite my many failings, because Jesus Christ is the Lord of my life. God the Son took the form of a man, died on the cross for my sins, was buried, bodily rose from the dead, ascended into Heaven and sat down at the right hand of God the Father. The Holy Spirit has sealed and lives in me. Death has been defeated.

All I am, all I have, is through the grace and mercy of God. I have been saved by grace through faith, and that is not from any religious rituals or good deeds on my part, it is the gift of God.

There's no second chance when this life is over. Can you spare a couple of minutes? Here's a link that may be helpful to you.

In the name of Jesus Christ,
Cowboy Bob Sorensen

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Watching My Language

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

No, this isn't about my saying rude things to the computer when it doesn't work the way it's supposed to. This is about wording choices in general. It's easy nowadays to have a misunderstanding, especially on the Web. At The Question Evolution Project, I made a remark about "st00pid dumb Xtians" that someone disliked. Mayhaps he was in a in a bit of a hurry, and sent a message:
What is an Xtian??? If you don't have enough respect to spell out Christian, then you have little, or no power, to persuade. I will unfollow you.
Since he wrote, I figured he would let me reply, so I wrote back:
No need to get all excited, I also said "st00pid dumb" in that sentence. It was sarcasm on how anti-Christians treat us, and I have been called that several times - but not by Christians. Although "Xtian" (or "Xian") is considered by some to be a legitimate abbreviation, I don't use it unless I'm being sarcastic about professing atheists who like to attack us.
He was mollified by this, and after we exchanged a few more messages, I realized that he gave me the inspiration for this here article.

Our language choices, phrasing, humor, other things can complicate communication and even cause misunderstanding. There are several reasons for this. I suggest that we take things slow and check before getting angry.
Image credit: Pixabay / geralt
The Bible isn't the only place that context is important. I have been hurt, and I have hurt people, through misunderstandings. This troubles me. Often times, it's word choice and the way they're used that cause confusion. Add to this the increasingly frantic pace of society (seems that people are more interested in captioned pictures than quality articles, for instance), so things are read quickly. I've had some long articles that had to be split into two parts because I thought I'd lose readers if I left them running long.

Another factor is people's grasp of language. Some people have excellent vocabularies, others not so much. Then you can have someone with your language as their second language. I've made jokes that were not understood and had to be explained.

I believe we all tend to expect that people are reasonably intelligent and know where we're coming from, but sometimes we can over-assume. I've heard remarks on theological and science podcasts that I couldn't repeat that to co-workers because I don't know which of them would understand the references. Not a slur on their intelligence, but a simple fact that some of us catch specialized lingo and others do not.

My offbeat sense of humor and desire to add some personality or color to things are also personal complicating factors that can cause confusion.

"I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
— Attributed to several people, actual source unknown

Let me give you a small piece of advice, Pilgrim. Slow down and check. The fellow I mentioned above was initially incensed, but he checked with me, and let me explain myself. Here's another example. While talking with the lady that cuts my hair, the topic wandered and I said, "I like sets". She said, "I don't know what that means". I told her, "Matching fragrance in soaps, shampoo —" She interrupted, "Oh, you mean sets!" I really think she thought I said, "I like sex", and was trying to get her to do the Mattress Mambo with me. Glad she took it slow and didn't get angry at something she didn't hear correctly.

Meanwhile, I still have to deal with my odd sense of humor, language and vocabulary difficulties, and today's hasty society. But I still feel bad when someone gets a meaning out of what I said that wasn't intended — especially when I stated something poorly.


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Errand Boy

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen
Edited 7-10-2016

Another installment from the "Personal Musings Department". Something that this cowboy-at-heart has in common with Dr. Who is in the 1969 episode of "The War Games", the final story for the second Doctor (Patrick Troughton). In Episode 8, Jamie McCrimmon asks why the Time Lords are angry with him. The Doctor replies, "Well, It is a fact, Jamie, that I do tend to get involved with things". Part of Jamie's reply is, "Aye, you can say that again". That seems to fit me rather well.

