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Friday, January 31, 2014

Friday Bible Blogging - Psalms 21 to Psalms 30

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). All headings are links to those Bible chapters.

BiblePsalms 21 through 30 are largely similar to the preceding twenty psalms. However, there are a few standouts in this chapter that will be familiar to most readers, such as Psalm 22 which contains the last words of Jesus according to Matthew, or Psalm 23 which begins with the famous line, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."

Psalms, Chapter 21

This psalm is supposed to be a "Thanksgiving for Victory", contains the type of praise typical of Psalms. According to the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB), it's a continuation of Psalm 20. One part struck me as a bit extreme, though not out of character for the Bible. Concerning David's enemies, the psalm had this to say.

The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath,
   and fire will consume them.
You will destroy their offspring from the earth,
   and their children from among humankind.

It's just one more example of guilt being passed on to people that had nothing to do with the original crime/sin.

Psalms, Chapter 22

Psalm 22 is titled, "Plea for Deliverance from Suffering and Hostility". It begins with a verse that will be familiar to almost all Christians.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
   Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?

I know Christians believe that Jesus was probably intentionally quoting David, but it certainly makes you wonder if some writer thought that this psalm seemed fitting for Jesus and added it to the story.

This psalm reminds me a bit of Job, in the anguish and helplessness the writer expresses, though it doesn't take on quite the same accusatory tone as Job. It's one of the more moving psalms that I've read so far.

This psalmist attempted a tactic almost akin to bribery in trying to seek help from the Lord, promising to praise God if God would just help him.

I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
   in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:

If you'll recall from the previous two weeks' entries, there seems to be a theme of representing Sheol as "a drab & dismal underworld", but this psalm presents a slightly different view.

To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
   before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
   and I shall live for him.*

Psalms, Chapter 23

Psalm 23, "The Divine Shepherd", is one of the most famous psalms, and for good reason. It's a combination of praise and thanksgiving, but using metaphors that make it much more appealing than the typical praise and thanksgiving psalms. For example, here are the opening verses.

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
   He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
   he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
   for his name's sake.

Verse 4 isn't quite as poetic in the NRSV translation as in some other translations, however. Consider the NRSV version.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
   I fear no evil;

And now compare it to the King James Version.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil...

Psalms, Chapter 24

Psalm 24, "Entrance into the Temple", is mostly praise of God, with a little bit about "Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord". The NOAB had an interesting note about the first couple verses. First, here are the verses.

The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it,
   the world, and those who live in it;
for he has founded it on the seas,
   and established it on the rivers.

The NOAB noted that, "Presupposed is the combat myth in which the storm god defeats chaotic Sea, creates the universe, and erects a palace (temple) to commemorate the victory. Israel likely borrowed and transformed this myth from its Canaanite predecessors." I'd mentioned previously that cosmological portions of these poetic books might be able to be chalked up to poetic license, but there's so much of it, and portions of it are consistent. This battle with a sea monster is very reminiscent of the battle with Leviathan from Job.

Psalms, Chapter 25

Psalm 25 is a "Prayer for Guidance and for Deliverance". As pointed out in the NOAB, it can be divided into three portions - petition, lesson, petition. Overall, it's language and themes are similar to other psalms.

Psalms, Chapter 26

Chapter 26 is a "Plea for Justice and Declaration of Righteousness". Like I just wrote above, it's language and themes are similar to other psalms. The NOAB pointed out an interesting observation. The first verses discuss walking, "Vindicate me, O Lord, / for I have walked in my integrity," as does the penultimate verse, "But as for me, I walk in my integrity; / redeem me, and be gracious to me." This may be an indication that the psalm was used in some type of ritual procession.

Psalms, Chapter 27

Psalm 27 is a "Triumphant Song of Confidence". It's more of the same, but verses 8 and 9 are noteworthy.

'Come,' my heart says, 'seek his face!'
   Your face, Lord, do I seek.
   Do not hide your face from me.

Per the NOAB, this is another indication of the possibility of a statue of Yahweh in the temple, like I mentioned last week for Psalm 17. Personally, I'm still not convinced of that interpretation.

Psalms, Chapter 28

This psalm is a "Prayer for Help and Thanksgiving for It", and is much like the other psalms of that ilk. Above when discussing chapter 22, I'd mentioned that that chapter seemed to present the after life a little differently than other portions of Psalms. This chapter is more consistent with those other portions.

for if you are silent to me,
   I shall be like those who go down to the Pit.

After presenting his request, the psalmist wrote, "Blessed be the Lord, / for he has heard the sound of my pleadings." The NOAB notes that this may be that "the Lord has spoken, perhaps through an oracle..." But as with some of the other interpretations that the NOAB has presented for Psalms, this one seems to be highly conjectural.

Psalms, Chapter 29

Psalm 29 is "The Voice of God in a Great Storm", and describes a very powerful storm. If you've been reading these entries at all, you'll recognize that theme - many sections of the Bible present God as a storm God, hinting at his Canaanite origins. In fact, the NOAB says that, "many scholars think that this was a Canaanite psalm adapted by early Israel." There was also a hint of polytheism in the first verse, "Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings".

Verse 10 repeated a them I just discussed for chapter 24, "The Lord sits enthroned over the flood..." This is another allusion to defeating the sea in a primordial battle. And of course, the NOAB has something to say about this, as well, "ancient myths sometimes depicted the storm god defeating hostile Sea and building his palace upon its body."

There was one interesting aspect of this chapter that almost certainly wouldn't have caught on my own, but learned of through the NOAB. The phrase, "The voice of the Lord" appears seven times in this psalm. Considering the importance of the number 7 to those ancient writers, I don't think this is a coincidence.

Psalms, Chapter 30

Psalm 30 is a "Thanksgiving for Recovery from Grave Illness". The praise and thanksgiving are typical, but there are a few parts that stand out. First is the subscript, "A Psalm. A Song at the dedication of the temple. Of David." According to the NOAB, that part about the 'dedication of the temple' is an add on from the time Judas Maccabeus around 164 BC.

