Monday, 1 April 2013

Short Term Dory

It's been six days since my last fish, er, blog entry.  In the meantime, i've done these:

Click to tweet: .  Most people would probably either believe in the Fall literally and be creationist, probably Young Earth Creationist, or see it as a metaphor or allegory of a process we all go through in early life and believe in evolution, or of course they might reject both and simply believe in evolution as non-Christians.  I hold a third position.  Although i agree with the allegorical understanding of the Fall, i also think that it may reflect a series of real events.  Whereas i do present a particular hypothesis here, i'm not attached to it and am prepared to accept that i'm wrong.  In the context of the Fall, this is the correct and humble thing to do.  It would be perverse of me to assert that in spite of my sinfulness, limitation and proneness to error and self-serving "rational" thought, this is the definitive, correct version of events.  It's more presented as an illustration of how believing in a literal Fall is compatible with evolutionary theory.  I doubt anyone else at all believes this, including Christian palaeontologists and palaeoanthropologists.

This is my hypothesis:

Back in the Miocene, there were many different species of ape (incidentally, the Aegyptopithecus zeuxis in the video was not an ape although it was, like apes, a catarrhine primate - sorry about the mistake).  The climate back then was somewhat more humid and warmer than today, and there were widespread rainforests.  Apes were found in Europe, Asia and Africa.  Then, at the close of the Miocene, the climate became more arid.  This was due to the build up of ice, possibly due to the diversion of the Gulf Stream northwards and the appearance of snow in high latitudes, or orogeny (mountain building).  The following epoch, the Pliocene, was therefore more arid and the rainforests shrank.  Hence our ancestors were forced to survive on the savannah, where food sources were scarcer and not ideal nutritionally for a species which had evolved in the rainforest.  As a result, they effectively suffered from malnutrition, since the phytoestrogens and MAOIs in their diet were missing.  Even today it's possible to tell we are not eating the ideal diet because we cannot produce our own vitamin C.  This diet along with the harsh environment jointly led to a situation where foetuses did not develop healthily in the womb due to brain and hormonal problems, and the harsh environment and impairment of development combined to brutalise the species.  By the time of recorded history, this vicious cycle had been going on for many millenia and we had come to believe it was natural.  This is the biological explanation of how sin entered the world - this is the Fall, a uniquely human problem.

It's crucial to recognise two things about this.  One is that every single neurotypical individual since this event has been confronted with the choice to avoid or commit sin, and with one single exception throughout the whole of the history of the human race, every single one of us has chosen freely to sin.

As i said this is an hypothesis, but i also believe there is some evidence for it.  One is the behaviour of chimpanzees compared to that of bonobos.  The relative harshness of the environment of chimps has led to them being more aggressive than bonobos.  They are examples of the kind of thing which went "wrong" in the Pliocene and led to "Adam and Eve" being "expelled" from the Garden of Eden.

It may be possible to test this hypothesis via the analysis of wear and tear on fossil teeth, dating the production and nature of stone tools and the isotope ratios of calcium and phosphorus in fossilised bones, but it probably isn't.

OK, so it sounds completely insane, but as i say i'm not 100% attached to this idea.  I'm just presenting it to show that evolutionary theory is compatible with a literal Fall.

Click to tweet: . Obviously in reality i don't "hate" Christians, but many of the things they do seem hypocritical and counterproductive.

I'm sure you've experienced the annoying Christian preachers ranting about God on street corners, and i'm personally convinced that it doesn't work.  However, they clearly believe God is telling them to do it.  However, it can become very hypocritical.  I'm aware that on at least one occasion, people were planted in a crowd to fake conversion in order to convince others.  This is straightforwardly dishonest.

Another example of this is the production of a poster about the occult which included the words "A Christian perspective" in tiny, hardly legible letters next to an enormously printed "THE OCCULT".  Another example of Christian hypocrisy and lying.

A couple of other examples from real life:  my friend describing vegetarians as "very stupid" because he believed animals were put here for human benefit alone.  This is not about loving people made in the image of God and goes against not causing one's neighbour to stumble.

Christianity can easily be a substitute morality about notching up converts like a score rather than going out and making the world a better place. The same person i just mentioned also said politics was pointless because God had all the answers.

