Sunday, March 05, 2006

'The Da Vinci Code' pure fiction, scholars say, etc

'The Da Vinci Code' pure fiction, scholars say: Experts find no historical basis for Jesus' marriage to Mary Magdalene, Daily Review/AP, March 4, 2006 Richard N. Ostling, ... Redeemed sinner, prostitute, wife of Jesus... Mary Magdalene's image has gone through myriad incarnations over the centuries, and this Lenten season she's drawing new attention thanks to the upcoming movie version of "The Da Vinci Code," a slew of books and Internet arguments. But those looking for a salacious side to the biblical figure will be disappointed: Serious religious scholars agree that characterizations that stray from faithful disciple and witness to the resurrection are bogus. Despite stage and screen portrayals, they say, the sinful Mary is a matter of mistaken identity. ... The "Da Vinci" yarn says Christians conspired to conceal the Jesus-Mary marriage and the royal French bloodline their offspring established. But there's no evidence that Jesus married Mary or anyone else, and we know that other first-century Jewish holy men remained celibate. Mary supposedly traveled to France, but the claim is suspect; the first mention of her relics located there dates from the year 745. The best source of material on Mary is a first-century account, the New Testament itself. ...
Da Vinci Code idea 'in public domain', Daily Telegraph, Richard Alleyne, 1 March 2006 ... Two British-based writers who claim that Dan Brown, the Da Vinci Code author, stole their ideas for his novel have repeatedly made "spurious and bogus" allegations, the High Court was told yesterday. Michael Baigent, 57, and Richard Leigh, 62, allege that the central premise of the book, which has sold 40 million copies, was cannibalised from their work Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, published more than 20 years earlier. They say that their "central theme", namely that Jesus had a child whose descendants live on in France, was plagiarised for the Da Vinci Code and are suing Random House, its British publisher. But yesterday John Baldwin, QC, for the publisher, said that much of their allegations, which he said had changed over the course of the court case, were "spurious and bogus". ... Mr Baldwin added that the law of copyright did not protect general ideas and that any similar themes in both books were in the public domain and known to Brown before he read Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. "We say the claim relies on and seeks to monopolise ideas at such a high level of generality they are not protected by copyright. ... [Personally, I regard this as two money-grubbing charlatans suing another money-grubbing charlatan, to get even more ill-gotten loot. However, having said that, I have no doubt that Brown plagiarised Holy Blood, Holy Grail and he will make Leigh and Baigent even more rich than he already has. It is BTW interesting that Brown's lawyers are not claiming The Da Vinci Code is historical fact and that cannot be copyrighted!]

Early Humans Walked Peculiarly?, Discovery News, Jennifer Viegas, Feb. 27, 2006 - At least two species of early humans were knock-kneed and walked rather uniquely, according to a new study on seven anklebones that belonged to various early human ancestors from eastern and southern Africa. The study, which will be published in the April issue of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, suggests that although the early humans walked on two feet, they did not always do so with our relatively smooth stride. .... While the researchers think such early human relatives "had some gait peculiarities," they believe the ability to walk on two feet (bipedality) evolved only once because it requires so many anatomical changes in the pelvis, knees, lower legs and feet. "We find it difficult to believe that all of these changes could occur more than once," Gebo said. The scientists think bipedality must have occurred very quickly in human evolution, particularly since there was no three-limbed transitional phase. During the period of evolution, our ancestors lost their grasping big toe muscles. This "toe" in African apes, such as chimpanzees, helps in climbing trees. Gebo said we also developed platform-like, weight-bearing bodies, short toes, stocky foot bones and joints that can lock up so we do not need muscle power to remain erect. Bruce Latimer, executive director of The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, ... agrees bipedality evolved no more than once within the human lineage ... [I have added this admission that "the ability to walk on two feet (bipedality) evolved only once because it requires so many anatomical changes in the pelvis, knees, lower legs and feet." that "We find it difficult to believe that all of these changes could occur more than once" and "there was no three-limbed transitional phase" (which means that Darwinian natural selection of micromutations didn't do it), to my "Problems of Evolution" book outline, PE 14.1.2. "Man ... Uniqueness ... Bipedalism." I have also added the comment, "The problem for evolution is that if if it is so highly unlikely that a sequences of indendent major changes towards a single end (bipedalism) could naturalistically evolve "more than once," then maybe it didn't naturalistically evolve even "once"!]

