In the 1968 film, Night of the Living Dead, a horde of rising zombies kills seven individuals in a Pennsylvania farmhouse. Two years earlier, in real life, a zombie fatally stabbed and strangled eight student nurses in a Chicago townhouse. His name was Richard Speck.
While Speck was not a re-animated human corpse in the mode of modern Hollywood depictions, he was, in a very real sense, one of the walking dead—a person who is physically alive, but emotionally, socially, and morally dead. Even 22 years after the murders, when asked how he felt about them, Speck sneered: "Like I always felt . . . had no feeling. If you're asking me if I felt sorry, no." With soulless detachment, he went on to describe the process of strangulation: "It's not like TV . . . it takes over three minutes and you have to have a lot of strength."
Night of the Living Dead proved to be a groundbreaking film in the horror genre. Zombies, which until then had been depicted as living persons enslaved through the power of black magic, were recast in this film as insatiable cannibals raised from the dead. Numerous spinoffs followed, as well as a raft of slasher films in the 1970s and 1980s, whose villains were zombie-like. Think, Jason, Freddy, and Michael Myers.
In a similar way, the Chicago townhouse murders marked the rise of what New York Times columnist David Brooks calls the "spectacular rampage murder." According to Brooks, from 1913 to about 1970, there were no more than two of these types of murders per decade worldwide. After that, the number shot up to nine in the 1980s, eleven in the 1990s, and twenty-six in the past decade.2 Since July 2012, when Brooks wrote his analysis, there have been a half-dozen more, including the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December.
Clearly, the rise in such killings could not happen without the rise of a certain type of killer: a socially isolated person who, psychotherapist Dr. Paul Hannig declares, "can't feel the normal range of human emotions" and has lost "all sense of normal morality and impulse control."3 Think Cho Seung-hui, James Holmes, Adam Lanza . . . zombies.
Whereas Hollywood movie zombies kill to satisfy their hunger, the real-life rampage murderer kills, says Dr. Hannig, in the belief that mass murder is "the solution to his problems." He imagines that the spectacle of his crime will bring wide attention to the injustices he has had to bear. Through mass murder, he will assert his grievances and accomplish what he has failed to accomplish thus far: "to be heard, understood, and accepted."
But whether fictional zombies or real-life murderers, such persons represent something the Apostle Paul warned would characterize the latter days: people "without natural affection" or, as the New Revised Standard Version puts it, who are "inhuman" (2 Timothy 3:1–9). They are not inhuman in the sense of "sub-human" or animalistic, however, but in the sense of "counter-human"—that is, these individuals are set against humanity and even their own humanness, often to the point of taking their own life after taking the lives of others.
Over sixty years ago, Albert Camus wrote a novel about what well could be the proto-"counter-human." He titled the book The Stranger, an apt reference to the central character, Meursault.... Continue reading here.
In a rare, unguarded moment, physicist Lawrence Krauss confided, "I worry whether we've come to the limits of empirical science.”
That was over four years ago. Since then, experiments at the Large Hadron Collider have confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson, an elusive particle thought to give rise to the most fundamental property of our universe: mass.
Commonly associated with weight, mass is the measure of an object’s resistance to an applied force. But what gives an object its mass, and why is it that some particles, like electrons, have it and others, like photons, don’t?
In 1964, physicist Peter Higgs conjectured that mass was caused by an invisible field that pervades the entire universe. Composed of what were later dubbed “Higgs particles,” this field can be thought of as a kind of cosmic molasses that preferentially inhibits the motion of certain particle types. Because of its importance in understanding the nature of the universe, the Higgs has been referred to as the “God Particle.”
But now that the Higgs has been verified, questions have turned to where it comes from, why it has the properties it has, and why it acts on different particles differently. Such questions signal that materialistic science has approached the edge of an ever-receding black hole of inquiry.
Betraying their lingering angst about the future of science, physicists at a recent conference identified a number of other unsolved mysteries they suggest are keeping them up at nights, including... Continue reading here.
It’s that time of year again! The weeks -- no, months -- of preparations for the Event reached febrile proportions just a few weeks ago. “Black Friday,” they call it. Oh, the irony!
On the same day of the week that an angry mob rushed to put a wooden cross on His back, bargain-crazed shoppers rush to put a financial one on theirs, buying gifts they can’t afford for people who don’t need them, that wear out, break down, or become obsolete by the time the season rolls around next year -- all to the melody that fills the retail aether, “White Christmas.”
Far and away, Swillpit, this is my favorite time of year. But it wasn’t always so.
For centuries we thought that His promise to “put enmity” between our Master and “the woman” was an idle threat. Then, out of nowhere, a young peasant Jewess is told that she will be “blessed.” The announcement sent shockwaves throughout our chattel-filled caverns. If true, it signaled -- oh, no, it couldn’t, could it?
Down here the gnashing and wailing ramped up until Crumgrub, I think it was, picked up on a little but important detail that escaped our notice on first hearing: The girl was unmarried. That’s right, the vessel for His grand entrance would be an unwed teenager engaged to an old duffer.
We thought surely our old Rival couldn’t be serious. If the girl wasn’t stoned for adultery, her child would be born illegitimate. Either the lad would be snuffed out of existence before He drew a breath or He would be a social outcast. This was how he planned to “crush our Master’s head?” What an addle-brained scheme!