I've discussed the concept of the afterlife a couple times above. Here's another verse that's consistent with Sheol being rather drab, which seems to be the dominant view throughout Psalms.

'What profit is there in my death,
   if I go down to the Pit?
Will the dust praise you?
   Will it tell of your faithfulness?

Just like in the previous chapter, an interesting fact appears when you count the number of times 'Lord' and 'God' appear in this psalm - twelve times, supposedly representing the twelve tribes of Israel.


Like I've written the past two weeks, Psalms quickly becomes repetitious, with similar themes and concepts being repeated throughout. However, in the chapters I read this week, there were a couple very good psalms - Psalm 22 for the anguish and depth of emotion, and Psalm 23 for being praise that's more than just platitudes. I wish more of the Psalms were of that quality.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Creationist Dishonesty and a Follow Up to Previous Entries

Archaeopteryx - Berlin SpecimenThe other day browsing through the channel guide, I wandered into the religious channels and saw a show on creationism. I recorded it and just watched it this past weekend.* It was part of the Creation Series by Kent Hovind. Now, if you follow the creationism/evolution 'debate' at all, you'll probably recognize that name. Hovind is rather infamous, not just for the poor quality of his arguments, but also for his questionable ethics, such as getting his bachelor's degree from a non-accredited university, his doctorate from a diploma mill, and then his tax evasion that landed him a 10 year prison sentence (he should be released in 2015). But despite his infamy, I have to admit to never having watched any of Hovind's videos before. So I figured, why not give it a shot and see how bad it could be.

It was horrible. Hovind fully deserves the bad reputation that he spent so many years building. I couldn't believe the amount of falsehoods he kept spewing, and the amount of applause it generated from the audience.

About two thirds of the way through the episode, something really caught my attention. It all seemed very, very familiar. And I realized, I'd seen all this before on another site in the article, Are Dinosaurs Alive Today As Birds?: Refuting Archaeopteryx as "Evidence" for Evolution. If you've been following this (my) blog, you'll recognize that link. I had a lengthy discussion with the writer, R. K. Sepetjian, in the comments section of his blog, which spawned several entries on this site (see below for links).

I haven't yet found a link to the video I watched, but Hovind has given variations of the same speech numerous times. Here's one version that addresses the section I'm going to discuss in this entry, Kent Hovind cse 103 class 2 (part 3 of 7). And here's another version where the audio doesn't seem to work, but which includes more of the slides, Archaeopteryx.

I went back and checked Sepetjian's page just to make sure that I hadn't missed a reference to Hovind. But no, there was no such reference to be found. R. K. Sepetjian presented that article as if he had come up with it. Granting him the benefit of the doubt, he may be one of those people who thinks it's not plagiarism if you're not copying and pasting directly. At least compared to the version of Hovind's presentation that I watched, Sepetjian re-wrote everything and changed the wording a bit here and there, but the similarities were obvious. Had I tried something like that in college and gotten caught, I would have faced some hefty disciplinary action (Academic Integrity and You, UMD).

Just how similar was it? Here are excerpts from each to illustrate. Please note that the transcript of Hovind's words was completed by me, so I apologize if I've made any mistakes, but I tried to be careful.

Kent Hovind R. K. Sepetjian
Well, kids, in case you don't know, there are a few differences between a dinosaur and a bird. Okay.

You don't just put a few feathers on 'em and say, 'Come on man, give it a try. It won't hurt too bad.'
It may have escaped your attention, but there are a few differences between a dinosaur and a bird.

You don't just put a few feathers on them on and say "Come on man, give it a try. It won't hurt too badly."
So, if his front legs are gonna change to wings, ah, somewhere along the line they're gonna be half leg and half wing, which means on that particular day, he can't run anymore, and he still can't fly yet, so he's got a real problem. A serious problem. If dinosaurs turned into birds, somewhere along the line, when his front legs were developing into wings they're going to be half-leg / half-wing-which means he can't run and he can't yet fly.
Archaeopteryx means 'ancient wing', and he had claws on his wings.

Well, that's kind of unusual, okay, but twelve birds today have claws on their wings. The swan, the ibis, the hoatzin. Well, several birds have claws.
Archaeopteryx means "ancient wing"

They say, "See boys and girls? He has claws on his wings!"

Yeah, so?

12 birds today have claws on their wings including the ostrich, swan, hoatzin, emu, and ibis.
They say, 'Well, he had teeth in his beak.' Well, not many birds have teeth. Some do. There's a hummingbird has teeth in his beak. But most birds don't have teeth, I agree.

Actually, some mammals have teeth. Some don't.

Some birds have teeth. Some don't.

Some fish have teeth. Some don't.

Some of you have teeth. Some don't. Okay.
They say, "Look children, he's got teeth in his beak. That proves he has reptilian features."

Now wait a minute.

Some reptiles have teeth. Some don't.

Some mammals have teeth. Some don't.

Some fish have teeth. Some don't.

Some of you have teeth. Some don't.
So, it's true feathers and scales are both made of keratin. Same building block. That's true. But that's where the similarity stops. Okay. They say bird feathers evolved from scales.

A. They come from different genes on the chromosome.

B. They develop totally differently

C. A scale is a hard wrinkle in the skin--a feather is not a wrinkle of skin.

D. They attach to the skin very differently

E. Feathers are incredibly complex and unbelievably complicated.

They are both made from the same protein, Keratin and there is where the similarity stops.

But that's not where the similarities stop between Sepetjian's entry and Hovind's presentation. The above table only compares what Sepetjian wrote to Hovind's spoken words, not other aspects of the presentation. For example, here was Sepetjian's opening to his entry:

"Paleontologists have tried to turn Archaeopteryx into an earth bound feathered dinosaur. But it's not. It is a bird, a perching bird. And no amount of 'paleobabble' is going to change that." Alan Feduccia - a world authority on birds from UNC Chapel Hill, quoted in "Archaeopteryx: Early Bird Catches a Can of Worms," Science Feb. 5, 1994, p. 764-5.

