Rembrandt’s fingerprints spotted in 400-year-old painting

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The Dutch master is thought to have touched the oil paint on Study Of A Head Of A Young Man when it was still wet.

By Stephen White
21:21, 21 Nov. 2018

Study Of A Head Of A Young Man portrays Rembrandt’s model as Jesus (Image: PA)
Fingerprints thought to be those of Dutch master Rembrandt have been discovered in a small oil sketch almost 400 years old.

Study Of A Head Of A Young Man, measuring just 10in high, is expected to fetch about £6million when it is auctioned in London next month.

Buried in the original layer of paint, in the lower edge of the “powerful and touching” 17th century portrait, experts found what are believed to be the Dutch master’s thumbprints.

No other prints by the painter, said to be the “foremost master of the Western artistic tradition”, have ever been found.

While it is impossible to confirm the prints are those of Rembrandt, who is famous for his portraits and use of light and shadow, experts believe they are the “only known fingerprints of the Dutch master”.

They were uncovered during a process of technical examination and restoration, which included pigment analyses, X-ray and infra-red imaging, just before the painting went on display in the US and the Louvre, in Paris.

George Gordon, worldwide co-chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master paintings, who are auctioning the work, called the find an “extraordinary discovery”.

The fingerprints were left on the 1655 painting when the paint was still wet.

The Next Rembrandt: Dutch Master ‘brought back to life’ for one last painting
“You often get finger and thumbprints in the varnish of painting, but that doesn’t really tell you anything of interest,” he said. “This is in the original paint.

“This shows that Rembrandt was happy with the painting while it was still wet. He painted it very quickly.

“But what is certain is that it is somebody that picked up the painting as soon as it was finished.”

He added: “While as far as we know no comparable finger or thumbprints of Rembrandt have been found in other works to confirm the conclusion, the discovery of the marks in the original layer of paint…. make their connection to the artist highly credible.”

He said that the portrait, dating from around 1655, has a “spiritual and emotional impact”.

“We know he worked really quickly and you can also see and feel it in this painting,” he said.

“When Rembrandt applies thick layers of paint, some of the colour leaches through. It has an intense visceral quality and is astonishingly well preserved.”

He added: “I suspect people will now look for fingerprints in other paintings.”

Michel van de Laar, a conservator in Amsterdam who helped lead the research, said: “The work was also determined to have been executed in one sitting.

“The discovery of the fingerprints is further testament to the speed with which the work was likely executed and provides fresh insight into Rembrandt’s complex but swift painting technique.”

Study Of A Head Of A Young Man portrays Rembrandt’s model as Jesus, with his hands clasped in prayer, and has been praised for the artist’s ability to “render human emotions”.

Spider Silk Inspires New Technology and the Case for a Creator

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BY FAZALE RANA – NOVEMBER 28, 2018
Mark your calendars!

On December 14th (2018), Columbia Pictures—in collaboration with Sony Pictures Animation—will release a full-length animated feature: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. The story features Miles Morales, an Afro-Latino teenager, as Spider-Man.

Morales accidentally becomes transported from his universe to ours, where Peter Parker is Spider-Man. Parker meets Morales and teaches him how to be Spider-Man. Along the way, they encounter different versions of Spider-Man from alternate dimensions. All of them team up to save the multiverse and to find a way to return back to their own versions of reality.

What could be better than that?

In 1962, Spider-Man’s creators, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, drew inspiration for their superhero in the amazing abilities of spiders. And today, engineers find similar inspiration, particularly, when it comes to spider silk. The remarkable properties of spider’s silk is leading to the creation of new technologies.

Synthetic Spider Silk

Engineers are fascinated by spider silk because this material displays astonishingly high tensile strength and ductility (pliability), properties that allow it to absorb huge amounts of energy before breaking. Only one-sixth the density of steel, spider silk can be up to four times stronger, on a per weight basis.

By studying this remarkable substance, engineers hope that they can gain insight and inspiration to engineer next-generation materials. According to Northwestern University researcher Nathan C. Gianneschi, who is attempting to produce synthetic versions of spider silk, “One cannot overstate the potential impact on materials and engineering if we can synthetically replicate the natural process to produce artificial fibers at scale. Simply put, it would be transformative.”1

Gregory P. Holland of San Diego State University, one of Gianneschi’s collaborators, states, “The practical applications for materials like this are essentially limitless.”2 As a case in point, synthetic versions of spider silk could be used to make textiles for military personnel and first responders and to make construction materials such as cables. They would also have biomedical utility and could be used to produce environmentally friendly plastics.

The Quest to Create Synthetic Spider Silk

But things aren’t that simple. Even though life scientists and engineers understand the chemical structure of spider’s silk and how its structural features influence its mechanical properties, they have not been able to create synthetic versions of it with the same set of desired properties.

