Friday, 28 August 2020

Benny Hill

BBC - Benny Hill saluted by the south

I wrote a piece some time ago about an African preacher who supposedly raised a man from 'the dead', on stage, in front of a large credulous audience. Looking at the faces of the parishioners it seemed clear that at least some, did not take the alleged miracle on the matter of faith and were of the silent opinion that the Pastor spake bollox. 

My last but one post was about an American televangelist, Ken (the kon) Copeland. I mistakenly stated that he was a multi-millionaire when he is, in fact, a billionaire. Money, no doubt, skimmed from his loyal, often poor, but without doubt, adoring adherents.

Let me introduce you to Benny Hinn, another 'charismatic', American prosperity preacher. Old uncle Hinn has actually been exposed as a conman and fraud, but you can't keep a good old Christian charlatan down for long. His specialty is 'spiritual healing' and he claims that he is a simple conduit for healing powers provided by God. The afflicted line up on stage and approach Hinn whereupon he places his sticky mitts upon the diseased and tells them they are healed (he, of course, is well-heeled).  An investigative team in 2004, with hidden cameras, demonstrated apparent misappropriation of funds, his ability to be economical with the truth, and the highly selective way the sick are chosen to line up for his miracle, healing ministrations. For some unaccountable reason, those with obvious and severe infirmities are never chosen and if they attempt to approach the stage they are intercepted by lackeys and asked to return to their seat.

In one of his notorious performances, brother Hinn, invites a group of selected pasties Pastors on stage and invites them to touch a manifest, but invisible, Jesus. Once the divine digits are encountered the Pastors are overwhelmed and slowly collapse to the floor. The whole scene is not so much Benny Hinn, but highly reminiscent of Benny Hill- remember him? The audience, of course, laps this stuff up. At one stage, Hinn asks a child to get awf da stage- surely the whole charade is staged (stop it Flaxen and take the meds)? Didn't Jesus once say, maybe, "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence". C'mon Hinn at least practice what the Lord preacheth!  

So what are we to make of this poorly choreographed theatre? As for his followers, I have little sympathy. If they can't see through this clearly defined conman in front of them then they deserve no mercy. Not only are these pathetic uneducated wretches poor in monetary terms, but they are also poor in spirit. It is not so much the education system that has failed them, but the converse. It seems perverse that the richest country on earth, full of the benefits (and let us not forget the deficits) that modern Western civilisation can bestow should be subject to this blatant and farcical nonsense. I couldn't imagine any other Western nation giving credence to this type of chicanery. Anyway, see the vid below showing the clip under question and if you can conjure up the soundtrack of 'Benny Hill' in your mind it will be well worth the effort. Actually, I might have a go at writing a post about Benny Hill, in the future.........

Tuesday, 25 August 2020


How to not be disappointed when things do not go smoothly or right ...

Layfolk are oft of the opinion that scientific research is glamerous, cutting edge and exciting. The truth, of course, is different. Most scientists are not in ground breaking research. Their area of research is often not exciting; not particularly profound and most likely frustrating. In fact, my experience of research is that most of it is repepitive and bloody boring. Equipment often fails and data gathering is haphazard. There is not much glamour in the fact that your lab coat contains more life than the petri dish under examination. For every Einstein and Isaac Newton there are 10⁶ scientists who will never make a 'breakthrough', however minor, and most of their published work will be read by no one.

When my son asked whether he should study science at university, I told him to study IT. On this rare ocassion he actually listened to his dad. Arse.    

9 Real Life Mad Scientists | Real life, Life, Mad science

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Talking Bollocks

Insane Televangelist Destroys Coronavirus Using Christian Magic ...
Ken 'Send me Money' Copeland

Apparently, the ability to 'Speak in Tongues' is mentioned in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 12) and today is practiced mainly in the southern states of the US amongst so-called fundamental sects and congregations. If you search YouTube for the above at some stage you will come across the delightful, televangelist, Kenneth Copeland. 'Beg Ken' is a multi-millionaire and a great exponent of 'Talking in the Spirit'. At the drop of the collection plate, 'Ten Ken' will lapse into tongues various and nefarious and continue in this vein for a span until his rheumy old eyes explode in an incandescent, putrid mass of incoherence. Of course, the 'language' being spouted is unintelligible to most of us mere mortals. However, there are gifted folk who are able to provide an interpretation of the wondrous magic that is a gift from the Holy Spirit. But imagine the fabulous certitude when two 'tonguers' actually have a conversation- we truly live in remarkable times. I've added a vid, for my viewer's edification, showing 'Zen Ken' having a chat with some other bloke in a language, not of this world. As you can see, 'Den Ken' understands his mate, who is also fluent in bollocks and responds accordingly. A fruitful conversation ensues. Far be it for me to declare that 'Hen Ken' is a fraud (he's a con man) and is making up this shit as a means to fleece his gullible flock. Surely 'Gen Ken' is truly gifted and in touch with God as mediated through the Holy Spirit, who is also God (confusing, innit). This glorious bounty is spewed out in an unknown, ethereal language known only to God, the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and the three combined (I told you it was confusing). We must also add the select few demi-gods/sods i.e. 'Ken Ken' and his partner in mime (surely some mistake?). Arse bucket. 