Someone snickered, setting off a chain reaction that exploded into a rumbling howl that, I have on good account, created a minor seismic event up there with all the nuisances of shifting tables and rattling pots.
Without delay, agents were dispatched to idlers known to have a quick eye for indiscretion and ready tongue for rumor. And, whew, did those tongues set to wagging at the first whiff of impropriety! Although the nattering didn’t result in our hoped-for stoning -- largely, because of the dotard’s shocking decision to marry the girl -- the rumor survived, if just below the surface of dinner conversation.
From time-to-time a knowing nod or hand-covered murmur revived memories about the questionable circumstances of his birth. It had the delightful effect of contributing to the general skepticism that ultimately led to his rejection and execution.
I recall my satisfaction, when he was hanging on the cross as a criminal, thinking how fitting -- even poetic -- that at the other end of His life he had been lying in a manger as a bastard. But my satisfaction was short-lived.
Three days later His followers laid eyes on the “empty tomb,” and the scandal surrounding His birth was all but forgotten. Overnight His indignity became glory, His defeat victory, and thirty-three years of our malignity were neutralized.
Most tragically, once the story of His death got out, it spread with epidemic virulence generating a following that, today, spans the globe. Who could have imagined that the cross, once an object of scorn and shame, would become a symbol of worship proudly displayed in their churches, homes and even adorning their bodies -- or, that His origin, once an object of idle gossip, would give cause for celebration?
Yet, what was originally a one-day religious observance in honor of His birth is now a full season of consumerism. The happy development began when the date was moved to coincide with the pagan winter solstice celebrations. We were initially concerned that this would increase the popularity of the Christian celebration. But that concern was dispelled almost at once... Continue reading here.
When evolutionism’s front man, Richard Dawkins, wrote, “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist,” he grossly overstated his case. If atheism is to be more than wish fulfillment for folks troubled by what Thomas Nagel calls “the cosmic authority problem,” it must be based on a materialistic narrative that accounts for chemical evolution andbiological evolution. The former explains how life first arose; the latter, how current life forms developed from earlier ones.
How matter became live
Darwinists are quick to tout the Urey-Miller experiment for how matter went live, but the facts are something else. True, researchers Harold Urey and Stanley Miller produced some amino acids from a prebiotic cocktail in 1953. However, their “success” depended not on an unguided, materialistic process, but on an intelligently designed experiment that was meticulously controlled to ensure “just-right” conditions for producing life’s building blocks.
On top of that, their experimental conditions, as it was later learned, did not reflect those of early Earth, which were hostile to, not “just right” for, amino acid production. Had those conditions been faithfully simulated, intelligent intervention or not, their much-heralded life-building chemicals would not have survived.
Dr. Stephen Meyer highlights this in “Signature in the Cell,” as part of an impressively comprehensive critique of chemical evolution. Drawing upon research over the last 60 years on the biological cell, Meyer shows that it is a theory at odds with what is known about biological complexity.
The reason the Urey-Miller experiment failed—and was destined to do so—is that the “probabilistic resources” of the universe (never mind a lab!) are insufficient to account for the appearance of life from unintelligent processes. Meyer demonstrates, in detail, that universe is neither old enough nor large enough for the creation of proteins necessary for essential cell processes by the chance arrangement of their constituent amino acids. And yet, as Meyer points out, the instructional content of amino acids is just one tier of biological information in a hierarchal structure that includes, in ascending order, DNA, genes, gene clusters, gene “folders,” and gene “superfolders.”
After 300 or so pages, establishing the impotency of chemical evolution, Meyer spends the last 200 pages on an alternative theory: intelligent design. He makes a compelling case for intelligent design as a legitimate area for scientific research, then advances a convincing, scientific argument for why intelligent causation is thebest explanation for the origin of life. (My detailed review of “Signature” can be found here.)
In his most recent book, “Darwin’s Doubt,” Meyer takes on the primary subject of Darwinism: biological evolution.
A doubting Darwin
The crux of Meyer’s critique and, indeed, a major source of doubt in Charles Darwin himself, is the absence of fossilized transitional forms predicted by the theory of common ancestry.
If all life forms today descended from simpler ones, as Darwin proposed, the fossil record should be replete with intermediate forms. In fact, considering the vast number of morphological differences between original and final forms, it would be expected that there should be just as many (if not more!) intermediate as final forms.
Instead, Meyer notes, geologists “have found no such myriad of transitional forms” but, rather, “the abrupt appearance of the earliest animals.”
For example, in the Cambrian Period the fossils of 20 phyla (out of 27 total in the fossil record) were laid down in a blink of geological time—roughly 5 to 6 million years. Not only is this their first appearance in the fossil record, their complexity represents a quantum leap over pre-Cambrian fossils with no traceable line of descent.
In fact, the whole “bottom-up” pattern predicted by Darwin—that is, small, gradual changes over time leading to large-scale differences—is completely overturned in the Cambrian stratum, where the sudden appearance of complex organisms is followed by small-scale variation. But it’s worse than that, if you’re a Darwin acolyte. Continue reading here.