 

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Figure 1: The Molecular Architecture of Spider Silk. Fibers of spider silk consist of proteins that contain crystalline regions separated by amorphous regions. The crystals form from regions of the protein chain that fold into structures called beta-sheets. These beta-sheets stack together to give the spider silk its tensile strength. The amorphous regions give the silk fibers ductility. Image credit: Chen-Pan Liao.

Researchers working to create synthetic spider silk speculate that the process by which the spider spins the silk may play a critical role in establishing the biomaterial’s tensile strength and ductility. Before it is extruded, silk exists in a precursor form in the silk gland. Researchers think that the key to generating synthetic spider silk with the same properties as naturally formed spider silk may be found by mimicking the structure of the silk proteins in precursor form.

Previous work suggests that the proteins that make up spider silk exist as simple micelles in the silk gland and that when spun from this form, fibers with greater-than-steel strength are formed. But researchers’ attempts to apply this insight in a laboratory setting failed to yield synthetic silk with the desired properties.

The Structure of Spider Silk Precursors

Hoping to help unravel this problem, a team of American collaborators led by Gianneschi and Holland recently provided a detailed characterization of the structure of the silk protein precursors in spider glands.3 They discovered that the silk proteins form micelles, but the micelles aren’t simple. Instead, they assemble into a complex structure comprised of a hierarchy of subdomains. Researchers also learned that when they sheared these nanoassemblies of precursor proteins, fibers formed. If they can replicate these hierarchical nanostructures in the lab, researchers believe they may be able to construct synthetic spider silk with the long-sought-after tensile strength and ductility.

Biomimetics and Bioinspiration

Attempts to find inspiration for new technology is n0t limited to spider silk. It has become rather commonplace for engineers to employ insights from arthropod biology (which includes spiders and insects) to solve engineering problems and to inspire the invention of new technologies—even technologies unlike anything found in nature. In fact, I discuss this practice in an essay I contributed for the book God and the World of Insects.

This activity falls under the domain of two relatively new and exciting areas of engineering known as biomimetics and bioinspiration. As the names imply, biomimetics involves direct mimicry of designs from biology, whereas bioinspiration relies on insights from biology to guide the engineering enterprise.

The Converse Watchmaker Argument for God’s Existence

The idea that biological designs can inspire engineering and technology advances is highly provocative. It highlights the elegant designs found throughout the living realm. In the case of spider silk, design elegance is not limited to the structure of spider silk but extends to its manufacturing process as well—one that still can’t be duplicated by engineers.

The elegance of these designs makes possible a new argument for God’s existence—one I have named the converse Watchmaker argument. (For a detailed discussion see the essay I contributed to the book Building Bridges, entitled, “The Inspirational Design of DNA.”)

The argument can be stated like this: if biological designs are the work of a Creator, then these systems should be so well-designed that they can serve as engineering models for inspiring the development of new technologies. Indeed, this scenario is what scientists observe in nature. Therefore, it becomes reasonable to think that biological designs are the work of a Creator.

Biomimetics and the Challenge to the Evolutionary Paradigm

From my perspective, the use of biological designs to guide engineering efforts seems fundamentally at odds with evolutionary theory. Generally speaking, evolutionary biologists view biological systems as the products of an unguided, historically contingent process that co-opts preexisting systems to cobble together new ones. Evolutionary mechanisms can optimize these systems, but even then they are, in essence, still kludges.

Given the unguided nature of evolutionary mechanisms, does it make sense for engineers to rely on biological systems to solve problems and inspire new technologies? Is it in alignment with evolutionary beliefs to build an entire subdiscipline of engineering upon mimicking biological designs? I would argue that these engineering subdisciplines do not fit with the evolutionary paradigm.

On the other hand, biomimetics and bioinspiration naturally flow out of a creation model approach to biology. Using designs in nature to inspire engineering only makes sense if these designs arose from an intelligent Mind, whether in this universe or in any of the dimensions of the Spider-Verse.

Resources

Endnotes

  1. Northwestern University, “Mystery of How Black Widow Spiders Create Steel-Strength Silk Webs further Unravelled,” Phys.org, Science X, October 22, 2018, https://phys.org/news/2018-10-mystery-black-widow-spiders-steel-strength.html.
  2. Northwestern University, “Mystery of How Black Widow Spiders Create.”
  3. Lucas R. Parent et al., “Hierarchical Spidroin Micellar Nanoparticles as the Fundamental Precursors of Spider Silks,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (October 2018), doi:10.1073/pnas.1810203115.