Here was one of Hovind's slides from his presentation:

Hovind Feduccia quote

If you're using a text only browser, I'll save you the mystery. The excerpt from Sepetjian is a direct quote of the Hovind slide.

Here was another quote Sepetjian had in his article:

"Strahl adds that some ornithologists call the hoatzin 'primitive' because of its archaeopteryx-like claws; but he prefers to think of it as 'high;y specialized.' Swans, ibis and many other birds, he notes have wing claws; they just never make use of them." ("What's a Hoatzin?" Scientific American, vol. 261 December 1989, p. 30)

I'm sure you know what's coming next:

Hovind Strahl quote

Sepetjian didn't limit his copying to just text, either. Here are a few pictures from Hovind's presentation and Sepetjian's article.

Kent Hovind R. K. Sepetjian
Hovind's Flying Sauropod Slide Sepetjian's Flying Sauropod Image
Hovind's Archaeopteryx Teeth Slide Sepetjian's Archaeopteryx Teeth Image
Hovind's Toothless Old Lady Slide Sepetjian's Toothless Old Man Image

Granted, that last image is only stealing the concept, not the exact image, but that's still a form of stealing, especially when you don't credit the original source for the inspiration. And those first two, if you look at them closely on Sepetjian's site, look like they were actually photographs taken off of a screen or monitor.


I'm no longer shocked by dishonesty on the part of Christians, particularly creationists, but it's disappointing to learn that I devoted so much time to a sincere discussion with someone so dishonest. This did add some understanding to that discussion with R. K. Sepetjian. I had assumed that he had come up with all the arguments he presented on his page, but it seems that he was merely parroting what he'd heard someone else say. That may explain why he was so reluctant to actually discuss the evidence or the interpretation of it.

Stay tuned. In an upcoming entry in the next week or so, I plan to address the actual claims from Hovind.

Update: The new entry is now online:
Response to Kent Hovind Video - Bird Evolution

*Actually, there were a few shows I recorded and watched, none of which was particularly convincing. But if I spent my time responding to every single piece of information I disagreed with, I'd never have time to do anything else. I only responded to this particular video because of my prior experience with R. K. Sepetjian.

If you're interested, here are my previous entries dealing with Sepetjian.

Updated 2014-01-29: Corrected a few minor typos and made a few minor revisions.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Bible Blogging - Psalms 11 to Psalms 20

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). All headings are links to those Bible chapters.

BibleThis week's entry continues on with the book of Psalms, from Chapters 11 though 20. There are a couple highpoints this week with well known psalms, but overall, I'm not terribly impressed with this book so far. Like I wrote last week, it doesn't have the same depth of emotion as the poems in Job. For the most part, the psalms are rather bland platitudes praising God.

Psalms, Chapter 11

Chapter 11 is a rather short Psalm titled "Song of Trust in God", which follows the theme you'd expect from that title.

Psalms, Chapter 12

I found the first line of this psalm a bit humorous, " Help, O Lord, for there is no longer anyone who is godly / the faithful have disappeared from humankind." Even thousands of years ago, people thought the world was going to hell in a hand basket. It reminds me of a quote by Franklin P. Adams, "Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory."

The chapter went on to describe what the psalmist wanted God to do about it, "May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, / the tongue that makes great boasts..." I've mentioned this many times in these reviews, but the Bible is just so violent that you almost start to become desensitized to it. But stop and think about if you saw something like that in an editorial - most of us would be appalled that the paper would have opted to publish it.

The rest of the chapter was asking for help and protection.

One interesting note from the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB), was that "this psalm seems to preserve an oracle of salvation (v. 5), perhaps uttered by a Temple official in response to a petition..."

Psalms, Chapter 13

Chapter 13, supposedly written by David, is a "Prayer for Deliverance from Enemies". Interestingly, it's not quite so fawning as other psalms, but it's actually a bit more demanding in asking when he will receive help from God. Of course, it ended with a bit of praise, but that's not enough to change the overall tone.

Psalms, Chapter 14

As an atheist who engages in online discussions on religion, I've been quoted the first verse of this psalm many, many times.

Fools say in their hearts, 'There is no God.'
   They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
   there is no one who does good.

It makes it rather difficult to even engage people who take the Bible too seriously, as some of them will just point to this verse and dismiss you out of hand. Of course, from the other point of view, this verse does nothing to win over atheists. With such an obviously false statement accusing non-believers of being 'fools' and 'corrupt', it adds one more reason to not take the Bible seriously.

However, according to the NOAB, this may not be the best interpretation of this verse. It may be referring to "God's ability to govern, not necessarily God's existence..."

The rest of the chapter is the expected criticism of the godless and predictions that they'll eventually be punished severely by the almighty.

One more note on this chapter - it's very similar to Psalms 53 - one of the indications of this particular book being a collection of collections, where these two psalms are variants of an older original.

Psalms, Chapter 15

Psalm 15 is titled "Who Shall Abide in God's Sanctuary?". One verse caught my eye for being a bit counter to the Christian concept of 'judge not lest ye be judged'. Verse 4 described the righteous as, "in whose eyes the wicked are despised, / but who honour those who fear the Lord;" You can't despise a wicked person without judging them first.

Psalms, Chapter 16

Chapter 16 was another of the praise psalms, "Song of Trust and Security in God". In describing those who worship other gods, there was an interesting verse.

Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows;
   their drink-offerings of blood I will not pour out
   or take their names upon my lips.

To be honest, I'm not quite sure of the meaning of this verse. Granted, there are lots of sections of the Bible dealing with sacrifices and blood, and what to sprinkle the blood on and how many times, etc. So, my first though on reading this was that it was a blood sacrifice to the gods, and the gods would drink the blood. But on a second reading, I wonder if "drink-offerings of blood" is referring to the people themselves drinking the blood. If so, it does seem rather foul, but I suppose not much worse than blood pudding. At least people consuming the sacrifices isn't anywhere near as wasteful as burnt offerings, where animals are killed for no good reason at all.

