“I (still) don’t believe it!” Thoughts on truth and social media, Part III

I have written elsewhere: “set aside videos of cute kittens or adolescents cracking up their skateboards. Let’s focus on those other things – political, social, religious, etc. – which get posted on social media and spread like wildfire!” I invite you to read the first two parts of this series before reading Part III:

“I don’t believe it!” Thoughts on Truth and Social Media – Part I

“I don’t believe it!” Thoughts on Truth and Social Media – Part II

Now I would like to update these with a Part III, with several other sources of doubtful “facts.”

ANONYMOUS INSIDERS

There is a whole genre of exposé literature that follows this formula: “I am an ex-[whatever] and I am going to reveal the shocking inside secrets.” Ex-Communist. Ex-Mormon. Ex-Satanist. Ex-Jesuit (Jack Chick’s man, “Alberto,” made a whole career with that claim). Ex-nun. Ex-physicist working for CERN. Ex-CIA operative. Ex-NASA scientist. Ex-Muslim. Ex-Freemason. In 2011 the internet was abuzz with “I was in the Illuminati: I’m Going to Tell you Everything, Shocking Expose.”

Of course, sometimes these revelations are legitimate: (more…)

Is the Earth a flat disc after all?

Is it just me, or is anyone else running into Flat Earth proponents lately? (Check this ARTICLE) People who think NASA is doing mind control over us, that no one has ever been to space, that the Bible teaches the earth is a disc? Yeah, it’s a thing. It’s conspiracy thinking at heart. Basically an extension of the chemtrail/anti-flouridation/man-never-landed-on-the-moon approach to truth and reality. Airlines supposedly fake their travel times, no-one has ever been to the South Pole, all of those outer space pictures were Photoshopped, all Aussies lie about how long their country is (see the map below to deduce why – in a FE model, it would have to be the size of Russia), time zones are a fake, and the stars are just points of light in an umbrella, fixed maybe a few hundred miles up.

01 Flat Earth Society Map (Charles K. Johnson).jpg

Like so

Just for one example, here is a meme I ran into this week, one which “proves absolutely” that the world is flat and the center of the cosmos, and that the stars whirl about us in unchanging position.

13445525_1246380195402770_5502095798421931483_n

One can disprove it, I think, with a 10th-grader’s knowledge of math and the stars.

To begin with, the first two figures are a smokescreen, since our daily rotation and our annual revolution around the sun would not be expected to alter the shape of constellations in any way. So these two are moot and can be put aside.

As for the third datum, the rate of speed is relevant, although it’s off by a factor of 10! It should be 45,000 mph; this goof doesn’t fill me with confidence in the meme. In cosmic terms, by the way, 45,000 mph is a creeping pace, a little bit more than twice the speed of the space shuttle. The same shuttle that, at top speed, would need 165,000 years to reach the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri.

Anyway, the sun is moving at 45,000 mph in relation to an imaginary fixed point in space, but the meme fails to take into account that the other stars in our sector of the galaxy are all in motion through space as well, and more or less in the same direction. So it’s a bit like asking, “If that horsie on the merry-go-round is really moving at 10 feet per second, then how come he doesn’t move further and further away from the other horsies??? Therefore, the horsie is not moving at all, and if NASA tells you otherwise, they’re lying!!

"I full-out gallop, but the others keep right up with me! What gives??"

“I full-out gallop, but the others keep right up with me! Neigh! What gi-i-i-i=ves??”

Another point, is that in fact constellations do shape-shift over time, but it takes so long that they wouldn’t have seemed to move much in the few thousand years that people have been imagining patterns in them. HERE’s a good short article on the phenomenon, showing that stars have slightly changed their positions over the past couple of thousand years. And thousands of years from now, the Big Dipper will look slightly less like a dipper.