Henry M. Morris, 87, a Theorist of Creationism, Dies, The New York Times, Jodi Rudoren, March 4, 2006 ... Henry M. Morris, the father of modern creationism, whose prolific writings sought scientific validation for a literal interpretation of the Bible and provided the intellectual underpinnings for attacks on evolution as an account of world history, died last Saturday in a hospital near San Diego. He was 87. ... Dr. Morris was a hydraulic engineer and taught at several universities before developing his critique of evolution and a history of Earth that spans 4.5 billion years in the 1961 work "The Genesis Flood." The book, written with the theologian John C. Whitcomb, was the first to take a scholarly approach to proving the Old Testament creation story, and it argued that Noah's flood, rather than eons of erosion, sculptured the earth. Considered the handbook of creationism, "The Genesis Flood" is in its 44th printing, having sold 250,000 copies in English. "It was a groundbreaking work in that he basically, in this culture, in this day and age, showed that there were scientific answers to be able to defend the Christian faith and uphold the Bible's account," said Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis .... "The grass-roots movement you see across America right now, with the school board battles, with the students questioning evolution in colleges, all of that is really in a big part due to the work of Dr. Henry Morris," Mr. Ham said. "All of us in the modern creationism movement today would say we stand on his shoulders." Dr. Morris wrote more than 60 other books interweaving science and theology .... His Institute for Creation Research, a hybrid of a ministry and a research organization that grants master's degrees, led to scores more books from like-minded scholars shunned by mainstream academia. .... Eugenie C. Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, the leading defender of teaching evolution in public schools, said Dr. Morris's books "have no scientific merit." She said he was "the most important creationist of the 20th century, much more so than William Jennings Bryan." She recalled his "cordial, gentlemanly" manner when he invited her to lunch at his Santee research center a few years ago. "It was obvious that we are going to disagree on science; it's obvious that we disagree on evolution," Dr. Scott said. "I feel that he was absolutely sincere about his convictions that the Bible was literally true and that science would support it and creation science was good science." ... [A respectful obituary in the NYT and comments by Eugenie Scott. However, Scott's claim that "Morris's books "have no scientific merit" (my emphasis) is false. As I said in a previous post, while I did not accept Morris' YEC answer, he did raise genuine scientific problems with evolution. The most notable, for which he perhaps was most famous, is his argument from the Second Law of Thermodynamics (which in my experience evolutionists always misconstrue and/or introduce diversions, because they have no answer to it):

"There do exist a few types of systems in the world where one sees an apparent increase In order, superficially offsetting the decay tendency specified by the Second Law. Examples are the growth of a seed into a tree, the growth of a fetus into an adult animal, and the growth of a pile of bricks and girders into a building. Now, if one examines closely all such systems to see what it is that enables them to supersede the Second Law locally and temporarily (in each case, of course, the phenomenon is only ephemeral, since the organism eventually dies and the building eventually collapses), he will find in every case, at least two essential criteria that must be satisfied: (a) There must be a program to direct the growth. A growth process which proceeds by random accumulations will not lead to an ordered structure but merely a heterogeneous blob. Some kind of pattern, blueprint or code must be there to begin with, or no ordered growth can take place. In the case of the organism this is the intricately complex genetic program, structured as an information system into the DNA molecule for the particular organism. In the case of the building, it is the set of plans prepared by the architects and engineers. (b) There must be a power converter to energize the growth. The available environmental energy is of no avail unless it can be converted into the specific forms needed to organize and bond the components into the complex and ordered structure of the completed system. Unless such a mechanism is available, the environmental energy more likely will break down any structure already present. "We have seen that organization requires work for its maintenance and that the universal quest for food is in part to provide the energy needed for the work. But the simple expenditure of energy is not sufficient to develop and maintain order. A bull in a china shop performs work, but he neither creates nor maintains organization. The work needed is particular work; it must follow specifications; it requires information on how to proceed." [Simpson G.G. & Beck W.S., " Life: An Introduction to Biology," Harcourt, Brace & World: New York, Second edition, 1965, p.466] In the case of a seed, one of the required energy conversion mechanisms is the marvelous process called photosynthesis, which by some incompletely understood complex of reactions converts sunlight into the building of the plant's structure. In the animal numerous complex mechanisms-digestion, blood circulation, respiration, etc.-combine to transform food into body structure. In the case of the building, fossil fuels and human labor operate numerous complex electrical and mechanical devices to erect the structure. And so on. Now the question again is, not whether there is enough energy reaching the earth from the sun to support evolution, but rather how this energy is converted into evolution? The evolutionary process, if it exists, is by far the greatest growth process of all. If a directing code and specific conversion mechanism are essential for all lesser growth processes, then surely an infinitely more complex code and more specific energy converter are required for the evolutionary process. But what are they? The answer is that no such code and mechanism have ever been identified. Where in all the universe does one find a plan which sets forth how to organize random particles into particular people? And where does one see a marvelous motor which converts the continual flow of solar radiant energy bathing the earth into the work of building chemical elements into replicating cellular systems, or of organizing populations of worms into populations of men, over vast spans of geologic time?" (Morris H.M., "Scientific Creationism," [1974], Master Books: El Cajon CA, Second Edition, 1985, pp.43-45. Emphasis original)

I have added this quote to my "Problems of Evolution" book outline, PE 7.4.3. "Origin of Life ... Second law of thermodynamics." Note also Ratzch's comments there.]

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"

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