The Smallest Thing There Is

The science of quantum physics, or the world of the very small.
By Douglas Duncan

Did you ever ask as a child, “What is the very smallest thing that there is?”, or “How small can something be before it becomes nothing?” Asking those two questions usually give rise to the grander third one, “What is the opposite of the universe?” Well, it is just a theory at this point, as there is currently no technological way of observing; but quantum physicists now theorize that the at the very bottom of the ladder, is nothing more than vibrating bits of oscillating waves, that for now, can only be described as ‘strings’. They conjecture two types… ‘open’ and ‘closed’ strings.

Traveling down through the world of the very small… smaller than the atom, smaller than protons or neutrons, smaller than electrons, still smaller than neutrinos and quarks, continuing downward beyond photons and gluons, we finally arrive at the point where ‘No man has gone before’.

There really is no way to explain String Theory, to most of us, but I researched and sought for the least technical article on the subject, and have included it below.

Just make an attempt to read through it, maybe twice, and you may (or may not) begin to see what the physicists are discussing.

I like the guitar string analogy best, as I would say that most people have observed how a plucked guitar string appears to look like a bunch of strings as it’s vibrating. By the way, cats go crazy when you pluck a string in front of them because they see every one of those vibrations as a single string.

I found the following article on string theory to be extremely enlightening and it is written with a more fundamental and easier to understand explanation. Even so, you still have to concentrate some (or at least browse what makes sense), but it will serve as an excellent beginners guide, and you will be able to discuss and learn further about our quantum universe from gaining a handle on it here.


Article:
Think of a guitar string that has been tuned by stretching the string under tension across the guitar. Depending on how the string is plucked and how much tension is in the string, different musical notes will be created by the string. These musical notes could be said to be excitation modes of that guitar string under tension.

In a similar manner, in string theory, the elementary particles we observe in particle accelerators could be thought of as the “musical notes” or excitation modes of elementary strings.

In string theory, as in guitar playing, the string must be stretched under tension in order to become excited. However, the strings in string theory are floating in space-time; they aren’t tied down to a guitar. Nonetheless, they have tension. The string tension in string theory is denoted by the quantity 1/(2 p a’), where a’ is pronounced “alpha prime” and is equal to the square of the string length scale.

If string theory is to be a theory of quantum gravity, then the average size of a string should be somewhere near the length scale of quantum gravity, called the Planck length, which is about 10-33 centimeters, or about a millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a centimeter. Unfortunately, this means that strings are way too small to see by current or expected particle physics technology (or financing!!) and so string theorists must devise more clever methods to test the theory than just looking for little strings in particle experiments.

String theories are classified according to whether or not the strings are required to be closed loops, and whether or not the particle spectrum includes fermions. In order to include fermions in string theory, there must be a special kind of symmetry called supersymmetry, which means for every boson (particle that transmits a force) there is a corresponding fermion (particle that makes up matter). So supersymmetry relates the particles that transmit forces to the particles that make up matter.

Supersymmetric partners to currently known particles have not been observed in particle experiments, but theorists believe this is because supersymmetric particles are too massive to be detected at current accelerators. Particle accelerators could be on the verge of finding evidence for high energy supersymmetry in the next decade.

Evidence for supersymmetry at high energy would be compelling evidence that string theory was a good mathematical model for Nature at the smallest distance scales.


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Vicissitudes from the Hollow

thurmondwestvirginia200X
By Douglas L. Duncan

Eleven years lived in eastern Kentucky.
Eleven long years where the sun flickers light.
Encompassed by mountains, that reach to the heavens.
Gazing up, thru a portal of stars in the night.

Where trash bags and milk jugs float down the Tug River,
and the coal smoke from chimneys add soot to the rain.
There’s no warmth in the hollows, no hope for the miner,
and the floods and the forest fires make known their claim.

Man’s not meant to live there, corn grows on the hillside,
and they gather the ears to the bins by the stills.
Then they turn it to whiskey, and give it to family,
who drink to forget all their troubles and ills.

I am blessed to have lived there, and I’ve learned a great lesson.
Never walk thru this life, with a longing for gold.
Be grateful for sunshine, be grateful for breakfast.
And remember the place, whence this story is told.


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Think Speak

thinkspeak

In George Orwell’s novel 1984, ‘Think-Speak’ is the name of a universal language of permissible word usage in a dismal dystopian future, whose purpose is to convey a structured monologue of the goings on of daily life, with the goal of having everyone be aligned on thought while eliminating all emotion during the course of communication.

My Definition of ‘Think Speak’, unlike Orwell’s, retains emotions and is the act of condensing a more complete, comprehensive thought process that one has just broken down (analyzed) into its constituent parts within their mind. This summary is stated as a quote, cliche or perhaps an abbreviated ‘short line’ they have just coined themselves.

