Monday, January 30, 2017

The Good Samaritan Called Starbucks!

While Friends Meeting wrangle over organizational rulings and theological conflicts,
millions of refugees are suffering and in desperate need of help!

This sadly reminds me of how our Friends Meeting decided not to help Iraqis during the Iraq War. The leader of our Social Concerns group opposed the name of the outreach organization working in Iraq, because it had the word "Christian" in its name--Christian Peacemaker Teams--and because we didn't have a lot of funds:-(.

And now, allegedly 80% of Evangelical Christians (white) oppose bringing many thousands of these desperate humans displaced and suffering to the U.S.

Have they forgotten the story Jesus, the son of human, told?


Instead, millions of Christians hold to self-centered views like this famous Christian leader, Dr. Robert Jeffress: "I don’t care about that candidate’s tone or vocabulary, I want the meanest, toughest, son of a you-know-what I can find —
and I believe that’s biblical...because I realized what God had done” to save this nation by electing Trump. “To me, it was so obvious that God had intervened in that situation...intervened for Christians in this country...I think we got a reprieve, we got a little bit longer in this country to share the Gospel...", etc.


BBC News Item
"Starbucks has pledged to hire 10,000 refugees globally over the next five years...chief executive Howard Schultz said...with deep concern, a heavy heart and a resolute promise..." Recruitment will begin in the US and focus on people who had served or supported the military.

The recruitment pledge was "a concerted effort to welcome and seek opportunities for those fleeing war, violence, persecution and discrimination", he said. Starbucks operates more than 25,000 stores in 75 countries worldwide."

Silicon Valley heavyweights including Facebook, Google and Tesla have made public statements, while Airbnb is offering free accommodation to people affected by the travel restrictions and unable to get into the US."
BBC News

What if our Friends meetings in North Carolina, Northwest Yearly Meeting, and many other spiritually focused groups would take a break from in-house disagreements and instead entirely focus for a while on rescuing countless refugees like the secular business Starbucks is doing?!

What if other businesses would also make plans to hire some of these millions of displaced, impoverished, needy Syrian refugees, (and others)?

Even more important, let us as seekers of the Light, reach out to refugees.

Daniel Wilcox

Sunday, January 29, 2017

In the Midst of Quaker Meeting Fragmentation

How can a transcendent movement seeking the true,
the good, the just, the right, the compassionate
be an active witness of "truth to power" and to billions of humans in the midst of more severe trials
and crises,
if its own
doesn't hold?

How can we bring peace to others if we are caught in the mire of conflict?

How do we 'wrestle' in a loving way with others who understand differently?

Spiritual movements including organized religion, both formal
and informal, traditional and creedal, and revolutionary
and inclusive, indeed ALL human philosophies, lifestances,
worldviews of serious thought and action,
seem given to divisive fragmentation--
to one extreme or another; almost always
leaving us unbalanced, often distorted in our quest for truth.

Yet the Quaker movement itself swings back-and-forth-and-diagonally to 4 sides--
4 different poles of Light, seldom seeming to walk in wholeness.

An excerpt by Howard Brinton:

Quaker Thought and the Present

"Through the three centuries of Quaker history the four primary elements present
in all religion have at different times
exerted their influence in varying degrees."

"During the first century an a half mysticism and evangelicalism were
in balance in the group as a whole though many individuals tended to stress one or the other;

during the nineteenth century mysticism and evangelicalism were in conflict,
each pressing the other to extremes
in the group as a whole, though in many individuals the two were in balance;

and during the past half century rationalism and humanitarianism
have assumed greater prominence, sometimes becoming dominant,
though here again there
are some individuals in whom the four tendencies are in balance."

"The best type of religion is one in which
the mystical,
the evangelical,
the rational and
the social
are so related that each exercises a restraint on the others.

Too exclusive an emphasis on mysticism results in a religion which is individualistic, subjective and vague;

too dominant an evangelicalism results in religion which is authoritarian,
creedal and external;

too great an emphasis on rationalism results in a cold, intellectual religion which appeals only to the few;

too engrossing a devotion to the social gospel results in a religion which,
in improving the outer environment,
ignores defects of the inner life which cause the outer disorder."

"In Quakerism the optimum is not equality in rank of the four elements.
The mystical is basic."
To purchase this powerful book check with Quaker Books--

Brinton goes on to warn against "vitalism which worships the life-force
in its biological sense"
and the other distortions of
true enLIGHTenment.

About the only point where I disagree with Brinton is when he says
the 4 qualities "each exercise a restraint on the others."