Not that this evidence will change anyone’s mind. As with all such theories, you can cut off one head (or disprove one meme!) and a hundred others will grow up to replace it. That’s one reason why I’m not going to attempt to prove that the earth is really a sphere: I’m following my Golden Rule, “Cans of Worms shall not be Opened on This Blog.”

imagesToxicity warning: Flat Eartherism as such is a relatively harmless notion, but it does seem to come tangled up with anti-Semitism (the Zionists control NASA!), Nephilim mythology, Who Really Killed Diana theories, “Fold up a dollar bill and tell me you don’t see the Illuminati!” handcrafts, and other conspiracy thinking. As careful study has shown, “people who believe in one conspiracy are prone to believe others.” If we need proof, Alex Jones is Exhibit A. Conspiracy thinking is, as the earlier article notes, almost resembles a religion, with a fervor that rivals jihadism for its fury, single-mindedness, and closed thinking. In this case, NASA is the Flat Earther’s Antichrist, Galileo really was a heretic, and “Like the tobacco companies, NASA is now trying to target children with their lies!”

Strange days indeed.

Recommended Link

IBRI has excellent studies on science and faith

Our friend Dr. Bob Newman has a fine article; the title gives it away, but he takes a gentle, pastoral approach to alternative science: Evangelicals and Crackpot Science

Related Posts

Christians and Myths

“The Paranoid Style in American Politics” has its 50th Anniversary

“Is the Earth a flat disc after all?” by Gary S. Shogren, PhD in New Testament Exegesis, Professor at Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

“I don’t believe it!” Thoughts on truth and social media, Part II

In Part I I began an extended-play rant against internet disinformation. I’m against it for two reasons: I don’t like false information; I don’t like to look foolish when I fall for it.

Here are other areas where we need to show some healthy skepticism:

ECHO CHAMBER EFFECT

In 2015 the social media were packed with people reporting that Pope Francis had announced that Islam and Christianity were equally valid and that the Koran and the Bible were basically the same message: “Jesus Christ, Jehovah, Allah. These are all names employed to describe an entity that is distinctly the same across the world.”

“I’m the pope, but I’m broadminded!”

People were outraged! The Vatican denied it which, for some of us, was evidence that it must have really happened. It appeared on the bogus Washingtonpost.com.co, conservativebyte.com, also civictribune.com (which altered the story, so that the pope supposedly said this at the White House). So, I have seen the same exact story, usually quoted verbatim, on four websites. Does this mean there are four “sources”? No, only one, and that original source (National Report again!) said they were just joking! But the echo effect means that the reader senses that, “It must be so, because everybody is talking about it!” The National Report was also responsible for the spoof that the Pope wants everyone to be micro-chipped by 2017.

For the Christian there is a special sort of news source, the Prophetic Site. If one blogger says he, I don’t know, saw four grim horsemen riding around in the field ‘back of his farm, then the story will spread far and wide within days, if not hours.

TABLOIDS

Ah, for the days when tabloids were clearly labeled and placed at the supermarket checkout. Then you could give a quick glance and find out when Elvis was spotted with what Venusian or how a Wolf-Boy was loose in the Maine woods.

Here’s one you won’t soon forget:

wtf tabloid headline

Now you just have to click on and find tabloids online, for example, WorldNewsDailyReport.com. Read all about it! “Man who spend 57 Years Counting the Bricks in the Great Wall of China.”

Of course, (more…)

“I don’t believe it!” Thoughts on truth and social media, Part I

Capture

“You must not pass along false rumors.” Exodus 23:1

My friends know what a skeptical soul I am. Whenever I see a post on the social media, my first reaction is to shake my head and say, “Yes, but, how do you know this to be so?”

And they know me as the one who annoyingly responds on Facebook, “Is this true??”

I really, really, don’t like to be “had”. They “got” me badly, once, when I saw an announcement that MTV was going to start putting operas into their mix of music. MTV!! Twenty years ago, and it still burns me. Later I realized that the announcement came out on April 1.

Set aside videos of cute kittens or adolescents cracking up their skateboards. Let’s focus on those other things – political, social, religious, etc. – which get posted on social media and spread like wildfire. They go viral because of a factor in the human mind called “cognitive bias”. Everyone has cognitive bias = that when I hear things from certain sources, or which resonate with what I already “know” to be true, I more easily assume it’s true, at least until someone proves otherwise.