Psalms, Chapter 17

Psalm 17, "Prayer for Deliverance from Persecutors", is another one where David is asking for help. And of course, the type of help David is asking for isn't for persecutors to see the light of day and change their ways, but rather "Rise up, O Lord, confront them, overthrow them! / By your sword deliver my life from the wicked..."

The verse immediately following that one also caught my eye, "from mortals whose portion in life is in this world." This indicates that the writer of this particular psalm didn't think much of the afterlife. Our 'portion' is in 'this world', not some magnificent heaven after we die. This is certainly in line with Psalms 6 that I mentioned last week.

I learned an interesting tidbit from the NOAB's footnotes on this chapter. "Apple of the eye" probably began as a term for somebody's pupil before taking on the connotation of endearment.

The NOAB also offered a possible interpretation of verse 15 that I'm not quite sure I agree with. The verse stated, "As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness / when I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness. " Per the NOAB, this may be an indication that there was actually some type of statue of Yahweh in the temple. Personally, to me it seems much more like just flowery language in a poem.

Psalms, Chapter 18

After getting through a short introduction, the actual song in this chapter begins with "I love you, O Lord, my strength. / The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer..." That seems a bit familiar. In fact, it's almost identical to 2 Samuel 22. Since it is so similar, I'll just quote what I wrote before concerning this song.

[I]t was a fairly typical song of praise from the Bible. It was a little interesting to see how God was portrayed as basically a super-human, not the fuzzy, non-corporeal God that many Christians now believe in:
9 Smoke went up from his nostrils,
   and devouring fire from his mouth;
   glowing coals flamed forth from him.
10 He bowed the heavens, and came down;
   thick darkness was under his feet.
11 He rode on a cherub, and flew;
   he was seen upon the wings of the wind.

The description of Yahweh also seemed to fit with him as a storm god, as was probably his original role in the Canaanite pantheon.

I was also struck by how many allusions were made to war and fighting. The ancient Hebrews must have had a pretty violent culture to perceive their god this way.

To show just how similar these two instances were, here's the section from Psalms corresponding to the section quoted above.

8 Smoke went up from his nostrils,
   and devouring fire from his mouth;
   glowing coals flamed forth from him.
9 He bowed the heavens, and came down;
   thick darkness was under his feet.
10 He rode on a cherub, and flew;
   he came swiftly upon the wings of the wind.

It was a bit odd flipping back and forth between 2 Samuel and Psalms, and seeing basically the same thing repeated almost verbatim.

An interesting note from the NOAB is that this particular song may have been sung at the coronation of Davidic kings.

Psalms, Chapter 19

Psalm 19 was another of the praise psalms, this time "God's Glory in Creation and the Law". Although a unified whole, it can be divided into two parts - the first part praising the Sun, and the second, to quote the NOAB, a "meditation on wisdom". To refer to the NOAB a bit more, the way the Sun is addressed in this psalm almost seems to hint at polytheism. Per the NOAB, "In comparable religious literature, the head of the pantheon authorized lesser deities to build their tent dwellings." So, when this psalm states, "In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun," it certainly seems like it may have originated with the idea that the Sun was one of those lesser deities.

Psalms, Chapter 20

Psalm 20, "Prayer for Victory", was one of the requests for help. Verse 7 made me chuckle a bit.

Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses,
   but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God.

But if you remember Judges 1:10:

The Lord was with Judah, and he took possession of the hill country, but could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain, because they had chariots of iron.

It seems that some people might have reason to take pride in their chariots, as long as they're made of iron, seeing as how they can stymie the Lord.


So, my impression of this book hasn't changed much. Like I wrote up above in the intro, there are a few highlights, but for the most part, it's focused on just a few themes, and gets repetitious rather quickly.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Virginia's New Strenghts & Weaknesses Bill

Evolutionary TreeThere's a recent article at the Daily Beast, Creationism's Latest Trojan Horse Edges Toward Virginia Schools by Karl Giberson. The tagline is as follows.

After years on the defensive, opponents of evolution and climate change are learning that subtle language may be the ticket to sabotaging science education in public schools.

The article is very good, and this entry would be worth doing if only to alert readers to that article and urge them to read it. It contains one of the best short summaries I've seen of the creationism movement in this country. Aside from the excellent the history, Giberson described the current issue in Virginia, where the state legislature is attempting a tactic that's become familiar to those of us who follow the evolution/creation confrontation:

America's whack-a-mole debate about evolution in the public schools has reappeared in Virginia, where state assembly has proposed legislation to modify curriculum to include study of the "scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories." If the anti-evolutionists get their way, Virginia elementary and secondary schools will have to develop new curricula that explores the weaknesses of evolution, a strategy intended to make room for alternative theories of origins.

I've written about this strengths and limitations tactic before concerning Texas. While it sounds noble in theory, in practice it's used in an attempt to smuggle creationist nonsense into the classroom.

So, at this point, I could be done with this entry. But I've gone and caught another case of SIWOTI syndrome. Reading through the comments to the article (yes, I know I shouldn't do that), I came across one that I wanted to reply to. But for some reason, the comment won't go through. So, to get it off my chest, I'm going to post the comment here.

Here's the portion of the comment that motivated me to respond.

Mr. Giberson's historical (and biased) rendering of the Creationist/ID movement did nothing to support his assertion that adding a module or two on the weaknesses of evolution would somehow lead to teaching creationism is the classroom.

My intended response is as follows.