Look instead at the four poles--that when most bathed in the Light,
the 4 different aspects,
(parts of true spiritual reality, the Transcendent), can bring reconciliation,
giving a redeeming uplifting of each other
and are the Seed of essential fulfillment,
the true purpose and goal of human beings.

Read Friends for 300 Years or the book's update, Friends for 350 years

Be not only intellectually enlightened, but raised up in the Light
to bring reconciliation, justice, and truth to the world!

In the LIGHT,

Daniel Wilcox

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Quaker Corny Humor #15: A Theist, Washington Mall Vigil, and More

In the midst of the weightiness of this current crisis and many conflicts, let's take
a combined;-) break and laugh a little, cough up some corn kernels.

In the old days, Friends used thee's and thou's when talking and writing. Imagine what this would lead to when and old Friend talks to a new Atheist online:

Quaker: "Knock, knock."

Atheist: "Who's there?"

Quaker: "Theist."

Atheist: "What?! Theist who? Who gives a 'dam'?"

Quaker: "Thee ist a friend, despite your use of that beaver construction word."

Why did 80% of Evangelical Christians (white) strongly support,
promote, and vote for Donald Trump for president?

Because they read in their inerrant Scriptures
that it declares in 1 Thessalonians 4:16--
"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven
with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the Trump of God..."

After the very discouraging U.S. Presidential Election results,
a number of D.C. Quakers held a silent vigil down by the Washington Mall.
The men and women were silently meditating for world peace,
compassion, and equality.

Some tourists walked by and one said, "Look at those religious fanatics!

One Quaker responded with a light smile, "But seeking the Light is Oat so simple. Not simplistic, but spontaneous and open to what is good."

Baffled, the visitor walked on, muttering, "Why did that guy say, "Oat?"


What does an infant kitten say to his daddy tomcat who is an artist?


In the Lighten-UP,

Daniel Wilcox

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Important Guest Post on Same Sexuality

See below past the brief intro. for the guest post: "A Man with No Past" by Fernando Alcantar

Brief intro:
There are so many Christians and other theists who have recently come out as same sexual. Has this always been true--that many spiritually concerned and focused people have hidden their same sexuality?

And there are so many churches and denominations including Friends arguing over same sexuality, even splitting up as Indiana Yearly Meeting did, and North Carolina Yearly Meeting and Northwest Yearly Meeting are doing now.

Check A Friendly Letter, Chuck Fager's recent blog articles for the details:

Even the huge United Methodist Denomination may split over the ethical issue. Other major denominations have in the recent past.

So much division and misunderstanding and sorrow!

But the worst tragedy of the current controversy is that, too often, the very real individuals who are at the center of the controversy get left in the wreck:-(

Think of the loving couples who only wanted to get marriage licenses in Kentucky, but the clerk Kim Davis wouldn't let them.

Remember when Marsha Stevens of the music group Children of the Day announced that she was a lesbian and thankful for being same sexual. What a storm of trouble.

And remember when it came to the news that Lonnie Frisbee, the famous Calvary Chapel assistant minister, was same sexual.


I wonder why.

I wonder what all of this controversy says about theism, about Quakerism, about the Christian religion, human nature, human psychology, life, and reality.

Do you have any thoughts about this huge topic?


A Man with No Past by Fernando Alcantar

"Fernando Alcántar was born and raised in Mexico and immigrated to the United States as a teenager. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership from Azusa Pacific University, one of the top Christian Universities in the nation.

He is an author, activist...He worked at APU's Mexico Outreach for eight years as Senior Coordinator of North American Partnerships. There, he oversaw hundreds of churches in Mexico and helped mobilize over 9,000 missionaries a year from all over the United States and Canada.

He innovated dozens of new ministries and developed unprecedented partnerships with government officials, nonprofits, schools, businesses, and churches. He has spoken in front of thousands sharing his faith and motivating people into Christian ministry, and traveled around the world serving marginalized communities."

Fernado Alcantar:

"I am a man with no past. And you are probably one too.

When I was born, my family put the seal of Catholicism on me and taught me that since I was Mexican, I was Catholic just as much.

The rest is a story I’ve shared on the book To the Cross and Back: An Immigrant’s Journey from Faith to Reason. A story of how as a teenager I converted to Protestant Christianity trying to escape loneliness and seeking healing from childhood trauma.

I then became a state leader for the Foursquare denomination in Baja California...a globetrotting missionary for Azusa Pacific University—one of the largest evangelical colleges in the nation.

And then became head of youth and young adult ministries for the almost 400 churches in the Southern California-Hawaii region of the United Methodist Church.