For example, one has been thinking extensively about how they have spent their life’, or, they have just completed breaking down all the aspects of a particular issue or situation. All of a sudden, a ‘Think Speak’ pops into their head, so they summarily utter something peculiar such as “Life’s Been Good So Far”, or “You can never go back” (i.e. you burned the bridges), etc.

Again, when they realize that they have exhausted the issue, a remembered phrase or quote may come to mind that nicely ‘sums’ up everything that was just pondered over. For them, it is like giving the mental work a title.

While this ‘Think Speak’ summarizing makes perfect sense to the one who worked through the thought process, it is apt to sound or appear (if written) to another, as ambiguous or confusing. It might be construed as a parable or quote that doesn’t fit within the present conversation. It may indeed seem that the one doing the ‘Think Speak’ has simply lost their mind.

The caveat of ‘Think Speak’ is that the recipient simply can’t read the thinker’s mind, although the thinker falsely assumes that the recipient’s mind is one with theirs so it must be a ‘given’.

Footnote:
‘The result of using ‘Think Speak’ is somewhat analogous to the humorous, well worn defining of the word ‘Assume’. To Assume, can often times make an ‘Ass of You and Me’.


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Brave New World Revisited

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It’s wonderful that we have conservative and liberal views in America, but the accelerating lack of rationality that is occurring in this twenty-first century is not wonderful. I’m not so much concerned about the country transcending into some new form of twenty-first century governing, as all governments eventually fade into history, usually lasting not much more than a couple hundred years. Even though I was brought up to be a conservative individual, and in fact am, I no longer lay claim to, nor participate in any political faction, for the simple reason that I have chosen to finish my days observing and philosophizing the human condition full time now, with no further interest in becoming caught up in its impassioned endeavors happening before my eyes; and none of these factions are even remotely capable of dealing with the much larger issue which presses upon me. In fact, without exemption, all political parties have become the most amplified and accurate reflection of the fallibility of the human condition. They know not what they do, yet they keep on plowing madly away at it, with an accelerated momentum.

This past decade has revealed to me an exponentially growing viciousness between political sides. I observe an increase in ‘cut-throat’ tactics on a level never before witnessed… a level which now revelates visions of assassinations and an ever growing likelihood of civil war, all for the attempted fulfillment of settling a list of decades (if not centuries) old grievances that would fill a chasm, and in reality could never be completely agreed upon; and this is an example of the elements of the condition that truly concerns me regarding the social sanity of the American citizen.

A specific alternative government doesn’t weigh very much in my mind as a path in which to solve the continuing degradation of the sociability of humanity. Short of global administering of George Orwell’s soma gum to sedate us all into a continual passive state, I am currently at a loss to see humanity ever transcending into that ‘Brave New World’ where all our grievances are finally dissipated once and for all.

We have so many innate flaws, like greed for example. Greed isn’t even a thing that is observed and learned. It comes built in, right out of the box, and no biology scientist or brain surgeon has a clue as to how it might be excised at birth, as simply as doing an excellent job of severing and tying off the umbilical cord. Watch two children sitting on the step eating their ice cream cones. One child gulps their cone down while the other slowly licks it, enjoying every moment. Suddenly the first child looks at the other and says, “I ate my ice cream cone, and now I want yours”. No one taught them that. Or the same two out on the lawn, and one picks up a Tonka truck and starts making motor sounds with their mouth, and the other one sees the enjoyment transpiring and tries to tear the truck away from the happy child, which now becomes a fight with crying and shouting ensuing. Did you teach those children to do that Mom? I didn’t think so… And with inborn issues like this, humanity is already predisposed to self destruction (or even annihilation).

We are at an ominous crossroads at this point in linear time. I observe the differing sides, and not just the political arena, but our own smaller groups and personal interactions as well, and that is where my concerns lie, although I’ll be gone soon enough, which raises the question,”Why be concerned at all?” I’ve a feeling the philosophical observer has some sort of sense of responsibility regardless of a total lack of time or ability to wave a magic wand. Feminists have struggled for decades to make their gains. The gay community has struggled for decades to make their gains, and an entire array of other social groups have struggled to make their gains. My concern is real, and human history clearly shows that all the struggling in the world can come to a vicious and horrendous end at the drop of a hat (or axe), if we steer too haphazardly into the next era.

Why have we become so acutely piqued at issues that used to more appropriately cause our brows to furl, and to then place said issue into our think tanks for later discussion and discernment using rationale? Why are we all on such a razor edge with this generation, and so full of the fallacy of, “My way or the highway… and I mean Right Now!” Is this forever going to be the curse of the homosapient? Are we pre-programmed to be stuck in this singular mode? Are we helpless all the way to our own undoing then?