Let us marvel in this revelation from God (+the other two) and act in gratitude by sending $5 million big ones to 'Kon Ken' so he can buy a jet plane/luxury yacht/mansion/new runway/new face- tythe NOW!


Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Forty Two


So what is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything? Of course, most of my readership will remember the late, great Douglas Adam's answer in his book: 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy', in which the greatest computer ever built, after eons of deep thought came up with the profound answer of 42. Brilliant stuff. Today, if you type this question into Google you will be confronted with the same result. But this answer will not do for the religious fraternity. The majority of religions have an answer to this question, and it not 42. Their answer generally evokes some form of eternal reward or punishment after we die based on our morality or lack of it, and most importantly a belief in their specific religion and all that it entails. Different subsets within a religion, consider Christianity for example, will demand adherence to their specific doctrinal stance in order to reap the fruits of eternal bliss or eternal fiery pain. This is particularly so for the fundamental Christian sects. Catholicism, the great bastion of Christianity, no longer believes in a literal hell. For most of its history, Catholicism, according to the infallible Pope, believed in a place of eternal brimstone and fire, however, these days, the infallible Pope no longer holds this view (what a terrible shame). Today's Pope considers hell to be just absence from God- go tell it to the baptists.

These various viewpoints can be subjected to and resolved by simple logic. Only two scenarios can be correct. As most conceptions of the afterlife are mutually exclusive only one can be dripping in verity itself- there can only be one vision of 'heaven & hell' and the means to arrive there. The only other possibility is that none are correct: the only two possibilities, according to logic, are one or nil. If the former proposition is correct, which is the correct one?  Can empirical science categorically answer this most convoluted conundrum? The answer is an emphatic NO. As science is an evidence-based pursuit, and as far as we are aware, according to the strict and rigorous strictures of the scientific method, no one has returned from the afterlife to enable the gathering of evidential data. Therefore, science alone must remain bereft of a theory.  However, this does not mean that science can't help with a possible resolution if allied with logic. From all the empirical data we have, which is extensive, a working organic brain is necessary for consciousness. Heaven and hell must involve some form of consciousness, otherwise what is the point? I should state that the onus is on those religious folk who would posit consciousness without a brain. Some folk state that 'near-death' experiences represent evidence for some form of the afterlife. I would vehemently disagree as in these incidences there is no organic brain death.

An afterlife must be based on a non-organic brain. It is reasonable to ask what is the nature of this awareness during a putative afterlife. Whatever it is, it must involve an energy source of some form. If this is the case, we are in the realm of science. No such energy has been posited or identified. Therefore, the only alternative is to drift into the realm of the supernatural, and you know what I think of the supernatural. Thus a mixture of the supernatural together with simple logic helps to reach a reasonable conclusion. Those favouring an afterlife, of some variety, are generally happy with a  proposed supernatural solution. Indeed, it is considered a virtue to take on board the unexplained as an explanation. After all, religions are based on this other world, supernatural and mysterious principle. This an irrational response and should not be commended. Understandably, this position is an anathaema to science and the scientific method.

This does not answer the question proposed at the beginning of this post. However, suggesting that life and an afterlife initiated and maintained by an omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, supernatural deity as an answer to the meaning of life, etc is not one I would support and has no basis in reality and is in no way supported by data or by rational thought. So, that being the case, is there another answer. Many philosophers think that this question is basically unanswerable. However, on this subject, I will boldly posit and put forth an answer that seems appealing at least to myself. 

I contend that there is no meaning to life in any fundamental sense. This is not to say that life is meaningless for living organisms at some other level. I do not think my life worthless unless I’m gripped by my infrequent bouts of despond and deep despair. What I mean to say that there is no guiding artificer, natural or otherwise influencing our existence. In many ways, life is the result of the conditions of the universe at the micro (quantum physics) and macro-level (gravity). As for intelligent life, I will say this: the course of evolution is not directed to any specific end. It is simply a selection process that favours the living unit that has maximal reproductive success in a given environment. This process does not necessarily lead to organisms with high intelligence. Clearly, natural selection leading to intelligence in humans is in many ways a 'happy accident'. The most successful organisms on earth are viruses and bacteria. A none intelligent life strategy is obviously a winning one.   

I know that my conclusion that life is a happenstance of physics and chemistry is not going to be popular. It deflates our ego and despoils our vanity to ponder that life is basically an existence without any underlying meaning or purpose. For those that do not consider my conclusion worthy then perhaps they would be satisfied with the following answer to the ultimate question. The meaning of life, the universe, and everything is forty-two. This answer as good as any other and certainly superior to most.  

About Viktor Frankl and the Meaning of Life.

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Abiogenesis or is there primitive life in Tipton?