For about 30 years I obeyed the rules of the Bible as best as I could, including hiding the darkest secret—even from myself—the fact that I am gay. For at least a decade I fought a depression anchored in a never-ending doubt. What happens if I lose faith?"

Read the rest of Alcantar's powerful, sorrowful article at

What are your thoughts on Alcantar's crisis?

What are your thought on this whole issue?

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Friday, January 20, 2017

Guest Post by Johan Mauer: First Principles

In this dark troubled time, when so many humans are choosing extremism of all sorts,
and are majoring in invective, put-downs, and other forms of denigration,
here is a Friendly
voice of moderation, emphasizing
our need for principled peacemaking:

Can you believe?: First principles
by Johan Mauer

"Russian Army" store near
US embassy in Moscow,
Photo: Max Seddon

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Shocking Statements by Two Famous Writers, One an Atheist, One a Theist

Two Contrary Views of Two Famous Writers:

#1 "Union with Christ imparts an inner elevation, comfort in affliction, tranquil reliance,
and a heart which opens itself to everything noble and great not for the sake of ambition
or desire for fame, but for the sake of Christ.

Union with Christ produces a joy which the Epicurean seeks in vain in his shallow philosophy,
which the deeper thinker vainly pursues in the most hidden depths of knowledge.

It is a joy known only to the simple and childlike heart,
united with Christ and through Him with God, a joy which elevates life and makes it more beautiful."1


#2 "You know, I think, that I believe in no religion.

There is absolutely no proof for any of them,
and from a philosophical standpoint Christianity is not even the best.

All religions, that is, all mythologies to give them their proper name, are merely man's invention--Christ as much as Loki.

Primitive man found himself surrounded by all sorts of terrible things he didn't understand--thunder,
pestilence, snakes, etc:what more natural then to suppose that these were animated by evil spirits trying to torture him.

These he kept off by cringing to them, singing songs and making sacrifices etc. Gradually from being mere
nature-spirits these supposed beings were elevated into more elaborate ideas,
such as the old gods: and when man became more refined he pretended that these spirits were good as well as powerful.

Thus religion, that is to say mythology grew up. Often too, great men
were regarded as gods after their death-such as Heracles or Odin:
thus after the death of a Hebrew philosopher Yeshua
(whose name we have corrupted into Jesus)
he became regarded as a god, a cult sprang up,
which was afterwards connected with the ancient Hebrew Jahweh-worship,
and so Christianity came into being-one mythology among many.

Of course, mind you, I am not laying down as a certainty that there is nothing outside
the material world; considering the discoveries that are always being made, this would be foolish. Anything MAY exist."2

Oops;-) I got the two photos backwards.

See the surprising footnotes:


1. The praise of the Christian religion was written by Karl Marx.
Pub. in "Karl Marx as a schoolboy" in the German volume
Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels Gesamtausgabe.
From "The Baptism of Karl Marx" by Eugene Kamenka, lecturer in philosophy, University of Malaya,
The Hibbert Journal, vol. 56, no. 3, April 1958, pp.345-46.


2. The skeptical dismissal of the Christian religion was written by C.S. Lewis
in a letter to his friend Arthur Greeves on October 12, 1916. They Stand Together, p.135).

This conundrum of opposites which reversed in their lives has intrigued me for years--
from devout theist to hard atheist: Karl Marx


from skeptical atheist to devout theist: C.S. Lewis--
especially now that I have also journeyed so very far philosophically from where I was at when a youth.

Are not these two shocking quotes intriguing hooks
to get us into doing biographical and historical
and philosophical research into how Karl Marx and C.S. Lewis so drastically
changed their views in a matter of 20-25 years?

Into inquiring why some humans greatly change
in their lifestances and worldviews,
others stay put in the place,
culture, and social outlook they were born into?

Search on.

Become seekers of truth.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Monday, January 16, 2017

Destroying 2,000 Olive Trees

Allegedly, the Israeli government has removed over 1,000,000 trees, taken from Palestinians, the latters' land confiscated, mostly to provide for illegal Israeli settlements, in violation of UN law.

"Pictures of despair this morning from Nabi Elias, West Bank:
The Civil Administration [of the Israeli Government] uprooted 2,000 olive trees,
the source of income of the area's residents, in favor of a new road for Israeli settlers. The area was declared a closed military zone and a few protesters were detained."

Also, "Just 2 days ago we joined the villagers near Qalqilya in protest against the plan to uproot 500 olive trees.

Yesterday they woke up to this ugly spectacle. The Civil Administration began to uproot the trees. The young man who was arrested is still in custody.