Well, I for one would like to finish this life, having some sort of positive proof that these conditions are not unalterable, and that as a social animal with access to intelligence and reasoning at the ready, we might at least begin a brave… new… and different world. In the meantime, I’ll continue observing and thinking, and if I have a great epiphany of the solution, I’ll certainly be letting you know.

Douglas L. Duncan


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A Story for Brother Abel

By Douglas L. Duncan

Chapter One

It was once a very lonely place for God in His first, and as yet, only heavenly realm at some distant epoch so far back it cannot be fathomed by the human mind. It will forever be a complete unknown as to just how long He existed there in an endless enigma of solitude… but I will weave you a child’s’ story of what eventually happens when an all-knowing Creator, or any other intelligent being experiences too much solitude for too long a time.

When He had finally been alone for so long that agitation and frustration set into his very being… it occurred to Him to create an endless sea of beings for company, having the same physical appearance as you and I, and having similar senses as us, like seeing, touching, hearing and speaking. And oh, my could they ever sing! These new beings He called angels.

Like everything God creates, He was very pleased with his new angels, but it was not too long after making them that He found himself still feeling strangely alone despite having all these wonderful new creatures surrounding Him. And even though He loved them very much, something decidedly was still not quite right, because He began noticing they were all just following Him about, moving in waves like a massive school of fish swimming as though they were a single living thing in the sea, and having been simply thought into existence, He soon realized that they did not have any past experiences or original thoughts and ideas to share with Him. Nor did they show any signs of wanting to learn more beyond the music they loved and were so proficient at.

For all the angels’ beauty that God bestowed upon them, the sum of their knowledge consisted only of their own unadventurous ‘in-the-moment’ interactions among themselves and the unanimous awareness that God had made them. They felt the compelling need to honor Him with their smiles and beautiful singing of eloquent compositions of praise, but there was never any need to search for Him or knock at His proverbial door, because He was already there with them all the time, and they knew that they knew that… so that was pretty much the limit of the angels company for God.

The creation of the angels was simply not enough. They were still coming up short of His need and longing for a deeper sharing of knowledge and concepts, and of feeling love at a personal ‘one on one’ level that could ultimately extinguish His longing for sharing His innermost thoughts both now and for all eternity.

And so, after yet another unknown epoch of unsatiated and racking loneliness passed by, along with further weighing of the angelic limitations versus the full criteria of what God really desired for companionship, He suddenly had His greatest of all epiphanies, and He excitedly addressed His three selves.

“I have it!… If we really want sentient beings that can uniquely love and loathe, be sorrowful and feel joy in varying degrees, interact and dialog with us, have genuine multi-faceted feelings and offer original concepts, then we need to create beings that are dangerously close to being fully like us, and have the ability to make their own choices, just as we do…”

“And now I’ve deduced what has been missing all along! What we must do, is create beings that have the same mental capacities that We have, with limitations on power and the ability to use all that capacity for now of course. They must realize that ‘they are that they are’… that they ‘exist in the now’… that they are ‘fully conscious of themselves and each other’, unlike our lesser life forms. They have to be frail and weak, yet have a will of their own to make decisions, to be able to think unique ideas and have enough creativity to bring those ideas to fruition, They need to have emotions like love, anger, joy, sadness, anguish, fear, empathy, and above all, they need to share this same feeling of frustration and loneliness we are still feeling!”

“What I propose this time is that we create beings with much closer parallels to the imaging and construct of our own minds. As to the intricacies of how they might appear in the visual sense, that is not nearly as important right now. It is the independence of thought, and ‘creative thought processing’ that we have no other option but to focus on and endow them with. Anything less and this loneliness is never going to end for us.”

“Of course, having such advanced attributes inevitably means these beings are going to make their own decisions as to whom they choose to love and acknowledge as a friend, and who they won’t. Which in turn means, we are going to end up painfully losing much of them from choosing to not be our friend, and if they despise us so, that they choose to not give us so much as their infinitesimal time of day, or worse yet, deny we even exist… well then, I am afraid I won’t be able to even look at them without becoming more upset than I already am with this infernal feeling of emptiness.

One thing is undeniably and excruciatingly certain with this plan as it must be executed, and that is the great loss of so many of my creation in order to finally attain a truly equal family to coexist with us; but I have thought it through for eons now and there is simply no shortcut or workaround for intelligent, harmonious compatibility with us. The inevitable loss to rejecting us gives me pause to ever create them, but this singular loneliness has become unbearable to me.

“These ones who shall breathe air and choose to turn from the beacon of light we shall provide to show the path here, and instead run away into the darkness, certainly cannot be permitted to step from temporal linear time, to eternally living right next to the few who do make the wiser choice to seek us, believing we exist without seeing before reaching our realm. Unfortunately, these ones will all have to be turned away as it is utterly unacceptable to have them here generating eternal chaos among those who love us. I cannot sanely coexist with dark behavior at my own door, and I simply won’t have it. I refuse to be the author of confusion and that is exactly what it would be to do anything less than separate the wheat from the chaff… and I’ll explain the wheat for food concept later.”