Abiogenesis - Origins of Life on Earth | Earth Blog
Looks Like Hell on Earth

According to the best evidence we have, the Earth is 4.5 years old and it appears that primitive or proto-life appeared on Earth about a billion years ago, give or take a few million years. This is in itself quite remarkable, especially for the young Earth brigade who are categorically disposed toward a 6,000-year-old Earth. Moving on.....For most of the 3.5 billion years, after formation, the Earth was a seething cauldron of lava and therefore quite inimical to life. The evidence suggests that life burst on the scene soon after the earth cooled. Very early fossils found in sedimentary layers in Australia confirms this early start. But what would the first living ‘creature’ look like? Certainly, it would look nothing like the most primitive single-celled life existent today.

 Before we tackle how life appeared and progressed by Darwinian selection, we must first address a very fundamental issue.

So what is life and how can we distinguish it from non-life? What are the special attributes, properties, or qualities that distinguish a living organism from a rock? This is a deceptively hard question. Perhaps we could define life at its most basic as: As a struggle against entropy. This is certainly the case. All organisms have to harness and utilise energy to prevent the almost irrepressible march of chaos. Although true, this definition is not particularly helpful. The definition that I find most useful, and scientifically satisfying, is: Life began the moment that a molecule containing information started to reproduce and evolve by natural selection. This may not be a satisfactory explanation to all, but it does underline the most basic condition that must occur when we contemplate what it means to be alive, and that is reproduction.  

Entropy must be held at bay by all organisms even if for only a short time and this will require an energy source. Today’s living cells, no matter how primitive, must obey this cardinal principle, and energy production is facilitated, by most organisms, either by the ingestion of organic matter or by photosynthesis. The first living cells must have used a non-organic, non-living energy source. Today, deep in the seabed, where the sun doth shineth not, lurk volcanic vents. Belchings from the depths pour out immense amounts of heat and minerals. Around these vents live bacterial colonies directly harnessing the chemical outpourings, mostly hydrogen sulphide, to make the energy to control and direct their cellular processes. The earliest living entities must have harnessed such an external energy source and perhaps the first cell appeared under these circumstances.

It is likely that the first proto life was not cellular at all. Envisage a naked chemical able to assimilate other chemical elements to form a copy of itself and then release that copy into the environment for the process to continue anew. And the chemical candidate able to undertake this process was almost certainly ribonucleic acid (RNA).

RNA belongs to a chemical group, termed nucleic acids. There exists a big brother to RNA, deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. DNA is the molecule of choice for information transfer for the majority of living organisms present today. We are certain that RNA was the molecule responsible for early life for two reasons. First, RNA, unlike DNA exists in a single chain formation. However, RNA, just like DNA, is able to replicate itself given the right conditions. Secondly, unlike double-stranded DNA, RNA, in its single strand configuration, can fold to produce a range of conformations. This is crucial, as it is in this folded form that RNA can act as primitive enzymes that enable the attachment of amino acids to initiate protein construction.

I have blithely introduced complex organic compounds (RNA & amino acids) without nary an explanation. So the question remains: Would it have been possible?

Would the necessary organic precursor chemicals, essential for life formation, be present on the primitive earth? Experiments conducted in the 1950s (Miller & Urey) with simple equipment produced some very interesting results. They started with a ‘broth’ of simple inorganic chemicals together with an electric spark to mimic lightning. The sealed system was left to ruminate for several weeks and the resultant chemicals in the container analysed. What they found was astonishing. Under these conditions, it was found that a large number of amino acids had been produced. Amino acids are the units that when bonded together form a variety of proteins necessary for life. Other necessary organic compounds were also found. Subsequent experiments have modified the conditions of the experiment. These modifications were based on new knowledge concerning the nature and conditions of our primeval planet. Again amino acids were found together with a host of other organic chemicals including RNA. Thus it appears that the essential organic chemicals required to support life were likely present on the primitive earth.

Although proto-life based on raw replicating chemicals is a possibility, however, for life to progress there would have to be some form of encapsulation and this encapsulation would have had to form spontaneously according to the laws of chemistry, not biology. It is conceivable that oily compounds in the primitive environment could form microcels, bubble-like formations capable of enclosing the raw chemicals of ‘life’, even if it be for a short time. These constructs would have to contain hydrophilic (water 'loving') and hydrophobic (water ‘hating’) domains or moieties. This would be a necessary precursor for the formation of encompassing spheres. One theory suggests that very early life circumvented the ‘bubble stage’, for a period, at least, (or an eon), by clinging to dear life on clay. In this scenario, the necessary chemicals would adhere, albeit loosely to the clay and the close proximity of adjacent chemicals would facilitate chemical reactions. This could only be a temporary solution as further life progression would be dependant on encapsulation, of some form.

The final, and without a doubt, the most important property of first life would be the initiation of some form of primitive reproduction subject to Darwinian selection and hence evolution at its most basic level. Once selection occurs I think life’s development would take on a rapid course and in just a few million years perhaps, organisms, and when I talk of organisms, I mean simple forms of bacteria, as we would know it, would exist.

I found this topic very hard to write and whilst researching I was overwhelmed by the amount of research data and information out there in the scientific literature. This is a highly fluid and diverse area of research. Mayhap, in the future, I will find the time to consider other theories and ideas on this exciting and important area of science. And as for Panspermia............

In Search of Panspermia | News | Astrobiology