It's easy to uproot a tree. But to pull out our hope for a better future will be much more difficult.

We will continue our non-violent struggle against the occupation, so that one day we can all live here in peace and with equal rights."

"Combatants for Peace was formed by Israelis and Palestinians who went against the mainstream and decided to resist the occupation through nonviolent struggle...."

"We are a group of Palestinians and Israelis who have taken an active part in the cycle of violence in our region: Israeli soldiers serving in the IDF and Palestinians as combatants fighting to free their country, Palestine, from the Israeli occupation.

During the past three years, director Stephen Apkon accompanied our activists and heard their stories.

The result is the film Disturbing the Peace, that documents the process the members go through, from troops on the battlefield to peace activists seeking to end the violence between the two sides. There is another way.

We – serving our peoples, raised weapons which we aimed at each other and saw each other only through gun sights – have established Combatants for Peace on the basis of non-violence principles."

Honoring the witness of Martin Luther King Jr. today.

May more and more Palestinians and Israelis reject war, injustice, unethical actions, nationalism, and theft.

May they seek goodness reconciliation and justice.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Q.C.Humor #14: A Friend Looks at His 'Seer’s Cat-a-Log


Our Catnapper

Underbelly slurps juice from
Our empty crab can, lickety-split

Leisurely indulges in a paw n’ chops rinse
Then his forward paw,
Stretches to the feline limit--

Floodlighted by morning shine--
Contorts to nap my socked foot;

Lazing man-napper.

And me, his waiter and footman

--Daniel Wilcox

Cataclysmic—when other neighborhood cats come near your god’s food bowl

Catalyst--when your cat orders you to perform a list of actions, "without itself undergoing any permanent change"

Catastrophe—the result of leaving your cat alone in the house all day

Hunts Ketchup or catsup--what you try to do when your cat goes where he’s not supposed to and knocks Heinz off the pantry shelf

Catapults--watch out for cat a pulls.

Caterwaul—a cat’s wail when he runs into your house wall, escaping from the neighbor's pit bull

Catawampus—when your cat makes short work of the newly hung colorful bulbs and lights on your Christmas tree
or the new tissue paper on the roll in the bathroom

Catechist--your cat as teacher of how you must behave and serve him

cathexis--"defined as the investment of mental or emotional energy in" your cat

What is a series of cats in a row waiting to receive their due?


The Cat’s Scientist

Scratch, scratch, scratch;
Open the cubical.

I patter past his carbon-based legs,
Rushing, meowing all the way to my feeder
Already full, waiting to be lapped and crunched.

But I’m the droided prince of cats so I
Reverse, nose and chin his cyrexed shins,
Meow into his lowered hand;
Impatiently prowl around his space boots
Until he stumbles and almost falls.

Finally he sapiens up,
Grabs the half-empty receptacle
From the immaculate shelf,

Shakes it noisily in my puss’d face,
Then pretends to dump more pastel fare
Into my tempting container;

Smirking, I swiftly gobble it up
As if it was the last bowl on Mars.

What did he mumble about Pavlov?

Daniel Wilcox

First pub. in Abandoned Towers Magazine

And from Steven Wright,
“… a dog thinks he's a human…a cat wouldn't stoop that low."


‘Herd’ of cats who—“

No way!
In a cat dictionary, what is 12 in number?”

‘Dozen’ cats napping

Clammy Chops

I scooped in one huge mouthful of savory chowder
Swimming with succulent salmon on a reconnoiter

Wild from Alaska—my taste buds buzzed into singing,
But the stupid phone in the kitchen rang, yanking.

I dropped my creamy spoon and rushed through the open door--
Wrong number! Frustrated, I slammed down the white ringer,

Tended to nagging errands clanging for attention;
But then heard a loud slurp...slurping 'round the den corner.

Oh, no! I rushed back into the aromatic room of the computer
And there crouched Fizzy, our calico, her cream-rootbeer

Mugged head raised pleased, above the scent-wafted white saucer,
Just ‘fin-ished’--her pink tongue wiping those smiling choppers.

--Daniel Wilcox

First pub. at vox poetica

In the Light-hearted Life of Best Pet Friends,

Daniel Wilcox

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

again, the empty-bucket G- word!

Guest Post from Hemant Metha on the Dawkins Atheism-Theism Scale
and my extended reflections about the scale, and the G- question:

Thanks to Richard Dawkins for creating this scale, and to Hemant Metha for doing a lucid video on it. In The God Delusion, Dawkins wrote, "the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other."