“By my careful calculations, the way it plays out now, we will have to reject over ninety-eight percent of every body-soul we create, which is going to be a terrible loss, and I am sorely perplexed for a real remedy to such a horrendous imbalance to the methodology of my proposal for beings devised to have so very much of our own characteristics. I must go and think upon all this for a time.”

Chapter Two

Later on, or about 1.2 billion earth orbits around its star:

“I was just over there at the ‘Creative Ideas Center’ working on something I call a giraffe when I inadvertently brushed my hand against the perfectly good pomegranate I created earlier this morning, causing it to roll off the bench onto the perfectly good solid gold floor. Slightly irritated with myself, having had the maintenance angels polish the floor just last night, I grudgingly bent over with a frown on my face to pick up the now badly bruised fruit (a thirty mile drop from benchtop to floor doesn’t give fruit a chance), and when I began to straighten up, my head hit right on the corner of the wood vise and that’s when it happened.”

“Eureka! I finally had the solution to my previous epiphany of creating beings who appear and cogitate as we do. I suppose you might call it an appendix epiphany to the original epiphany… or perhaps not… Whatever floats your ark, that’s what I always say. At any rate, I believe it is the perfect remedy to the problem of a relentless, much too high volume of lost souls with free will capability. That and I am completely exhausted trying to think of any other solution to my ‘lonely Creator’ issue.”
Naturally I am still going to have to work out all the little intricacies of the plan while I’m busy creating the physics of the humans’ temporal habitat by kick-starting it with the mother of all explosions, but on the face of it, it’s going to begin by comprising and merging a rather lengthy series of events along with multiple factors and elements, such as initially allowing everyone to fall out of good standing from the very beginning, evil, temptation, and then sending You down there later on Son to fix the subsequent mess. I’ll tell you more about that later… while you’re sitting down… with your feet up…

Finally, we’ll allow enough space-time to lapse in order to produce a vast sea of additional humans between when You get back here, and when We return, to complete the populating of them up here among their angel counterpart, and generally wind down the ongoing propagation of our semi-intelligent and wayward little life forms.

“I tell You what… I just traveled forward into man’s twenty-first century and retrieved some refreshment for us. Let us rest from our creative labors for now Son, and enjoy some of this unique Cabernet Sauvignon wine from Golan Heights Winery, and just sit back and listen to today’s concert by the Angelicas for a spell while I iron out some more of the finer details you’ll need to know later.

Here ya go… Have some of these excellent kippers I grabbed while I was there. They’re fresh Crasters from a little place called Northumberland… just caught this morning by Captain Matthew’s crew.

to be continued, forever…

Douglas L. Duncan


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No Time for God to Exist

stevenhawking“We have finally found something that doesn’t have a cause, because
there was no time for a cause to exist in. For me this means that there
is no possibility of a creator, because there is no time for a creator to
have existed in.” ~Steven Hawking

I read a science news article the other day wherein the late astrophysicist, Stephen Hawking, was giving some finalized theories regarding our universe and a creator in his farewell book, “Brief Answers to Big Questions,”. I used to just automatically equate Hawking with the same level of genius as Einstein because folks said he was, so I was supposed to as well; but I dropped that potato real fast when one of his last opines smashed head on into an asteroid at 186,000 miles per second.

In his last days, one of the final issues he addressed was the existence of God. He stated in reference to our universe’s beginning, “We have finally found something that doesn’t have a cause, because there was no time for a cause to exist in. For me this means that there is no possibility of a creator, because there is no time for a creator to have existed in.”

You don’t have to believe in God to perceive that there is something really wonky with that simplified conclusion. Even Einstein held to a pantheistic concept of an impersonal Creative entity. Hawking is stating with all confidence, that God cannot exist because before the Big Bang there was no linear time in which anything could be the cause of anything, therefore, neither could there be an ultimate conciseness to choose to cause something. Zing! What the hey kind of brilliance was that? He certainly wasn’t thinking through all the possibilities when he blurted that one over his synthesizer.

He addressed the God issue with a near idiotic assumption that the universe and specifically linear time had to have God within its boundaries, or perhaps more to the point, a time out of time, in order to exist, rather than a God from a timeless higher dimension outside the creation event, or the sudden explosion of everything from nothing, referred to as the Big Bang.