I want to present the truth, refute evolution, defend Christianity against heresy, and so on. Generally, I like to help people, especially in spiritual matters. People will post questions at The Question Evolution Project and occasionally on my "Public Figure" Facebook Pages. Great! Sometimes, I even know the answers myself. Other times, sorry, I just don't know. There are many resources available from people far more knowledgeable that I am, so I point to them.

Many of us who have biblical creation science ministries like to go above and beyond the usual to help people with questions. But we aren't experts in all fields. Nor are we on-call errand boys for people who do not want to do some of the work themselves.


However, there are times when it seems like some people want me to be their errand boy, and that kinda puts a burr under my saddle. This goes beyond helping someone out with a difficulty, especially since I have a full-time job and also put many hours into my creation ministry each week. Now, some people seem to have the idea that if someone has a biblical creation science ministry, he's an expert in all science matters. Not hardly! Even if I was a scientist, it would not mean that I'm qualified outside of my area of expertise. Same with other creationists. In fact, I've seen questions posted to scientists who had to defer because they had not studied on a particular topic.

One guy got all het up every time evolutionists announced "evidence", and wanted me to refute it. (I reckoned that he was afraid that something would come along and shatter his faith in God, and tried to tell him that while "evidence" changes all the time, the Christian's faith is in the unchanging Word of God.) Several things he was bothered about were addressed by creation scientists, others were rejected by evolutionists themselves. I didn't have time to chase down every story and self-train to be able to refute it. He had to learn how to stand up on his own hind legs, and see how evolutionists think, to learn how to reason through things, use available resources, remain calm, and to settle down and wait. Unfortunately, I had to cut him off.

Someone else wanted me to answer various spiritual matters. I did what I could, but when he began asking questions that were outside my realms of study, I deferred to others. Hope he wasn't angry.

Note to Christians: it's all right to say, "I don't know". Sure, atheists are likely to claim it is evidence that there is no God, but they usually reject what you have to say anyway because they're not really interested in answers. (On more than one occasion, when I gave in and provided material so they didn't have to research themselves, the response I received was the equivalent of, "I don't have to read it. You're still wrong. Narf!") Also, bluffing is a way to lose someone's respect, as well as dishonoring to God.

A recent encounter really took the rag off the bush. I was asked about some extremely technical matters regarding human and ape fossils. Hey, I'm no paleoanthropologist, so I gave him suggestions for places to search and to possibly contact the scientists on staff at those sites. He wasn't happy, and sent a chart with the message, "...A.sediba is a man (erectus) or an ape (afarensis)? Have a lot of characteristics from both, you can look here and see them..." No. I replied, "That gets into far more detailed specifics than I have ever dealt with, never heard of sediba. Anthropologists dispute these things all the time, and they have little evidence to support their claims. Again, I suggest the sites I provided earlier, search them out and maybe even use the contact form to ask." He then instructed me to search on sediba. What, so I could become an expert overnight? Not happening, old son. When I deferred again, he accused me of not being interested "in this stuff". When people get pushy, they're given the left foot of good fellowship.

Both Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International have contact forms. Each one has a section that says, in essence, "If you have theological or scientific questions, please search the site before submitting your questions, as we may have already dealt with the subject. Indeed, CMI has had occasionally addressed remarks and pointed out that items had been answered. This happened in the Feedback article, "Wagging a finger at creationists", where Keaton Halley said in his response, "Our submission form asks you to search our website before submitting feedback, yet your main points have already been addressed on creation.com many times".

At the risk of overstepping my bounds, those of us with creation science ministries are willing to help when we can, but we have limits and many of us have jobs and other activities. As for me, I follow the lead of the large ministries and try to get people to think critically. Also, I think others will agree with me that people need to so some searching, especially on the big creation science ministry sites. Facebook? Lousy to search. Other sites have a search function. But even things like my "Evolutionary Truth by Piltdown Superman" have a search function as well, and from there, more often than not there are links to help out inquirers. Helpful hint: using Google, you can be specific by typing your search term followed by site:[full site name].

Many of us are willing to help by answering questions and providing resouces. As for me, I'm not an on-call errand boy for people who are unwilling to do some work themselves.