This conversation is full of examples of why the people who support science are worried about language like this. You yourself pulled out the old canard of, "And yes, it is only a theory." Someone else brought up the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Someone else used a God of the Gaps argument ("I also think teaching about a potential intelligent designer as possible future theories of things we don't have answers too, or even things we do, are as plausible.") Another person tried to connect evolutionary with the origin of the entire universe ("The bottom line is that the Theory of evolution says everything came to being because of an explosion.") Someone else would call into question all non-laboratory science ("Because it is incapable of being reproduced and tested in a laboratory setting because the time frames involved are beyond human ability to observe."), as if astronomy wasn't a science because you can't put stars in the lab. Someone else brought up a (rather silly) argument from consequences ("Based upon this logic the holocaust was acceptable because there were laws which supported it."), and another person brought in the related is/ought fallacy ("Why do you keep shoving the theory that our children are from apes and then you wonder why they act like one.") These are the reasons why the science proponents are worried, that bogus 'weaknesses' like these will be taught to students, not legitimate scientific debates.

And while the Virginia bill doesn't specifically call out any particular area of science, when similar language has been proposed in other states, it has. For example, Tennessee's Senate Bill 893 included the phrase, "including evolution, global warming, the chemical origin of life, and human cloning," and Oklahoma's HB 1551 included the wording, "analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." These bills aren't about open inquiry, urging students to question everything. They're calling out a few specific fields of science that some groups don't like. Nobody would be so naive as to think Virginia is operating in a vacuum, and that the politicians introducing this bill haven't been influenced by the politicians introducing similar bills in other states.

For a bit of extra info, here are a few links. The first is more information on the legislation for states outside Virginia. The second is an index of handy explanations of the flaws in many standard creationist claims. The third is an entry I did a few years ago concerning the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Hopefully, voices of reason will prevail in Virginia, and this backhanded attempt at indoctrinating children into creationism will fail.

Updated 2014-01-30: Updated a typo - it's the Daily Beast, not the Daily Best.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Climate Change - Arctic Sea Ice Extent

Global WarmingI recently had a conversation with an acquaintance regarding climate change. He was a denialist, and one of his arguments, while a familiar tactic, was a new one to me on the specifics - that 2013 had seen a dramatic increase in Arctic sea ice extent, indicating that the global warming trend had reversed. After doing a bit of Googling, I found similar claims in some of the standard denialist sources. For example, a recent article in The Telegraph by Hayley Dixon carried the headline, Global warming? No, actually we're cooling, claim scientists. The synopsis right under the headline read:

A cold Arctic summer has led to a record increase in the ice cap, leading experts to predict a period of global cooling.

The opening two paragraphs of the actual article are quoted below.

There has been a 29 per cent increase in the amount of ocean covered with ice compared to this time last year, the equivalent of 533,000 square miles.

In a rebound from 2012's record low, an unbroken ice sheet more than half the size of Europe already stretches from the Canadian islands to Russia's northern shores, days before the annual re-freeze is even set to begin.

To be charitable, the numbers being claimed seem to be relatively accurate. The problem lies in the interpretation.

My first reaction to hearing the claim from my acquaintance was to go looking for the data to see for myself what was going on. I found a good source for sea ice data, National Snow & Ice Data Center. After clicking through a few links, I found this data set in particular, Sea Ice Index (direct ftp link). It provided monthly mean extent and area data, so I downloaded that, put it into Excel, and plotted it. Below is the result of that work, a graph showing monthly averages by year.

Sea Ice Extent

Plotting it out like that really shows the misleading nature of the claim that arctic sea ice has recovered. There's a clear long term trend of decreasing ice extent. 2012 was an abnormally low year, and 2013 was an abnormally high year, but neither year was far off from that trend.

Here's another way of plotting the data. This is a simplistic average, summing the monthly averages and dividing by 12, but still shows the general trend.

Sea Ice Extent

Another way this is misleading is by expressing it as a percentage. Because of the long term trend, the minimums are getting lower and lower. The lower the minimums are, the higher percentage increase you'll get from any increase. A few years from now, if one year is only 1 million kmĀ², and the next was 2 million, I'm sure the denialists would shout that it was a 100% increase. Once we have an ice free summer, any amount of ice the next summer would be an infinite improvement percentage wise, but not much solace if the absolute coverage was still low.

In the course of my googling this, I came across a good article on SkepticalScience dealing with the claim in more depth than I have here, Arctic sea ice "recovers" to its 6th-lowest extent in millennia. I highly recommend you go read the entire article, but I couldn't resist stealing one of their animated images, illustrating how denialists view sea ice decline.

SkepticalScience.com Sea Ice Graph

If you want to see another example of the denialist propaganda, here's an article from the Mail Online, And now it's global COOLING! Return of Arctic ice cap as it grows by 29% in a year. It contains similar claims to the Telegraph article quoted above.

It amazes me that intelligent, well educated individuals can fall for these types of propaganda, but the sad truth is that our world is warming, and we're already starting to face some of the effects of that change. Unless we do something about it soon, the future for us and our children will be much more painful and expensive than it needed to be.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Friday, January 17, 2014

Friday Bible Blogging - Psalms 1 to Psalms 10

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). All headings are links to those Bible chapters.

BibleWith Job behind me, it's on to the second of the Wisdom books, Psalms. Psalms is also one of the longest books of the Bible - the longest in many English translations. It certainly has the most chapters, and I believe the most verses, as well (at least according to this page of King James Bible Statistics). However, the verses tend to be rather short, so by word count, a few other books are really close, particularly Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Genesis, and Isaiah. And this all assumes that Kings, Chronicles, and Samuel are broken up into two books a piece. By the older tradition, they would be the longest by KJV word count, in that order. For more discussion on book lengths in Hebrew, take a look at this page, The Gospel Coalition - What Is the Longest Book in the Bible?.

Given the overall length of Psalms, but the short nature of individual chapters, I may reconsider these reviews. For this first week, I'll stick to ten chapters, but once I see how things go, I may switch to 20 chapters a week to help get through this book faster. Otherwise, I'm looking at nearly 4 months on this one book.

Psalms is a collection of collections. To quote a line from Wikipedia, "The composition of the psalms spans at least five centuries, from Psalm 29, which is adapted from early Canaanite worship, to others which are clearly from the post-Exilic period." Obviously, there is no single author. And in fact, according to the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB), even the traditional attribution to David for many of the Psalms is almost certainly wrong.