Why that’s like saying, “I just made you pancakes for breakfast, but unfortunately I didn’t exist because I wasn’t part of the pancakes, so there aren’t any pancakes. So why don’t you go back to bed, and then come back out here after awhile, and see if any pancakes show up. You never know, I might suddenly exist inside the Bisquick box, and then, there they’ll be… all nice and fluffy with butter and syrup on them!”

The whole concept there StephenO, is that an extremely powerful Entity chooses to create a dimension of both physical matter and continuously expanding movement of said matter, including those speedy little photons which is what we like to measure the speed thereof and refer to the results as time. The Entity itself is not a part of Its newly created dimension, any more than you are a part of your scooter, which will probably be enshrined in a prominent place at The Cambridge University now.

Time is an intrinsic prisoner of our expanding universe and is not a requirement nor probability outside of it, regardless of what alternate realities lie beyond its expanse. I cannot help but chortle a bit at Hawking’s final conclusion on the subject, because the one thing he was right on, is that God really cannot be a part of time, which is merely an attribute of the physical universe He made to begin with, so what was he putting in his tea everyday pray tell, that would give him cause to believe that a creator necessarily has to have this attribute of His creation in order to exist, when he made such an utterance?

As a young man he was known to have believed in a creator, but perhaps one reason for the eventual overtly atheistic view, could be that he became set against a perceived mean God for a lifetime of imprisonment in a non-responsive body, which would be understandable; however that angle is purely speculation on my part. Actually, that’s not true. My wife suggested it to me.

At any rate, I would have thought that he would have been more of an outside the box, thinking bigger kind of guy, but I guess his logic got sucked into a black hole in the end. Well, that was kind of a dismal end theory to wrap up with, and I believe I’ll adhere to a much grander and more creative hypothesis myself.

Douglas L. Duncan


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Are Muslims Wholly Radical

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It is not the six letter label ‘Muslim’ that is the problematic issue of the eastern culture assimilating with the west’s.

I will always remember my fellow printer, and Muslim friend Mike, who had his printing shop in Lexington Kentucky. I spent several years collaborating with Mike, and it was he who first made me aware of the plight of the common American Muslim. He would show me the small Muslim newspaper he was obligated to receive regularly, that revealed the growing antisemitism towards the entire western world.

My fondest memory of Mike was his great generosity and outlandish humor. He would lower his voice almost to a whisper however, when he spoke to me of things that may well have placed his wife and daughters in harm’s way. I could only feel sadness.

It is without doubt, the radical, conquering Sharia mindset that has dug its claws into the people who were born into what has become an imperiling theology, that in turn threatens civilization itself. Most Muslims, like the people of any other culture, are busy dealing with life itself, giving no time or thought to causes or change.

Here is what I have learned. Regardless of the geographical location of one’s birth and existence, or the culture they inherited on this earth, there will always be souls that belong to God in every single one of these places, and He knows exactly where they are at all times. As to their lot in life, well… evil knows no boundaries, nor is there an eceptioned race of humans I’m aware of, that are immune to pain and suffering.


Judging Others

Here is what the Bible says.
“Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Matthew 7 NIV
It is like this: No one knows the thoughts that another person has. Only the person’s spirit that lives inside knows those thoughts. It is the same with God. No one knows God’s thoughts except God’s Spirit.
1 Corinthians 2:11 ERV
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye, and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
Matthew 7:3 NIV

Admittedly, it is an unsettling state, to be vigilant of societal threats, while taking care not to repeat stereotyping as America did its own native Japanese during World War II. Those in possession of a Qur’an today, may also have a Bible hidden under a floor board. This is inevitably so, because all of humanity has been given both the freedom to choose, and whether they desire to seek the Creator.
Douglas L. Duncan

Vocal Signals Smile on the Case for Human Exceptionalism

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BY FAZALE RANA – NOVEMBER 21, 2018

Before Thanksgiving each year, those of us who work at Reasons to Believe (RTB) headquarters take part in an annual custom. We put our work on pause and use that time to call donors, thanking them for supporting RTB’s mission. (It’s a tradition we have all come to love, by the way.)

Before we start making our calls, our ministry advancement team leads a staff meeting to organize our efforts. And each year at these meetings, they remind us to smile when we talk to donors. I always found this to be an odd piece of advice, but they insist that when we talk to people, our smiles come across over the phone.

Well, it turns out that the helpful advice of our ministry advancement team has scientific merit, based on a recent study from a team of neuroscientists and psychologists from France and the UK.1 This research highlights the importance of vocal signaling for communicating emotions between people. And from my perspective, the work also supports the notion of human exceptionalism and the biblical concept of the image of God.

We Can Hear Smiles

The research team was motivated to perform this study in order to learn the role vocal signaling plays in social cognition. They chose to focus on auditory “smiles,” because, as these researchers point out, smiles are among the most powerful facial expressions and one of the earliest to develop in children. As I am sure we all know, smiles express positive feelings and are contagious.