I think the problem is that people mistake passion for the voice of God.  They think that because they feel strongly about something themselves, it automatically means God wants them to do it.  In reality, the truth is more like what St Francis of Assissi allegedly said (and thanks to Sarada for chipping in at this point):  "Preach the gospel always and if necessary, use words. "

The slight doubt i have about this is:  Although all this seems terrible to me, it was in fact just such a person who was instrumental in bringing me to Christ.  Yes, i am a Christian - i just have issues with the way certain people do it.

Click to tweet: .  My Easter Egg attempt to interview Siobhan Nesbit from my story 'Five Stages'.  Based on Hypergraffiti's much better character interview from her 'Writing Wednesday' series.

No room for the script, so here's a rough summary:  Siobhan Nesbit is a kleptomaniac who has been arrested in a future dystopian Great Britain.  While she is in custody, she has this dream.

One response to the story 'Five Stages' was "egad, what a dystopian nightmare!"

Click to tweet: . Christ In The Centre is an annual ecumenical passion play performed as street theatre in Leicester City Centre with volunteers from local churches.  This is Sarada's and my take on it.  I don't want to be creepy or off-putting, but i do want to be honest about my faith, so here it is.
Click to tweet: . Honestly, there's only one more Easter video after this and it's about chocolate!
First of all, i have a couple of problems with Christianity.  One is that it's hard for me to accept that this is how the Universe works considering that we're minute little bacteria on a thin film of liquid on a small blue dot hidden in the vastness of the Cosmos.  The other is that it feels wrong to talk about Christianity in this way, because when it comes down to it, it involves talking about the horrible drawn-out death by crucifixion of someone we're supposed to love in a cold, clinical rational way, almost as if it didn't matter.  Whether or not you believe in a historical Jesus, crucifixion is a fact, it was an atrocity and we need to talk about it with that in mind.  Nonetheless, i want to crack on with this because i think it's important.

I want to point out before i go any further that the word "theory" is not the exclusive property of science and that these are not scientific theories.  Nor are they mutually incompatible - you can believe several at once without any apparent inconsistency.  Scientific theories are also like this.

The question is, of course, what the Hell was Jesus doing on the Cross?  The standard evangelical protestant answer seems to be in terms of penal substitution, which was in fact the understanding i had when i became Christian back in 1985 - i repented and believed, recognised Christ's sacrifice for my sins personally on the Cross as the one perfect, fully human and fully divine person in the history of the Universe, so that Christ would have died in substitution for me personally.  This is, i think, the most popular theory right now and for quite some time i thought it was the only option.  I'm not going to go into much detail about it because that's done in spades elsewhere and everywhere.

Another theory is the Ransom Theory.  This is the idea that God the Father sent Christ as a "bait" to the Devil, which Satan would then take, and because this would be unjust, it would break some kind of contract and the Devil would lose his right over humanity.  The problem with this, i think, is twofold.  Firstly, it's deceptive - God effectively lies to Satan to achieve this. This raises the issue of whether it's OK to lie to the Devil, and whether the prohibition on lying only applies between human beings or between us and God.  Secondly, it makes the Universe look like a place where contracts rule, and i think it's more about love, although i do accept the idea of covenantal theology - for instance, i believe in the Noachic Covenant which gives us the dispensation to eat meat.  Contracts can be involved in love, for instance marriage, but even there they seem inappropriate.  I see government as a human activity.

Christus Victor is quite an emotionally appealing theory involving Christ going to spiritual war against evil and harrowing Hell, the demons and the Devil, defeating them in a way which reminds me of Jerry Bruckheimer and possibly Rambo, which i haven't seen.  On a more serious note, it also reminds me of Iain Banks's words in the mouth of Rasd-Codurersa Diziet Embless Sma da' Marenhide, that the tinpot dictators of this planet would fill their pants when they realised that the future was deep red - i.e. that artificial scarcity, authoritarianism and totalitarianism will one day be utterly and finally defeated.  I do like that idea!  It has a strong emotional appeal.

Finally, though there are others, Moral Influence theory interests me and it's certainly one i accept, among others.  This is the idea that Jesus being prepared to die for love of the world is an inspiration to us to go out and do better.  This was popular in the Dark Ages but also today among liberal Christians, and is remarkable in that, unlike the others, it doesn't actually require Jesus to have literally existed as a historical character.  It's perfectly feasible to have the myth of Jesus be inspiring without Jesus having ever lived.  Therefore, it even works for atheists who believe Jesus never existed.  Of course, although i like this theory i don't think that's all there is to it and in fact, since i happen to have been "saved" in a perfectly conventional way in evangelical Protestant terms, i crucially did believe in penal substitution for a very long time even though right now i'm not sure.  I just think it's important to recognise that that's not the only view among believers.