Let’s take an example: ISIS

In December, after the San Bernadino shootings, these two pictures circulated the internet. If someone put them on Facebook, you and I would probably be more likely to accept one as “real” and the other as faked or at least less important information. The first looks like a pro-ISIS rally, the second something else:

Photo 1

Photo 1

Photo 2

Photo 2

Answer: Both were taken in Dearborn, Michigan. Photo 1 was a march on Dec 5, 2015, by Muslims against ISIS. The other picture in front of “City Hall” is, I was able to confirm, Dearborn City Hall, located at 13615 Michigan Avenue; it was a march by Muslims again, against ISIS, in August 25, 2014. And I learned that there have been a number of these marches by Muslims in Dearborn. (more…)

“The Paranoid Style in American Politics” has its 50th Anniversary

[One of my few blog entries on politics, and how it relates to psychology, sociology, and modern apocalyptic eschatology. Here is a full pdf version: Paranoid Style Turns 50_Shogren]

Because of his ability to describe and predict American political behavior, Richard Hofstadter’s “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” should be required reading for the citizen. And except for Sacred Scriptures and the US Constitution, I never say any text should be mandatory. “Paranoid Style” was a short, dynamite article in the November 1964 issue of Harper’s, and is still available on their website archive. [1] We will look at some of its insights for today, and in particular, its implications for the evangelical church.

His immediate interest was the conservative movement that backed Barry Goldwater for president in the 1964 election. As a confirmed liberal of the old style, that is, to the left of typical Democrats of today, Hofstadter argued that he was not simply being anti-conservative – and that he was! – but rather: “I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wing.”

I offer my own summary of the script of the “paranoid style”:

Nothing is what it seems to be: there are evil forces at work, carrying out their treacherous actions and shielding themselves from the attention of the general public;

I and a small group of whistle-blowers are even now revealing this hidden reality;

the proofs are extraordinarily complex and interwoven, but the central truth is simple and can be explained in a few sentences;

we who are “in the know” are continually hampered or even checkmated due to powerful enemies and widespread public apathy and gullibility.

“Nothing is what it seems to be – there are evil forces at work, carrying out their treacherous actions and shielding themselves from the attention of the general public”

conspiracy-theory-top-secretExamples from recent decades would have to include Senator Joe McCarthy, who argued that the loss of Eastern Europe and China to the Reds could not reasonably have happened by accident, or by normal political (more…)

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Christians and myths

Gullibility is not a fruit of the Spirit. Yes, Paul did say that a Christian “believes all things” (1 Cor 13:7), but what he meant was, “to whatever extent possible, believe the best about other people”.

It’s important to establish this up front, since Christians are regularly bombarded by rumors, many of which are false. Wait ‘til you hear this! someone breathlessly informs us:

They are banning all Christian radio! A guest preacher spoke in our church. “The famous atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair is leading a movement to take away our freedom!” he exclaimed. “If we don’t act now, then Christian radio programs will be banned!” He gave some details of the crisis, and I signed the petition to the FCC to reject the atheistic petition RM-2493 and keep the gospel message on the airwaves.

The only trouble is, I was sixteen when I put my signature on the petition. Yet decades later, that same warning keeps circulating, given new life by email and then Facebook. (more…)

Is the NIV 2011 a Satanic, Homosexual, PC Bible? Part II

Click here to read Part I, which is necessary to understand this Part II.

Some take issue with the 2011 update of the New International Version. For example, here’s the official statement from the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood:

As the evangelical community turns to CBMW for trusted counsel on contemporary Bible translations that are faithful and accurate in their rendering of gender-language, we will continue to point them to the many translations available today that do a better job than the TNIV and new NIV (2011) – translations like the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), the New American Standard (NASB), the New King James (NKJV), and the English Standard Version (ESV).

I do not agree with the CBMW’s position, but I appreciated the measured attitude.

But if you listen closely, you can also hear sounds of breast-beating, garment rending, bursts of outrage and charges of blasphemy and apostasy. You can hear slogans in place of careful study. And I’m afraid that the alarmists are outshouting those who are reasonable:

The Bible teaches a masculine Godhead….[But feminists] have fabricated their own theology that attempts to portray God as having a feminine side. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible speaks of God the FATHER, and of Jesus Christ the SON, and of the Holy Spirit Who is referred to with the pronoun HE in the faithful King James Bible (John 16:13)…The NIV 2011 attacks the masculine authority of God, the ruling husband, and the authoritative preacher.