When we smile, our zygomaticus major muscle contracts bilaterally and causes our lips to stretch. This stretching alters the sounds of our voices. So, the question becomes: Can we hear other people when they smile?

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Figure 1: Zygomaticus major. Image credit: Wikipedia

To determine if people can “hear” smiles, the researchers recorded actors who spoke a range of French phonemes, with and without smiling. Then, they modeled the changes in the spectral patterns that occurred in the actors’ voices when they smiled while they spoke.

The researchers used this model to manipulate recordings of spoken sentences so that they would sound like they were spoken by someone who was smiling (while keeping other features such as pitch, content, speed, gender, etc., unchanged). Then, they asked volunteers to rate the “smiley-ness” of voices before and after manipulation of the recordings. They found that the volunteers could distinguish the transformed phonemes from those that weren’t altered.

Next, they asked the volunteers to mimic the sounds of the “smiley” phonemes. The researchers noted that for the volunteers to do so, they had to smile.

Following these preliminary experiments, the researchers asked volunteers to describe their emotions when listening to transformed phonemes compared to those that weren’t transformed. They found that when volunteers heard the altered phonemes, they expressed a heightened sense of joy and irony.

Lastly, the researchers used electromyography to monitor the volunteers’ facial muscles so that they could detect smiling and frowning as the volunteers listened to a set of 60 sentences—some manipulated (to sound as if they were spoken by someone who was smiling) and some unaltered. They found that when the volunteers judged speech to be “smiley,” they were more likely to smile and less likely to frown.

In other words, people can detect auditory smiles and respond by mimicking them with smiles of their own.

Auditory Signaling and Human Exceptionalism

This research demonstrates that both the visual and auditory clues we receive from other people help us to understand their emotional state and to become influenced by it. Our ability to see and hear smiles helps us develop empathy toward others. Undoubtedly, this trait plays an important role in our ability to link our minds together and to form complex social structures—two characteristics that some anthropologists believe contribute to human exceptionalism.

The notion that human beings differ in degree, not kind, from other creatures has been a mainstay concept in anthropology and primatology for over 150 years. And it has been the primary reason why so many people have abandoned the belief that human beings bear God’s image.

Yet, this stalwart view in anthropology is losing its mooring, with the concept of human exceptionalism taking its place. A growing minority of anthropologists and primatologists now believe that human beings really are exceptional. They contend that human beings do, indeed, differ in kind, not merely degree, from other creatures—including Neanderthals. Ironically, the scientists who argue for this updated perspective have developed evidence for human exceptionalism in their attempts to understand how the human mind evolved. And, yet, these new insights can be used to marshal support for the biblical conception of humanity.

Anthropologists identify at least four interrelated qualities that make us exceptional: (1) symbolism, (2) open-ended generative capacity, (3) theory of mind, and (4) our capacity to form complex social networks.

Human beings effortlessly represent the world with discrete symbols and to denote abstract concepts. Our ability to represent the world symbolically and to combine and recombine those symbols in a countless number of ways to create alternate possibilities has interesting consequences. Human capacity for symbolism manifests in the form of language, art, music, and body ornamentation. And humans alone desire to communicate the scenarios we construct in our minds with other people.

But there is more to our interactions with other human beings than a desire to communicate. We want to link our minds together and we can do so because we possess a theory of mind. In other words, we recognize that other people have minds just like ours, allowing us to understand what others are thinking and feeling. We also possess the brain capacity to organize people we meet and know into hierarchical categories, allowing us to form and engage in complex social networks.

Thus, I would contend that our ability to hear people’s smiles plays a role in theory of mind and our sophisticated social capacities. It contributes to human exceptionalism.

In effect, these four qualities could be viewed as scientific descriptors of the image of God. In other words, evidence for human exceptionalism is evidence that human beings bear God’s image.

So, even though many people in the scientific community promote a view of humanity that denigrates the image of God, scientific evidence and common-day experience continually support the notion that we are unique and exceptional as human beings. It makes me grin from ear to ear to know that scientific investigations into our cognitive and behavioral capacities continue to affirm human exceptionalism and, with it, the image of God.

Indeed, we are the crown of creation. And that makes me thankful!

Resources

Endnotes

  1. Pablo Arias, Pascal Belin, and Jean-Julien Aucouturier, “Auditory Smiles Trigger Unconscious Facial Imitation,” Current Biology 28 (July 23, 2018): PR782–R783, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2018.05.084.
Reprinted with permission by the author
Original article at:
https://www.reasons.org/explore/blogs/the-cells-design/read/the-cells-design/2018/11/21/vocal-signals-smile-on-the-case-for-human-exceptionalism