Psalms, Chapter 1

Chapters 1 and 2 serve as a kind of introduction to the book. This chapter was rather short, saying in so many words that people who follow the Lord will be happy, while "The wicked are not so", and will be punished by God.

Psalms, Chapter 2

This chapter was a justification for the Davidic line, questioning who would be so foolish as to challenge the king chosen by God himself.

The NOAB noted that the Hebrew word for annointed used in verse 1, 'mashiah', "is always used in the Hebrew Bible of an actual ruler rather than of a future king".

I also noted a bit of juvenile humor - juvenile on my part, not in the Bible. Verse 11 says to "Serve the Lord with fear, / with trembling kiss his feet". There's a translation note that the original meaning of the portion translated as 'kiss his feet' is uncertain. But I'm reminded of how often feet were used as a euphemism for genitals in older books, and it gives this verse an entirely different meaning.

Psalms, Chapter 3

This was the first psalm that had a heading, "A Psalm of David, when he fled from his son Absalom". These headings are used for many of the psalms to explain their context. This chapter was also interspersed with the term, 'Selah'. According to the NOAB, the exact meaning of the term is unclear, but it was probably some sort of musical notation, perhaps indicating an interlude.

Otherwise, this psalm is exactly what you'd expect of someone asking God for help, with hints of the violence so prevalent in the old testament, "For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; / you break the teeth of the wicked."

Psalms, Chapter 4

This is another Psalm attributed to David. This time, there were instructions for the musical director to use strings to accompany this psalm. After beginning with thanksgiving to God, the psalm went on to criticize the people who questioned God, urging them to trust in him.

Psalms, Chapter 5

More praise of God and criticism of the wicked. Coming so freshly off of Job, I was struck by the passages indicated divine justice, since Job seemed to indicate that God didn't lower himself to worry about those things.

For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
   evil will not sojourn with you.
The boastful will not stand before your eyes;
   you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies;
   the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.

Psalms, Chapter 6

More requests to God for help. I was struck by one verse.

For in death there is no remembrance of you;
   in Sheol who can give you praise?

This is definitely counter to the Christian understanding of the afterlife. It's not heaven filled with souls praising God, but a drab & dismal underworld.

Psalms, Chapter 7

The heading for this chapter is "A Shiggaion of David, which he sang to the Lord concerning Cush, a Benjaminite." The NOAB notes that this incident isn't mentioned anywhere else in the Bible, and so must come from a tradition separate from those books.

There was an allusion to the heavenly council, "Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered around you, / and over it take your seat on high."

Psalms, Chapter 8

More of the same. However, there were a few verses that caught my eye, including "Out of the mouths of babes and infants / you have founded a bulwark because of your foes." This seems to be the original source of Mathew 21:16 and the expression in modern day English.

I also noticed verse 4, "what are human beings that you are mindful of them, / mortals that you care for them?", thinking back to Job 7, where this verse was mocked.

This chapter also repeated a theme from Genesis that I find particularly troubling.

You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
   you have put all things under their feet,
all sheep and oxen,
   and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
   whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

It's passages like this that allow Christians to use the Bible as justification for all manner of abuse of animals and disregard for the environment (not all Christians, of course, but more that I'd care to acknowledge).

Psalms, Chapter 9

To give an idea of how short the various chapters are in Job, this is the longest of the chapters I read this week at just 20 verses.

Chapters 9 and 10 are part of the same poem, originally using an acrostic structure. This is where the first letter of each line follows some structure, in this case the Hebrew alphabet. However, due to scribal errors, the structure was degraded in the Bible.

Psalms, Chapter 10

Continuing on with the poem begun in the previous chapter, this chapter actually began with a hard question more in line with Job.

Why, O Lord, do you stand far off?
   Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?"
In arrogance the wicked persecute the poor--
   let them be caught in the schemes they have devised.

But after spending several verses complaining about the wicked, the writer goes on to say that God really does help those in need, "But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief, / that you may take it into your hands", and that he will punish the wicked, "Break the arm of the wicked and evildoers / seek out their wickedness until you find none."


Going from the book of Job to Psalms is a bit like going from Lou Reed to Taylor Swift. Whereas the book of Job was deep and thoughtful and a bit dark, Psalms so far is mostly just praise, praise, praise. It's almost all platitudes - God is great, God is powerful, the wicked are wicked, etc. I suspect these reviews are going to quickly become shortened to little more than phrases like, "more praise of God", "more requests for help", or "more criticisms of the wicked".

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Friday Bible Blogging - Job 31 to Job 42

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). All headings are links to those Bible chapters.

BibleIt's been a busy past few weeks. First there were Christmas and New Years, and all the chores, functions, and activities associated with those (even though I do most of the writing for this blog during my lunchbreaks, I do a lot of the prep work for this series on weekends, plus I took off Christmas week). Then it was especially busy at work as we had a big review meeting and a lot of prep work for that. I was even out of town for the meeting two days this week. I just haven't had much time at all to work on this series. I only got two posts up in December, and this is my first post in January. It feels good to be back into it, and I'm hoping that I can jump right back into my old groove.

After so much repetition in the earlier parts of Job, things pick up a bit in these final chapters. We get two more characters (one being the Almighty himself), and much, much more to comment on. Actually, there was so much to write about that I even got a little excited to do this entry, and it's been a little while since I've actually been excited to do one of these entries.

One aspect I haven't commented on too much in my entries so far on Job is the theme of a trial or a lawsuit. Job wants to bring his case against God to some arbiter who can decide who is in the right. He's spoken of indictments and witnesses throughout the book.

Job, Chapter 31

Chapter 31 concludes Job's final big speech. In this chapter, he focuses mainly on maintaining his own innocence.

There was a bit of misogyny:

'If my heart has been enticed by a woman,
   and I have lain in wait at my neighbour's door;
then let my wife grind for another,
   and let other men kneel over her.