Here’s the Dawkins Scale, again:
Richard Dawkins’ Belief Scale Scoring Rubric

1. Strong Theist: I do not question the existence of God, I KNOW he exists.
100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C.G. Jung: "I do not believe, I know."
2. De-facto Theist: Very high probability but short of 100 per cent. "I don't know for certain, but I strongly believe
in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there."
3. Weak Theist: Higher than 50 per cent but not very high. "I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God."
4. Pure Agnostic: Exactly 50%. "God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable."
5. Weak Atheist: Lower than 50 per cent but not very low. "I do not know whether God exists but I'm inclined to be skeptical."
6. De-facto Atheist: I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable
and I live my life under the assumption that he is not there.
[Dawkins states that he is a 6, though in another interview, he said, a 6.9.]
7. Strong Atheist: I am 100% sure that there is no God. I know there is no God, with the same conviction
as Carl Jung knows there is one"

If it's a matter of creeds, such as creedal Christianity (Augustian-Calvinism), orthodox Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, I suppose I am about a 6, strongly against such concepts of God.

But, generally, I am an intellectually convinced theist, about a 2.3 (about 74%) if the definition of "God" is the first one of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
god "1 capitalized : the supreme or ultimate reality..."

I am a liberal Friend with UU-leanings.

Like so many of these tests/scales (Dawkins is the best though), the scale is affected by one's assumptions and presuppositions.

For instance, on a different website an atheist declares that Thomas Jefferson is a 4.2 even though many passages in Jefferson's works, including the Declaration of Independence opening, show his score is probably about 2.

When it comes to the particular gods of organized religion such as creedal Christianity, Jefferson was definitely on the atheistic side of the Belief Scale.

Take a look at another method of viewing atheism, theism, etc. There are many variations on the whole essential topic:

We are living in a universe about 27 billion light-years across, and about 13 billion years old and, according to cosmologists, the cosmos will last more billions of years. And there is also the possibility of a multiverse.

What is "ultimate reality":

#1 All reality came about by cosmic chance. Seemingly the view of the French biologist Jacques Monod in Chance and Necessity, a powerful book I read a few years back, and the view of the evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould.

My take on this as an average person with a keen interest in science: I think this view is possible. I guess given cosmic time even the "laws" of nature, math, reason, life, ethics, consciousness could all blip into existence.

#2 All reality came about by a cosmic determinism of meaningless matter and energy which is eternal. Everything is lock step. There are no choices, not for what I supposedly ruminate on having for lunch or whether or not to commit murder or what to choose for my career.

Based on our studying this at university, and for many years since, and many times trying to imagine my "I" as an illusion who is only 'done to' by the cosmos, I think this is one of the least likely views of reality. But the view is very popular these days--sort of an atheistic version of Calvinism.

#3 All reality came about somehow by a temporary, finite, imperfect, even distorted, expression of the perfect eternal Ideal Forms of Platonism.
I've been influenced by Platonism.

#4 All reality came about by emergent possibilities in a quantum singularity vacuum or some unknown ultimate reality. But where did the quantum singularity vacuum come from? Here goes "turtles all the way down."

This view seems to posit an eternal physical reality with no "super" reality 'transcending' it.

Like in #1 humankind is a "fluke," an "accident," a "lucky" break.

#5 All reality came about by an impersonal ultimate reality of cosmic beauty. Scientists such as Albert Einstein stated this was his view, that he thought the impersonal god of Spinoza was true. But this seems similar to a combination of #3 and #4.

Unlike #2 and #4, the emergent-possibility cosmos isn't meaningless and purposeless, but filled with meaning.

Interesting, but I doubt it.

#6 All reality is coming about by the everlasting but limited cosmic reality that is becoming. This is the view of thinkers such as philosopher and mathematician Alfred Lord Whitehead, philosopher Charles Hartshorne, etc.

This cosmic but limited God, this limited ultimate reality, who is far beyond human understanding works toward changing matter and energy and conscious life such as homo sapiens into increasing patterns and forms of beauty, meaning, and purpose. This is also the view of some Reform Jews.

But where is the evidence for this?

Process thinkers explain that consciousness, reason, ethics, mathematics, natural law, creativity, aesthetics, life itself, etc. are the evidence.

This view is appealing, but most of the technical philosophical explanations are BEYOND me. I'm a relatively average literature teacher (who got born with a "why" in his throat;-)

#7 All reality came about as just one of an infinite number of universes of an infinite multi-verse, the view of some modern cosmologists. What is the ultimate of the multi-verse is unknown or maybe the multiverse itself is ultimate.