Click to tweet: . Since it's Easter, here's a video about chocolate from a herbal perspective.  Chocolate - Theobroma cacao - is native to Central and South America but is mainly grown elsewhere nowadays.  It's in the Malvaceae, or mallow family, along with a huge variety of other plants including mallow, hollyhock, hibiscus, cotton, cola nuts, durian and linden.

Chocolate is unusual in that it's really two sets of very different medicines.  One is based around cocoa butter, which is a bulk material used to make pessaries and suppositories along with skin preparations and to render oral medicine more palatable.  It's also useful for soap.  It melts at about body temperature but solidifies at a lower temperature when cooled, illustrating the "zone of inaccessibility" of catastrophe theory.  The other aspect of chocolate is its value as a conventional strong drug, since it contains caffeine-like chemicals - xanthines - including caffeine itself and theobromine, the renowned "love" chemical.  Theobromine differs from caffeine in not being a particularly strong central nervous system stimulant but it is a strong circulatory stimulant and diuretic, making it useful in dropsy - fluid retention in heart failure - and since it's also a bronchodilator - widens the breathing passages - it can be used to treat asthma, something i actually did successfully once with Theintrostealer.  What kind of spoils this for people who like chocolate, though, is that for it to work well in this way it not only needs to be taken without sugar or milk, or even cocoa butter, but also should be avoided at other times to keep working.

The flavonoid and antioxidant content of chocolate is less impressive than is often claimed.  More than half of all plant species contain fair quantities of flavonoid-like compounds, and the antioxidant content of chocolate is quite unremarkable.

It so happens that i'm not particularly keen on chocolate.  I can take it or leave it, and in fact i probably slightly dislike it.  Maybe it's a gender thing, but as 100dayplan says, i "don't like nice things".  However, i did once make a curry with it - it's a little like cinnamon i think.

Click to tweet: .  Some of you may have noticed that in the past few months, my belly has been gradually expanding, and you could be forgiven for supposing that this is middle-aged spread.  However, that's not what it is.  I can't keep hiding the truth from you all:  I'm four months pregnant.

At the beginning of the year, i decided to put herbalism to the ultimate test:  can it sustain pregnancy in a male body?  To that end, i very carefully obtained an egg cell, fertilised it and implanted the zygote into my greater omentum via keyhole surgery, taking great care to sterilise everything first.  It was a little tricky doing this operation on myself and involved a laparoscopy, but i managed it without ill-effects.  I am also taking oestrogenic and progesteronal hormonal herbs such as red clover, black cohosh and chaste berry to maintain a feminine hormonal internal environment.  The fetus has now been healthy and growing for four months.

I am currently experiencing morning sickness, constipation, piles and have gone off a lot of foods, notably coffee.  Some of this is undoubtedly due to the fact that i'm male.

This will be the first of many vlogs as i record my experience of male pregnancy.  I will need a lot of financial support before September, when the baby is due, as i will have to pay for a private C-section - the baby's not going to come out any other way.

So this is the first of many vlogs on the subject.  Subscribe and stay tuned to follow my progress.  Join me on this unique and miraculous journey.  Who knows where it will end?

Right, so that's quite a few to be getting on with and i could say a lot about each of them.  I choose to concentrate upon the last, and since it's now afternoon on 1st April, i can reveal the rather obvious fact that it's an April Fool. It's also a rather blatant attempt to bridge the channels and in fact i'll shortly be uploading a video onto that channel which will link to this video, showing my preparation.

This is where possible body dysmorphia raises its ugly head.  I have no idea whether i look pregnant, overweight or bloated in that video, and of course many people viewing this video won't have seen me in my normal state, so they may not quite get the joke.  However, i feel fairly optimistic that once i get the other channel's video together and link to this one, i'll be able to generate a lot more traffic.  The other video reveals how i did it, of course, in case it isn't already clear.

I have the usual worries about being offensive, and again i have no way of judging whether it is, but since it is supposed to be a joke, i hope it gets taken in that spirit.