Because obviously, if you've done wrong, then the appropriate punishment is for your wife to fall into prostitution. She's just one of your possessions, anyway.

There was one aspect that was somewhat good. Job talked of how he hadn't mistreated his slaves. Compared to previous books, it's nice to see a mention that slaves should be treated well, and Job affirming his common humanity with them. Still, it's talking about how to treat slaves. I know - don't judge people from the past based on modern day morality. But by the same token - don't hold up the Bible as a good source of morality.

There also appears to be another continuity goof in this chapter. Verse 37 would make the most sense as the conclusion of his speech, but the chapter goes on a bit longer with three verses that would seem to fit better earlier in the chapter.

I did like the way the chapter ended, rather matter of factly, "The words of Job are ended."

Job, Chapter 32

Chapter 32 introduces a new character to the story - Elihu. He had been listening to all the previous speeches, and deferring out of respect for his elders. But now that they've all had their say, he can't help but voice his opinions. This first part of his speech in this chapter was just calling out the others for not satisfactorily answering Job, and explaining that he had something worthwhile to say. He did make a good point that wisdom is not limited only to the elderly, and that even someone young like him could say something worth listening to.

The New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB) mentioned that there's some discussion over whether Elihu's speeches were originally part of the book or not. He isn't mentioned in the prologue or epilogue, 32:1 mentions "these three men" - Eliphaz, Bildad, & Zophar, and if you get rid of Elihu's section, Yahweh's response immediately follows Job's last speech.

Job, Chapter 33

Elihu reprimanded Job for trying to put himself on par with God, "God is greater than any mortal. / Why do you contend against him..." Most of the chapter was pointing out God's power and how great he was.

There was one verse that caught my eye:

to spare their souls from the Pit,
   their lives from traversing the River.

That sounds suspiciously like the River Styx, not the modern Christian conception of the afterlife. Perhaps it's just poetic license. Or, more likely considering the Jewish belief in Sheol, that really was part of the belief system of this writer.

Job, Chapter 34

Elihu continued to call out Job, particularly for the way he talked about God after his bad fortune.

Job, Chapter 35

Elihu made a point about human actions having no effect on God.

If you have sinned, what do you accomplish against him?
   And if your transgressions are multiplied, what do you do to him?
If you are righteous, what do you give to him;
   or what does he receive from your hand?
Your wickedness affects others like you,
   and your righteousness, other human beings.

It seems a little counter to the New Testament teaching from Matthew 25:40 ("just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me"), but not so out of character for the type of god presented in the Old Testament. But to tell the truth, the last part of that passage is something I can agree with. Actions should be judged by their real world consequences on other people.

Elihu also responded to one of Job's earlier complaints, that God doesn't always help those in need. Elihu's response makes God sound more callous than the rightest of right wing ideologues:

There they cry out, but he does not answer,
   because of the pride of evildoers.

God may have the power to help them, but it's their own pride that keeps him from doing anything. Maybe if they'd just praise him a bit more, he'd do something to lift them out of their oppression.

Job, Chapter 36

Elihu continues his speech, first defending that God does indeed punish the wicked and reward the righteous, then getting in a bit of criticism of "the godless". A large part of the chapter was pointing out that God
sometimes teaches us lessons in ways that we don't always understand, and that Job shouldn't ignore this as a possibility for a lesson.

Beware that wrath does not entice you into scoffing,
   and do not let the greatness of the ransom turn you aside.

There was one verse I found a bit humorous from a modern perspective.

Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds,
   the thunderings of his pavilion?

Yes, we can, actually. We now have meteorologists who understand what causes various weather phenomena, including clouds and thunder, and can give us pretty accurate forecasts out to a week. And we have climatologists who understand global climate and can predict how what we're doing is going to affect the

Job, Chapter 37

This was the conclusion of Elihu's speech. It was basically more of the same, praising God and his greatness, and urging Job to reconsider his words against God.

Job, Chapter 38

Now it's time for God himself to come into the story, addressing Job directly. This entire chapter was God talking about how great he was, bragging about all his accomplishments that a mere mortal like Job could never dream of doing. He never addressed Job's complaints about injustice. The NOAB offered a potential explanation, "The divine speeches are notable for their silence ofver Job's complaint of injustice, as if God means to say that administering justice is not part of his cosmic plan." Again, this aloofness matches the character of the OT god, but isn't the way most Christians imagine God to be.

I did like the way God first addressed Job, kind of like the uncle who gives you a shot of whiskey telling you it'll put hair on your chest.

   Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man,
   I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

There was a verse that mentioned "when the morning stars sang together". Like I've said before, it's hard to tell if this is poetic license, or if the writer really believed that stars were divine beings.

Job, Chapter 39

God continued on with his boasting of his own might and power - another 30 verses worth.

Job, Chapter 40

After momentarily wrapping up with his boasting, God asked Job if he still wanted to "contend with the Almighty". Now, I'll admit that I read Job's response a bit differently than the scholars from the NOAB. For refernce, here's the entirety of what Job said.

'See, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?
   I lay my hand on my mouth.
I have spoken once, and I will not answer;
   twice, but will proceed no further.'

I took that to mean that Job had been put in his place, and was done complaining about his situation. But the interpretation from the NOAB was, "Strikingly, Job does not capitulate; he says only that he will not repeat what he has already said. He defers his response until he speaks again in 42.2-6."

When God continued on with his speech, after first asking Job, "Will you even put me in the wrong? / Will you condemn me that you may be justified?", he responded sarcastically by telling Job to try it for himself.

Deck yourself with majesty and dignity;
   clothe yourself with glory and splendour.
Pour out the overflowings of your anger,
   and look on all who are proud, and abase them.

I only quoted a bit of God's sarcasm here - it continued for several verses.