Intriguing, but seems too speculative for me. However, I'm not as skeptical as Martin Gardner, one of the co-founders of the modern skeptical movement who wrote a scathing dismissal of this view.

#8 All reality came about by the impersonal Brahma God of Hinduism and some modern New Age leaders such as Ken Wilber with his Integral Theory, and Deepak Chopra, etc. .

The impersonal God Brahma is conducting a cosmic dance in which it forgets its self and dreams into billions of separated forms including in one minor edge of the universes, thinking humans.

But all is illusion. And all events both good and evil are produced by Brahman. That is why Ken Wilber and other such leaders claim that Brahman caused 9//11, causes all murders, all rapes, etc.

Given that I am a human rights worker from way back, for about 55 years, obviously this isn't my cup of philosophical tea. Also, I still vividly remember as a Gandhi devotee being shocked when a Hindu priest in L.A. tried to persuade me to go to Vietnam to kill (when I was drafted), saying insects are killed all the time in reality.:-(

#9 All reality came about by unknowable factors. Everything beyond and before the Big Bang is such a complete unfathomable mystery that it will probably not ever be solved by finite humans at least not for a very long time.

Allegedly the view of the Mysterians such as skeptic Martin Gardner, physicist Roger Penrose, etc.

#10 All reality continually comes about by infinite impersonal reality which never had a beginning. No creator god exists. Some forms of Buddhism (though other forms are theistic).
At this point in my life, I lean toward some view of #3 and #6, though I am open to #1 as a real possibility.

Here's the main reason why I am a theist: Mathematics, natural law (as in the law of gravity and the theory of relativity, etc.) life, consciousness, reason, creativity, ethics, human rights, compassion, and aesthetics--ALL
are very meaningful and purposeful.

I don't think that existence/reality is "meaningless" and "purposeless," or that ethics are "subjective preferences," or "cultural constructs," or (to quote Dawkins on altruism) a "misfiring" of evolution.

But, maybe we finite humans don't have enough knowledge to even decide this question.

We choose one of many diametrically opposed mountain climbs.

And that makes all the difference, for good or bad, false or true, life or death.

In the Light,


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Review of God and the Reach of Reason

God and the Reach of Reason by atheist philosopher Erik J. Wielenberg

Lucidly written explanations of rational theism versus rational atheism.

A book-length, intriguing comparison and contrast of 3 thinkers' views:

#1 What one theist (Oxford professor and writer, C.S. Lewis)
has in common philosophically
--strange as it may seem--
with two very famous atheists
(the Scottish atheist philosopher, David Hume)
and the British skeptic and atheist Bertrand Russell).

#2 How all three disagree on vital points concerning the nature of reality.

This is a very good thinkers' book, written in balanced, measured, lucid, and well-explained prose, explicating difficult philosophical issues and controversies in a user-friendly way.

Wielenberg is respectful toward those with whom he strongly disagrees, which is a wonderful change from the usual, given the tendency of so many leaders to demonstrate intolerance, discourtesy, and even personal attacks. Consider all of the hateful, demeaning political and religious slander and verbal abuse of the recent past by many American leaders.

Only a few times does the philosophical book become obscurely
technical, dry, and boring.

One of the most insightful volumes I read in the last year.

I was also impressed because, unlike most nontheists, Erik J. Wielenberg thinks objective ethics exist, are real. He--contrary to the vast majority of atheists--is a strong moral realist. He is professor of philosophy at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.

From his website:
"[A]ll the teaching must still be done by concrete human individuals. The State has to use the men who exist. Nay, as long as we remain a democracy, it is men who give the State its powers. And over these men, until all freedom is extinguished, the free winds of opinion blow." - C.S. Lewis

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Amazing Reality of Genetic Life

The amazing, incredible reality of genetic life...

If I got to live, again, and was born with scientific ability, it would be difficult
for me to choose between the fields of astrophysics/astronomy
versus genetics/biology!

Genetics is a fascinating field of endeavor which has greatly altered how thinkers view Life and reality.

Consider this measured reflection from a science website:

"One of the surprises that came out of the Human Genome Project was how few genes (protein coding stretches of DNA) humans
have — around 23,000,
not that different compared to the fruit fly with 14,000,
and quite a bit less than rice, with 51,000."

So we human beings, homo sapiens, are situated between
a fruit fly
and a grain of rice!
We have more genes than a fruit fly, but less than a grain of rice!

Sounds hilariously bizarre, like some sort of slapstick movie comedy.

What sense does all of this make?