The Devil’s feminist, homosexual, abortionist crowd wants to produce a unisex Bible that doesn’t condemn the sin of homosexuality.

The NIV 2011 attacks the masculine authority of God…The NIV 2011 is evil, catering to the homosexual agenda.

The new gender-inclusive NIV…contains thousands of changes to the Bible’s male-gendered language. Having a gender-inclusive Bible appears to be the latest trend amongst cutting-edge, cappuccino-slurping Christian hipsters.

And while I dislike posting another site online, the page http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/ is about the worst example I have seen of disinformation, ignorance, exaggeration, backwardness, and uninformed writing that I have seen with respect a whole range of themes, and to Bible translating and the NIV in particular; I mention the site because, unlike most reputable bloggers, they do not provide any means for people to comment on their posts – otherwise I would have interacted with them on their own turf.

Now, when people say that a Bible is “evil” and the work of Satan, they had better tread with extreme caution. If you dislike a particular version – as does the CBMW – that’s fine; but you had better do your homework. You had better be certain that God stands with you before holding up a Bible and calling it a product of hell or, as one site instructs its readers, to use the Bible as “toilet paper”. This is God’s precious Word we’re talking about.

I cannot imagine that those who have written such comments have given any serious attention to the text of the NIV 2011, which is freely available online. Let’s begin by sweeping away the wilder claims:

Does the NIV 2011 remove God’s “masculinity” and replace it with a feminine goddess? Goodness, no! Our proof: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV 2011) and every other relevant verse throughout the Bible. (more…)

Is the NIV 2011 a Satanic, Homosexual, PC Bible? Part I

Search for comments on the new NIV by Google, and you will find bloggers talking about its “feminist agenda”, “Satan’s lies”, “end-time deception” and that “the homosexual community is excited about the new perversion of the Bible.” (They provided no statements from gay groups, expressing their glee). At its annual convention last year, the Southern Baptist Convention went so far as to condemn “this inaccurate translation of God’s inspired Scripture”, implying that it does so because as Baptists they believe that God’s Word is infallible – and by implication the NIV is not.

What’s the fuss? After all, every Bible version is updated and revised over the years; these revisions do not imply that the message of God’s Word is being altered: the NASB of today is not the original, but the 1995 revision. Nor is the “original” King James the 1611 version; it was updated continuously over the centuries. The ESV wins the prize: it was a revision of the National Council of Churches’ RSV (1971 edition); the ESV was published in 2001, revised in 2007 and revised again in 2011. The NIV itself was revised in 1984, and hardly anyone noticed. But few updates have caused a stir as the NIV 2011 has.

I’m not capable of evaluating the whole edition; nevertheless, for the last decade I have worked closely with the Greek text of 1 Corinthians, writing a Spanish-language commentary for CLIE publishers in Barcelona, Spain; my comments therein are based on the Spanish version of the NIV, called the Nueva Versión Internacional (NVI). Therefore, I do regard myself as qualified to evaluate the NIV 2011 rendering of 1 Corinthians, and I will do so with reference to NIV84, the Nueva Versión Internacional, the Nestle-Aland 27th edition of the Greek Testament [which is identical to the newer 28th edition] and other translations. Since 1 Corinthians is a long book, we will look just at chapters 1-7.

I happen to believe that calling a Bible “satanic” is a fantastically grave act, and one that must be backed up with a careful evaluation of evidence, not with broad-brush comments that it is a “politically-correct perversion”.

I’ve gone through and compared 1 Cor 1-7 word-for-word and will mark the important changes in the NIV 2011 as an improvement on the 1984 version, inferior to the 1984, or equal to the 1984. Other alterations, which are not listed, are mere changes of order or the substitute for one word for another (for example, “in” becomes “within” in 1 Cor 1:5). Part II of this essay will deal with the hot button issue of gender and the use of English pronouns in Bible translation; here in Part I we will deal with everything else.

My broad conclusion with reference to 1 Cor 1-7 is that the NIV 2011 is generally more reliable than the Spanish NVI and even more trustworthy than the NIV84. If anyone wishes to respond to my comments, please focus on these facts rather than sweeping generalizations; one can access the NIV 2011 here. (more…)