There's an interesting passage in this chapter if you spend any time following creationists, where God describes "Behemoth". It's a big, powerful animal, that only God can approach. But just what exactly is it? According to the likes of Ken Ham, it might have been a dinosaur (seriously), while according to the NOAB, the scholarly opinion is divided over the hippopotamus or simply a mythical creature. If I had to bet, I'd wager on the hippo idea. It certainly fits with all the verses about living in the water and rivers. The only verse that seems out of character for a hippo is the one about the tail, "It makes its tail stiff like a cedar". But, when you consider how many euphemisms the various Biblical writers had for genitalia, this verse takes on a new meaning (Google also turned up an entirely appropriate image - you should click on it, it's fairly funny and mostly SFW).

Job, Chapter 41

This chapter was similar to the Behemoth section from the last chapter, but this chapter was devoted entirely to "Leviathan". The NOAB notes two possible interpretations - a crocodile, or "the mythical chaos monster". Many aspects certainly do seem crocodilian, but the fire breathing is something I've not yet seen in any nature documentary.

Job, Chapter 42

Job finally was able to answer God, and it seemed to be a response just utterly full of despair.

I know that you can do all things,
   and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

It's completely hopeless to try to go against God's will. After a few verses describing how he finally understood God's true character after having met him in person, Job finished off his response with the only action he had left.

therefore I despise myself,
   and repent in dust and ashes.

According to the NOAB, 'despise' is probably better translated as "melt, be discouraged", making the extent of Job's despair even more clear. The NOAB also indicates that 'repent' is not the proper translation (especially considering that Job never admitted guilt), and that that verse probably means that Job is merely done with his mourning and ready to get back on with his life.

Job's reply was the last of the poetry. The chapter concluded with the prose epilogue. First, God was angry with Job's three friends (apparently not Elihu) for not speaking the truth about God while Job had. They were commanded to offer sacrifices for their forgiveness. This seems to indicate that Job's complaints about God not administering justice were true.

The final verses closed with a passage that I've always found horrible. It doesn't start off too bad, "And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before." (The NOAB noted that the two-fold restitution was in keeping with the lawsuit analogy.) The bad part of this is that restoring what Job had lost included giving him new children. I never liked the implication of that when I was younger, but now as a parent I absolutely hate it. There's no way that children can be replaced like they're some type of property.


The book of Job is quite a dichotomy. Out of all the Biblical books I've read so far, it's one of the best from a literary perspective. The poetry is rather good, if repetitious. But the message delivered is also one of the bleakest. We're all slaves to the whims of God, whatever they may be. And God isn't particularly concerned with actual justice, nor justifying his actions. He's powerful, we're not. If you've been a good and blameless person, and God decides to make your life absolutely horrible just to test you, there's not a damn thing you can do about it other than take it. And you sure as hell better not complain, or even consider blaming God for what he's done to you, because then he might decide to actually punish you and make your situation even worse. It's a universe of might makes right, and God's the mightiest of them all.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Website Update - Top 10 Page List for November & December 2013

Top 10 ListAnother month has come and gone, so it's time to look over the server logs again. This time, however, I noticed that I completely missed this top 10 list in November, so today's entry gives you two months for the price of one.

There's a lot of shuffling around that's been going on for a few months that continued these past two months. While over half of the pages on the list had made the top 10 list before, the rankings from month to month vary quite widely. Plus, there were quite a few newcomers. November had three - Carter Wind Energy, Another Similarity Between Osiris & Jesus, and Our Litigious Society?. And December actually had five newcomers - Review of Ray Comfort's New Movie - Evolution vs. God, Part I, The Universe Is Big, Friday Bible Blogging - 2 Chronicles 31 to 2 Chronicles 36, Response to Global Warming Denialist E-mail - Volcanoes and Global Cooling, and Friday Bible Blogging - The Book. I really must say that I'm quite pleased to see that batch of newcomers as I think they're pretty good entries. I'm especially proud of the Ray Comfort one because of Ray's special place on this blog (my first real entry), and because it reached the top 10 so quickly. It usually takes a little while for my new pages to become popular. I also have to call special attention to the Universe is Big one. I love the picture in that one. It's incomprehensible just how vast the universe is.

My Autogyro History & Theory page made the list in November, but not December. It's not that it had substantially less traffic, just that other pages had so much more. Actually, it was way down in December - 23rd if I counted right.

Traffic was still up, but I suspect a lot of that was spammers. I had a few hundred spam comments get through in just a couple days. I have a pretty simple spam protection set up - just a very simple text box that has to be filled out correctly per instructions directly above the box. It's the same instructions and box on every page, so I guess once one spammer figures out the word, they can pass it along to all the other spammers they work with. Anyway, I changed the word and the spam actually making through the filter dropped off almost entirely. That ought to work for a few months, at least.

Anyway, here were the ten most popular pages on this site for the end of 2013.

Top 10 for November 2013

  1. Blog - A Skeptical Look at MBT Shoes
  2. Blog - Obamacare Lives (A Discussion of the Individual Mandate)
  3. Blog - Carter Wind Energy
  4. Blog - Running AutoCAD R14 in XP Pro 64
  5. Autogyro History & Theory
  6. Blog - Email Debunking - 1895 8th Grade Final Exam
  7. Blog - Another Similarity Between Osiris & Jesus
  8. Blog - Texas Board of Education - Bad Results for Science Standards
  9. Blog - Origin of Arabic Numerals - Was It Really for Counting Angles?
  10. Blog - Our Litigious Society?

Top 10 for December 2013

  1. Blog - A Skeptical Look at MBT Shoes
  2. Blog - Obamacare Lives (A Discussion of the Individual Mandate)
  3. Blog - Review of Ray Comfort's New Movie - Evolution vs. God, Part I
  4. Blog - Email Debunking - 1895 8th Grade Final Exam
  5. Blog - Gamera II Human Powered Helicopter Sets New Record
  6. Blog - The Universe Is Big
  7. Blog - Friday Bible Blogging - 2 Chronicles 31 to 2 Chronicles 36
  8. Blog - Response to Global Warming Denialist E-mail - Volcanoes and Global Cooling
  9. Blog - Running AutoCAD R14 in XP Pro 64
  10. Blog - Friday Bible Blogging - The Book

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