Read on:
"Traditionally the metaphor for genes was something more akin
to a blueprint, — the “standard dogma” of Francis Crick: each gene codes for
one mRNA which codes for one protein — but now we realize that many are better viewed as switches or volume knobs.

Moreover, one gene can have multiple effects. Complexity arises not so much from
the genes themselves as from the connections between them.

These network properties are currently an enormously rich topic of research. For example, the way the network is connected can dramatically affect the interplay between robustness to mutation and evolvability (the ability of a system to generate heritable phenotypic novelty).

The same gene often turns out to be used throughout the animal kingdom:
you can take the pax-6 gene that controls eye development from a human and put
it into the part of a fly that controls wings formation and the fly will make a (malformed) eye on its wing.

The same gene that controls the formation of human arms also controls the formation
of wings on birds, fins on fish, and legs on centipedes!

Modifying the way these genes are “wired together” can lead to massive changes
in an organism.

The burgeoning new field of evodevo (evolutionary developmental biology) studies how evolution exploits these “toolbox genes”
to help generate the endless forms most beautiful we see around us.

Much remains to be understood, but adjectives
like remarkable, elegant, and awe-inspiring are apt.
Clay or Lego blocks?

In a fascinating book proposing a “theory of facilitated variation” biologists Marc Kirschner and John Gehrard point out that while
the Modern Synthesis implicitly used the metaphor of clay -- evolution could produce variation in almost any direction,
but in very tiny steps--
modern biology would be better served by the metaphor of Lego blocks:
reusable connectable units are more constrained in what they can do, but you can generate useful new variation in much larger steps.

Selfish genes, or control on many levels? The field of systems biology is challenging
the reductionist bottom-up primacy that has dominated biological explanation over the last few decades.

In a beautiful book, The Music of Life: Biology beyond the Genome (OUP 2006),
Denis Noble, a remarkable polymath and one of the fathers of systems biology, takes the gene-centric view of his Oxford colleague Richard Dawkins to task.

He asserts that we must look beyond the “selfish gene."

A better metaphor for understanding life is music, “a symphonic interplay between genes, cells, organs, body, and environment."
from the BioLogos Website

And this:
On the reality of evolution--
"One way to view the dogmatic nature of neo-darwinism as it is often presented in public is to see it as a reaction to the dogmatism of the creationists. The ‘uncertain’ (in the sense of lacking reason) faith in creationism is replaced by the ‘certainties’ of science.

But there is a conflation here of very different degrees of certainty in science. There can’t be much doubt about the fact that life on earth has evolved.

There is much less certainty about the mechanisms. Unlike Darwinism (Darwin knew nothing of mechanisms, genes were not known), neo-darwinism proposes the exclusion of many mechanisms that have in fact now been found to occur in nature.

Adopting the ‘certainty’ of evolution to clothe the ‘uncertainty’ of particular theories about mechanisms has been the cause of many problems in public debate on evolution.

It is perfectly possible to defend the virtual certainty that life has evolved while debating in the usual argumentative scientific way the uncertainties surrounding the question of mechanisms.

The truth is that amongst the many mechanisms now known we know very little about which were prevalent in evolution. The answer is likely to be that different mechanisms were dominant at different stages.

Evolution itself evolves."


By biologist and evolutionist Denis Noble
from Wikipedia: "Denis Noble is a British biologist who held the Burdon Sanderson Chair of Cardiovascular Physiology at the University of Oxford from 1984 to 2004... He is one of the pioneers of Systems Biology and developed the first viable mathematical model of the working heart in 1960."

How amazing, incredible, and wonderful is Life and Reality!

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Words All Humans Need to Hear in the Current World Crises

Wise Words from a psychologist for all Americans, indeed, all humans world wide,
in the current crises:

“Do what you can, with what you have, with where you are RIGHT NOW.”

“I am the decisive element in [my life]. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes my weather!

As a [human being], I possess a tremendous power to make [my life, and indirectly, other people’s lives] miserable or joyous.

I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.

In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and [each other person] humanized or de-humanized.

Never deny or ignore [others’] feelings.

Only behavior is treated as unacceptable, not the [person].

Depersonalize negative interactions by mentioning only the problem.

Attach rules to things...

Dependence breeds hostility.

[Others] need to learn to [be free to] choose, but within the safety of limits.

Limit criticism to a specific event—don't say ‘never,’ ‘always,’ as in: ‘You never listen,’ ‘You always'..."

Refrain from using words that you would not want [others] to repeat.

Ignore irrelevant behavior.

Truth for its own sake can be a deadly weapon in...relations. Truth without compassion can destroy love.

Some...try too hard to prove exactly how, where and why they have been right. This approach will bring bitterness and disappointment.

When attitudes are hostile, facts are unconvincing."

Adapted from Haim Ginott, psychologist, psychotherapist, and educator,
Today’s Education, November-December 1973

Such important insights!

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Tuesday, January 3, 2017


Live Branch Reach

Writhing twists of growing
Corded effort stretched
Out westward

From the knotted
Shadow dark trunk,
Bright sunlight
On the contorted
Slow-year braided flow,

Dry boulders,
On the sand-creeked streambed;

Stretched wooden waves
Driftwood wrenched,
Intertwined effort
Live branch reach

Flowing west with
New green growth
Behind and above
The under shadows
On the barred river sand,
Living driftwood river

--Daniel Wilcox

First published in
Western Friend Magazine,
also in Willows Wept Review
and selah river poetry collection

Monday, January 2, 2017

If I Could Live Again, What Would I Do, What Would I Skip?


#1 I would, again, major in Creative Writing at university, moving to the glorious California coast (from frigid Nebraska), attending Long Beach State. That was one of the best decisions I made my first time around the sun on the 3rd planet from Sol.

#2 Would sign up, again, as a conscientious objector against the U.S. immoral, unethical Vietnam War
where the U.S. government first supported France’s attempt to take over by war the country of Vietnam, again, after WW ll.

Then beginning in the 1950’s and 1960’s--even though Vietnam hadn’t attacked the U.S.—the U.S. started and fought a long unjust war
where our military and political leaders dropped more bombs on the little country and Laos and Cambodia, than all of bombs used in WW ll!

So many innocent civilians were slaughtered, at least hundreds of thousands.
There are still 80 million U.S. unexploded bombs buried in Laos!

Every year these U.S. bombs still kill or wound 50 people, 40% of them children.

This time I would spend even more time witnessing against the lethal violence, oppression, nationalism, and misguided idealism of the U.S.

#3 I would, again, spend the summer of 1966 volunteering on the Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Montana, working with teens and children.

(See picture) Me and other mission volunteers (4 girls:-), and missionaries during the Vietnam War, working for the Mennonite Board of Missions in Busby and Lame Deer, Montana on the Cheyenne Indian Reservation in the summer of 1966.

This was before my being drafted and, as a conscientious objector, sent to work in a mental hospital for disturbed teens and children in Trevose, Pennsylvania.

#4 Would, again, become a liberal Friend (with UU leanings) emphasizing the seeking of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful via communal meditation, reason, inclusivism, justice, human rights, compassion, and peacemaking.

#5 Would, again, join Amnesty International and work for human rights, writing many letters to other governments around the world, appealing for the release of "Prisoners of Conscience," especially ones unjustly arrested, incarcerated, and oppressed by Islamic governments such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

#6 And move to Palestine/Israel to work on a kibbutz for at least 7 months as I did back then, though this time, I would stay longer, maybe a couple of years. (An image of AI, and a picture of myself at the Dome of the Rock and the Wailing Wall)


#1 Skip the Christian religion, and thus not have to do verbal battle, again, for 55 years with most Christian leaders who claim that God has foreordained every evil event, every natural disaster, every horrific plague, and foreordained billions of humans to eternal damnation for his own “glory” and “good pleasure”.:-(

And that all infants at conception are “stained” with sin, “sinful,” “in essence evil,” etc.

Not have to drag my wife (and kids) through many years of church doctrinal conflict, Christian delusionary claims.

If only at that central crisis point of my life, on the fall day at Long Beach State, when I was at a 50%-50% decision between leaving Christianity or not, I would have left.

Because of all its failings, pro-war actions, doctrinal incredulities, persecutions, anti-science claims, etc.—if only I had skipped doctrinal Christianity, then my life (and that of my family) would have been so much better and happier.

But I fell into the abyss of life-long struggles with organized religion because at that crisis day, because I realized that Atheism was even worse than religion, so I pulled back into the Christian religion. But that was an either/or fallacy.

There were alternatives to the either/or of Christianity (and other horrific religions such as Islam, Hinduism, etc.)
versus Atheism.

This time around, I would make a wiser choice.

#2 Skip dropping out of university (at Long Beach State) in January 1967, which led to me not getting my B.A. in Creative Writing until the spring of 1973.

This time, I would stay in college, get my degree Creative Writing in 1969, along with my teaching credential, and get a good job, instead of working for a number of years in minimum wage jobs.

Because of that bad choice, I didn't start my career until 1982!


In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox