The Darkness Among Us

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In March of 2012, Dr. Richard E. Gallagher—of the New York Medical College—released a report that no doubt raised eyebrows among his esteemed colleagues.  In this report, a woman named “Julia” (a pseudonym used to protect her identity) was said to have been possessed by an unseen force.  Julia was described as entering into insane trances, speaking in very dark tones and in languages she had never previously studied, exhibiting a supernatural understanding about the people working on her case, and at one point, she even supposedly levitated six inches in the air for an extended period of time.

Just like others who have made claims of this nature, Gallagher has been labeled a fraud and a failed psychiatrist by many since the publishing of his findings.  He was well respected prior to his reckless decision to step outside the bounds of naturalism, and a laughingstock to a lot of “educated folks” thereafter.  Funny how that works.  In the end, maybe his accounts were factual and maybe there weren’t.  Regardless, Gallagher was describing what scores of people before him (and after him) have talked about for millennia.

The notion that otherworldly beings can interact with us is most definitely not new.  In fact, it is about as old as even the most primitive beliefs in superhuman deities like God (or the gods).  More than that, the thought that some of these beings carry with them malevolent intentions can be seen in just about every major religion or culture that has ever existed.  You might even say that, on the whole, the cultures of the past have shared somewhat of an obsession with the prospect of dark forces.  Humanity is indeed rich in traditions about evil entities.

The Persian religion, Zoroastrianism, contained a group of dark beings called the daevas, which were essentially considered to be adversaries of the “one wise Lord” Ahura Mazda and his creation.  There is also the notion of an ultimate evil entity within Zoroastrianism, which is the Evil Spirit Ahriman.  Further, there were good beings named ahuras, which are eerily similar to the angelic beings discussed within the Bible.  Hindu belief has regarded the counterpart of the ahuras—who are known as the asuras—as evil entities that would resemble what the Bible describes as demons.  The Egyptians believed in an evil god named Set who fell from the grace of the pantheon after murdering his brother.  They also believed in demonic activity.  For example, the demon Nehebkau—who was sometimes regarded as an earth spirit and a source of strength for the other gods—was often viewed as being a menacing monster: a sort of serpent/human hybrid who could affect the souls of the dead.  As a Christian, this sounds a bit familiar, know?  Islam affirms the existence of the Devil (called Iblis, or Shaitan).  He is thought to command the darker group of supernatural beings called “shaitans,” who belong to a class of entities called djinni or jinni (genies, to you and me).

It should go without saying that the Bible is absolutely loaded with examples of ill-intentioned, non-human entities.  I will not begin to discuss all of these examples, but a few should make the point.  The first thing to mention is that Jesus’ initial popularity—his earliest “claim to fame,” as it were—came as an exorcist.  Really, it’s true.  In the Gospel of Mark—which has long been thought of as the first gospel account to be written—Jesus’ very first miracle came in the form of an exorcism.  Mark 1:21-25 records this event, and this is precisely what caused Jesus’ fame to spread across the entire region of Galilee afterwards (1:28).  Jesus would later cast multitudes of demons out of individuals (Lk. 4:31-35).  As usual, the people were absolutely astonished by his ability to deliver individuals from demonic influence, and his fame continued to spread (4:37).  Jesus of course met the ultimate evil entity (Satan) at the very beginning of his ministry, when he was tempted in three different ways so that he might give up on his mission (Mt. 4:1-11).

Countless other examples could be mentioned about Jesus’ encounters with evil entities.  Forget the fact that he commissioned his disciples to tangle with these dark forces as well.  In one such occurrence, seventy-two of Jesus’ followers attested to having been able to cast out demons (Lk. 10:17).  In terms of all alleged exorcists in world history, Jesus most certainly ranks at the top.

Jesus was the exorcist of all exorcists.

Evil entities are spoken of throughout the world, in every major culture, and in just about every religious tradition you could look at.  The attempt to either reduce all of these claims to an unidentified psychological disorder or to relegate them to the land of delusion has not satisfied most of us; if we are being honest, it is hard to ignore that something real is going on here.  Even in a country where spiritual skepticism and fear of organized religion is at an all-time high, a large number of Americans still appear to believe in demonic activity of some sort. In fact, the belief is growing within our youth.  As recent at 2012, Public Policy Poll reported that 63% of Americans, ages 18-29, who were polled admitted to the belief that demonic forces can in some way control human beings.  The belief doesn’t seem to be leaving anytime soon.

Clearly, something is going on here.  But what?  If evil entities of a higher order really do exist, then what type of beings are they?

Those who come from the “ancient astronaut” background hold to the idea that these dark entities are actually extraterrestrials from somewhere else in the cosmos.  This view can be seen very clearly on one particularly interesting episode of the show Ancient Aliens, called “Dark Forces.”  I do not find this view to be laughable in the least.  On the contrary, I think that ancient astronaut theory has plenty of merits, and that its proponents are often closer to identifying the nature of our Creator than many who live within religious communities.  But on this particular point, I find that possessions and dark activity are best explained in another way.  There are two major reasons why I believe this is the case.

The first is something I refer to as the “spatial problem.”  Simply put, a being who lives elsewhere in the universe would need to travel quite a long way to get to Earth.  But in examples of possession—or even spontaneous human combustion, as discussed in my previous blog—there never seem to be any accounts of witnesses who saw either beings or crafts flying through space, whether on route here or on route “home.”  The second issue I would mention here is the “invisibility problem,” and it is very much connected to the spatial problem.  How can it be that most accounts of possession or evil influence that we might look at mention nothing about a physical manifestation?  Though they can physically appear (as I discuss momentarily), how is it that they have the capacity to avoid being seen?  It seems to me that an extraterrestrial who lives within the cosmos would be spotted in their efforts to manipulate individual persons.  But they aren’t.  They aren’t seen on the way here, on the way back, or even typically while they are here on Earth.  How can that be said of something like a traditional alien: a physical being that is confined within our universe?

If not an alien from outer space, then what?  Well, let’s consider what types of conditions these beings would have to satisfy.  We know that they are often unseen.  We know that they can seamlessly interact with us, and cease interacting with us, in an instant.  We also know that these beings must be extremely powerful (at least by our standards) in order to control and manipulate human beings.  To me, all of this adds up to one probable conclusion: the evil forces at work in our world are not from somewhere else in the cosmos, but are from somewhere outside of it.

True, perhaps an extraterrestrial that lives within our universe could use some sort of cloaking device, the likes of which we are simply unaware of from a technological perspective.  Maybe their crafts employ similar technology.  Maybe they could even travel enormous distances in a matter of moments while using this cloaking technology.  It’s all at least hypothetically possible, but it strains any sense of credibility, to say the least.  The speculations would continue to build upon one another as the explanation gets bigger and bigger.

But what if our superhuman tormenters are able to go physically undetected not because of some theoretical cloaking device or some travelling capability that is utterly unfathomable to us, but because they affect us from another realm of existence all-together?  What if they don’t need to travel across the universe in a flying machine in order to interact with us?

This seems to be very much how things are described in most of the ancient texts mentioned earlier, and particularly in the Bible.  In the Bible, we have two realms of existence—not simply two locations within the universe—being described to us.  There are the “heavens,” and there is the “earth.”  The heavenly beings live in heaven, and the earthly beings live on Earth.  Throughout the entirety of the biblical text, heavenly beings often appear and vanish at will.  Angels appear and reappear, as in cases like the story of Lot (Gen. 19) or the angels who appeared at Jesus’ tomb (Jn. 20:11-13).  Satan and demonic entities do the same, as seen in the aforementioned temptation of Jesus and the many possession accounts in the New Testament.  Even Jesus appears and disappears, as evidenced by his mysterious vanishing act after his walk to Emmaus (Lk. 24:31) or his abrupt appearances to his terrified disciples after the resurrection (Jn. 20:19-29).  At no point do we hear talk of smoke, exhaust, or anything else associated with flying crafts.

Not only do heavenly beings appear and reappear at will, they can also interact with us without being seen.  It’s almost as if they can assert control and influence without having to be physically present.  It’s almost like they can be “here” and be “there” simultaneously.  Perhaps their realm lays over top of ours, and perhaps both their power and physical makeup permits them to move between “here” and “there.” Maybe, to them there is no barrier between the two realms, and to us there is.

There can be no doubt that this is a proposition that most of us are not familiar with.  Some may even be uncomfortable with this notion.  But it is worth considering which scenario makes the best sense of the higher beings that appear so evidently to be involved in our world.  Ask yourself: does a being aboard a flying ship who must travel immense distances while using some type of astonishing cloaking technology make better sense of things, or does a being who is able to seamlessly come and go between our realm and another better explain these phenomena?

If we are at least willing to consider the second possibility—a possibility that the Bible seems to allude to—then it may well change our views about many other things.  What else could this mean about the overall nature of the being/s who put us here?  What could it mean about the nature of their home?  What could it mean about the possible events that are going on around us at any given time, that we are often unable to comprehend?  I personally find all of this to be incredibly intriguing.

There are many places we could go from here.  But for now, “the darkness among us” has been a great place to start.

 

References

Asis, Adrian. “6 Cases of ‘Demonic Possession’ That Might Convince You”. The Richest. 2 April, 2014.  http://www.therichest.com/rich-list/most-shocking/6-cases-of-demonic-possession-that-might-convince-you/

“Devils and Demons”. Mythencyclopedia.com.  http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Cr-Dr/Devils-and-Demons.html

Williams, Jim.  “Halloween Poll Results”. Public Policy Polling. Oct. 30, 2012. Polling http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2012/10/halloween-poll-results.html

https://pixabay.com/en/light-in-the-dark-tunnel-hope-1872961/

 

 

 

 

Bodies and Ballads

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“I’m burnin’, I’m burnin’, I’m burnin’ for you!”  The acclaimed rock group Blue Oyster Cult once expressed these sentiments of passion in their 1981 mega-hit.  Of course, this was intended in a metaphorical sense.  An entirely different type of “burnin’” has occurred to a number of unfortunate souls in a hideously literal way.  I am speaking here of “spontaneous human combustion” (SHC, for short), and it is a very real phenomenon.

Like most of you who are reading this, I spent most of my life believing that the idea of someone spontaneously catching on fire should rank up there with claims about the Lochness Monster and Bigfoot.  Upon closer inspection, I no longer feel this way.  I firmly believe that it happens.

But let’s start with the basics.

What is spontaneous human combustion?  Essentially, SHC is an event in which a human being initiates a fire on his or her person without the application of heat from an external source; nothing can be pinpointed as the cause, so the fire appears to have originated with the individual.  Throughout the centuries, there have been literally hundreds of reported cases of SHC.  Victims are typically found at their private residences, burned to ash, with little-to-no evidence that anything else had happened within the home.  The evidence of intruders or fire damage to objects around them is basically nonexistent.  Stranger still is the nature of their corpses; the victims are not simply burned to death, but are literally reduced to dust.  To put this in perspective, the cremation of a deceased human body at your local crematorium does not even achieve such complete incineration.  Though the bodies are typically burned for hours at heats in excess of 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit, there are remaining bones that still need to be ground-up afterwards.  Morbid, I know.

It was an episode of the Science Channel’s The Unexplained Files that really got me thinking about the issue of SHC.  On one particular episode, a man named Frank Baker was the subject du jour.  Frank seemed like a perfectly normal person, but he had an extraordinarily abnormal problem—every once in a while, he would burst into flames.  This happened on two separate occasions, and both events were witnessed by Frank’s friend, Pete Willey.  It’s a good thing Pete was there, too.  On the first occasion, Frank caught on fire while sitting on his couch and Pete was able to extinguish the flames.  On the second, the two were actually out in a boat fishing.  Both times, Frank caught on fire in the complete absence of some external heat source, and both times Pete was able to help “put him out”.  The most incredible aspect about all of this is that the doctor who saw Frank after his first case of SHC supposedly told him that, by all appearances, it seemed as though the fire had actually originated from within his person.  There was no known naturalistic explanation for what had happened to Frank.  There still isn’t.

There are many other cases of SHC of course, most of them much better known than Frank Baker’s.  In July of 1951, Mary Hardy Reeser—known to some as the “The Cinder Lady”— is believed by many to have burst into flames in her apartment.  As is often the case (for some reason), one foot remained intact, as well as her shrunken skull (odd).  Both John Irving Bentley (1966) and Henry Thomas (1980) were also both found incinerated, though both also retained at least one leg.  Oddly, the slipper covering Bentley’s remaining foot was completely untouched.  One of the most famous cases of SHC, and one of the most recent, was the strange case of Michael Faherty.  Faherty was discovered on December 22, 2010, in his home in Ballybane, Ireland.  According to reports, only Faherty’s body and the areas directly above and below him were affected by the flames, and the coroner on the case—like the doctor who saw Frank Baker—actually felt as though human spontaneous combustion was the most reasonable explanation for the event.

This is just a sampling of various cases of SHC.  So yes, I do believe that it happens . . . crazy as it may seem to be.

The obvious question with these incidents of SHC is—to follow with our tune above—who did they burn for?  Who, or what, did this to the victims of SHC?  As previously mentioned, despite our 2017 technology, we cannot even intentionally destroy a corpse as thoroughly as we see in these cases.  No human being murdered these victims, unless they possessed a technology that we are not aware of and they were able to leave absolutely no trace of their presence on all of these occasions.  Is there some naturally occurring reason for SHC?  There may well be, but we do not presently know of one.  Perhaps the most famous naturalistic suggestions on the issue have been the so-called “wick theories”, which generally posit that the human body is something like a candle-wick that slowly burns as subcutaneous fat is released from the body.  But these notions have been D.O.A. from the beginning.  If a body slowly burned at such an extreme heat for the amount of time generally posited within the various wick theories, it is almost impossible to imagine that everything else around the individuals would not have caught on fire as well.  Besides, a wick needs to be lit, and the whole mystery surrounding cases of SHC is that there was no external heat source found near the victims.  The dagger is that, even if we grant all the factors involved in the wick theories, that still would not generate the kind of heat needed to turn a human body to ash.  Like I said, the wick theories are dead on arrival.

But I suppose we could still do what many people in the natural sciences do with issues like abiogenesis (how life began) or the origin of the universe, and simply wish on the future.  Yeah, we don’t have a natural explanation now . . . but we will someday!  But as one who is unwilling to tow-the-line of philosophical naturalism—which suggests that the only explanations that can possibly exist are purely naturalistic ones—I have to be willing to entertain the idea that there are metaphysical reasons for this.  More than simply entertaining the idea, I have to think that a metaphysical answer is the best explanation for the cases of SHC.

We have to account for a few major things when considering the topic of SHC.  First, we have to account for a source of extreme heat.  We are talking about a heat that can turn a body—bones and all—to ash.  Second, we have to explain how there is literally no evidence of breaking-and-entering or that anyone was involved in the event.  With all of our advances in forensic science, we would be able to at least tell if there had been an intruder at a murder scene.  Lastly, we need to explain why the entire dwelling doesn’t burn to the ground when an object (the burning body) laying in direct proximity to furniture, walls, appliances, etc., is radiating unimaginable heat.  For the most part, only the individual is affected.

None of this adds up.  Natural causes cannot explain cases of SHC and neither can human interference.  But perhaps there is yet another type intelligence behind it all . . .

For millennia, people from various backgrounds and ideologies have explained such types of phenomena by invoking beings of higher power and intelligence.  Buried in what some may call “superstition”, an answer may well have always been with us.  The most famous ancient text of all time is the Bible, and there is not a remotely close second.  It would surprise most people, particularly those who share my belief in Jesus Christ, to learn that the Bible certainly explains a number of events that correspond quite closely with the phenomenon of SHC.  For starters, both testaments of the Bible discuss the reality that divine beings can cause the sudden death of human beings without being seen.  An ark-bearer named Uzzah found this out the hard way when he reached down to grab the ark of the covenant, in order to keep the holy relic from falling to the ground.  The result—as God had forewarned the Jewish people—was horrific, and Uzzah was stricken dead on the spot (2 Sam. 6:6-7).  A very similar event was recorded in Acts 5:1-11, where we read about two frauds, named Ananias and Sapphira, who were struck down in an instant for lying to God and withholding money from the church.  It is even recorded that an angel destroyed 185,000 Assyrians in a single night (2 Ki. 19:35, Is. 37:36)!  These examples don’t directly match cases of SHC, but they certainly exhibit the type of power on display within them.

Then we have the rather unfortunate case of Lot’s wife.  Prior to God’s act of pouring fire and brimstone down on the rebellious cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot—who just happened to be the nephew of the great biblical patriarch, Abraham—and his family were told to flee to the town of Zoar, in order to escape the coming destruction (Gen. 19:21-22).  For undisclosed reasons, Lot’s wife did not heed the angels’ warning and was turned into a “pillar of salt” (Gen. 19:26).  Perhaps she was covered by the explosions of surrounding salt deposits or ultimately petrified (becoming “salt”) under piles of ash.  Whatever the case, it is important to consider the context of the situation.  God—a non-human, metaphysical being—caused a fire and a heat of such magnitude that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (and their inhabitants) were absolutely obliterated.  So was Lot’s wife.  This is precisely the same type of power that must be at work in cases of SHC.  And again, the being responsible remained unseen.

Now we are getting warmer.

A few more quick examples should be enough to illustrate the point.  First, take the descriptions of God’s fiery power in the sacrifices of the Old Testament.  The book of Leviticus records that after Moses’ brother, Aaron, and the Levites had been inaugurated as the priests of Israel, God ordered that a series of sacrifices be made.  One of those sacrifices was to be a “burnt offering”, which consisted of both a calf and a lamb (9:3).  After making all of the appropriate sacrifices and placing the burnt offering and fat portions on the altar, something astonishing happened: “Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar.  And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell face down (9:24).”

Later on in the Old Testament, we see an eerily similar event take place when the prophet Elijah takes on the prophets of the god Baal, in a sort of “my God is better than your god” competition.  The rules of the skirmish were pretty simple: two bulls were sacrificed and set on altars to test the competing deities, and whichever alleged deity sent fire to burn the sacrifices was the real God.  Where the 450 prophets of Baal had failed, Elijah succeeded.  It is said that Yahweh sent fire to swallow up the bull that had been sacrificed: a fire so intense that it destroyed the entire altar, and even “. . . licked up the water in the trench” that surrounded the altar (1 Ki. 18:38).  Just think—a fire so intense that it even caused the surrounding water to immediately dissipate.

Finally, we cannot forget the way that Satan is described within the Bible.  The book of Job is the first place we really encounter Satan (at least his supernatural abilities) within the entire Bible.  On route to destroying just about everything and everyone that Job held dear, the Bible records that Satan was able to conjure one truly hellacious fire-storm.  In true Sodom and Gomorrah fashion, Satan poured fire from the heavens, completely eradicating all of Job’s sheep and his servants (1:16).  Even in the New Testament, Satan is given aliases like the “god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4) and the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2).  Clearly, producing fiery death and destruction is not outside the realm his abilities, or his desires.

The question of which type of heavenly being is to blame for these events, or whether or not all of these examples are “fair” acts, is beyond the scope of this particular blog.  But there are two points that should emerge from this.  The first is that something like SHC—as “kooky” as it may sound to many of us—seems to be a reality we must accept.  There are many real-life examples of this phenomenon, and even the Bible records events that are extraordinarily similar in nature.  That leads us to the second major thrust of this blog.  The Bible doesn’t just describe similar events; I believe that it gives us the only logical solution to the enigma.

I have already discussed the fact that science has found no reasonable explanation for spontaneous human combustion.  At best, one may scientifically assert that we will one day uncover that there is a perfectly good “natural” explanation for SHC.  But we can all wish on the future until the cows come home.

It is only fair to say that we need to deal with what we do know rather than what we do not.

What we have in the cases of SHC is the destruction of individuals through an incredibly rapid and exceedingly hot process: a process that outdoes our human capabilities, and most definitely surpasses anything rational in nature.  The two most peculiar and haunting items we must explain is why there is just so little evidence of intrusion, and why so little else is disturbed within the rooms in which the victims of SHC breathed their final breaths.

There are no natural explanations.  There aren’t even any human explanations.  So where exactly does that leave us?  Maybe we should go back and read a little more from the “superstitious” texts of old.  They spoke of beings that surpass our levels of power and understanding.  They even spoke of beings that are not confined within our realm of existence, and would therefore not need to be seen in ours.

Maybe they pegged the culprits of SHC long ago.

At the very least, their explanations are no more absurd than having no explanation at all.

 

References

Hill, Bryan. “Spontaneous Human Combustion: A Burning Mystery”.  24 August, 2015. http://www.ancient-origins.net/unexplained-phenomena/spontaneous-human-combustion-burning-mystery-003665

“Human Combustion Victim”. The Unexplained Files.                     http://www.sciencechannel.com/tv-shows/the-unexplained-files/videos/spontaneous-combustion-victim/

Kim, Michelle.  “How Cremation Works”. How Stuff Works. http://science.howstuffworks.com/cremation1.htm

Morris, Henry M. The Genesis Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings. Baker Book House.  Grand Rapids, MI. 1976.

 

Let me count the ways: more evidence of higher intelligence

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Numbers are all around us.  We can’t see them, but they are there.  Not only are they there; we depend upon them.

Think about it.  Numbers determine what time of day it is.  They tell us when we need to wake up for work, and when we can leave each day.  They tell us the distance we will have to travel in order to get to work, or to get anywhere.  Numbers tell us how fast we are going when we drive down the interstate or traverse a mall parking lot.  Numbers tell us where we can find the History Channel, and at what time Vikings will be on.  We gauge how many children we have, how much money we make, how much savings we have, how old we are, and how long we have been married with numbers.  Many people even battle numbers every time they step on the weight scales.

In truth, there is scarcely a single aspect of life that does not involve numbers.

There is certainly a major metaphysical issue to resolve here.  Chiefly, we must ask ourselves why abstract objects—objects that are neither physically nor concretely detectable—correspond with essentially everything in our physical, concretely-detectable world.  But that is for another time.  For now, I would like to evaluate just how important particular numbers are, and what they might be able to tell us about the construction of our world.  Have you ever considered the numbers three and seven?

Let’s start with seven.  There are seven continents on planet Earth.  There are seven Wonders of the Modern World, seven Wonders of the Ancient World, seven Natural Wonders of the World, and other debated lists of seven “wonders”.  There are seven days in a week.  Clearly, the most famous religious text in all of history—the Bible—discusses its share of sevens.  Seven shows up in such things as the days of the creation narrative, the days that the Israelites marched around the city of Jericho, the three-fold series of seven visions (seals, bowls of wrath, and trumpets) in the book of Revelation, Jesus’ seven “signs and discourses” in the Gospel of John, and many, many others.

In more modern times, we can see that there are seven numbers that comprise a phone number.  There are two primary reasons for this.  The first is that seven digits was a logical step from the previous four-digit number sequence because it allowed a much greater range of combinations as more and more people began to use a telephone.  Eventually seven wasn’t enough, and so a three-digit area code was added to front of each phone number.  Imagine that: three plus seven.  But there is a more intriguing reason why seven is a suitable figure for something like a telephone number.  It turns out that countless studies have shown that the longest sequence of numbers that most of us can recall at the spur of the moment is seven.  When psychologist George Miller made this discovery 1956, he dubbed this limit the “magical number seven”.  This corresponds with the reality that the brain’s short-term memory can hold about seven chunks of information.  Magic it is, George.  The number seven is built into the way our brains function.

While the number seven is quite notable within the history of our planet, the number three has been considerably more prevalent.  In ancient architecture, the Pyramids at Giza are perhaps the most well-known of the building projects in all of history, and there are three of them.  These pyramids align with Orion’s Belt, which is made up of three major stars within the constellation.  Both the Hopi Mesas and the pyramid complex in Teotihuacán also align with Orion’s Belt.  Bear in mind that the Hopi Mesas are found in Arizona and that Teotihuacán is located in Mexico.  This means that ancient civilizations from Egypt, North America, and South America shared both a fascination with the number three and an advanced understanding of astronomy.  Pyramids are of course triangular in shape, so they have three sides.

The number three also shows up in some of the world’s most prominent religions.  In Mahāyāna Buddhism, there are three great beings that collectively govern the universe— Amitābha, Avalokiteśvara, and Mahāsthāmaprāpta.  If we look to the Hindu faith, we also see a very obvious connection to the number three.  The three chief deities—collectively known as the “Trimurti”, or the three forms of God—are Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.  Interestingly, Shiva is often depicted as carrying a trident (a three-pronged spear) that is roughly supposed to represent his three essential powers of will, action and knowledge.  The Bible is no stranger to the number three, certainly.  Jonah spent three days and nights in the belly of a great fish.  The apostle Peter denied Jesus three times, and was later questioned by Jesus three times in accordance with the denials.  Jesus was in the tomb for parts of three days.  Most notably, there are three persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit— that collectively comprise the Christian God, or the Trinity.  Many cultures customarily give people three names, which you may note about yourself and those around you.  There are three major branches of science: the natural, formal, and social sciences.  There are even three branches of the United States federal government.  This is just a tiny sampling of all the threes and sevens one could find when they survey the globe and human history.

Clearly, specific numbers (like seven and three) have special significance for human beings, and they always have.  But how could we explain this phenomenon?

In an effort to make sense of this peculiar situation, we must first understand the full breadth of the issue.  It wasn’t simply one group in history who held to the importance of specific numbers, nor were the significance of these numbers bound to only a few localities.  Far from it.  The vast majority of the civilized world operates on a seven-day schedule, regardless of the time-zone or continent.  The ancient Egyptians were thousands of miles from the Hopi, but both shared an infatuation with employing the use of threes in their architecture.  Buddhism originated thousands of miles from the birthplace of the Judeo-Christian tradition, yet they were both insistent that their divine progenitors existed in the nature of three persons or entities.  The writings that form the Bible were written over a period of at least one thousand years, spanning a myriad of writing locations, and are the product of many dozens of unique authors.  Yet—as you might imagine—the obsession with the numbers seven and three (twelve and forty are also quite prevalent) is ubiquitous throughout the Bible’s pages.  Prophets from the 8th century B.C. (like Jonah) and fishermen living in the first century A.D. (like Peter), and all manner of people in between, shared a connection with the aforementioned numbers.

To go back for a moment, it is also important to ask how various pyramid sets of three happened to align with Orion’s Belt to begin with; no rational person doubts that this phenomenon suggests a truly mystifying understanding of both architecture and astronomy in the ancient world.  Throwing that issue into the mix, we are left with a real head-scratcher.  Cultures from vastly different eras and locations, who had different levels of technology and astronomical understanding, and who possessed different religious perspectives, all seemed to converge on a nearly universal agreement about the significance of the numbers three and seven.  Shoot, people who live across the street from one another can scarcely agree on issues of religion, politics, or any other matter of importance!

One possible explanation for this could be that some of the earliest cultures developed fascinations with these numbers and essentially influenced those who would follow them.  But that is rather easy to dismiss.  The spatial and temporal separations between these cultures won’t allow that possibility.  A worldwide connection simply isn’t going to arise from one regional belief, at least not one that can be seen in cultures that temporally paralleled one another.  As in the case of Christianity, it would take a great deal of time to spread across the seven continents.  Perhaps, then, we could suggest some sort of cosmic coincidence?  No, because the inverse situation would apply and the incredible connection between these separated cultures concerning the number three (for example) would negate any possibility of raw chance or happenstance.  There would be a better chance of finding the ark of covenant in the city of Atlantis, with Jimmy Hoffa buried inside.  It would appear that this phenomenon cannot be accounted for by pure chance, or even by a subjective, group-think belief that rubbed off on the rest of the world.  So what is left?

As Giorgio Tsoukalos of Ancient Aliens is often caricatured as suggesting, “I’m not saying it was aliens . . . but it was aliens.”  Now, part of what I want to do on the Angel-Aliens site is to begin to truly define what we mean by terms like “extraterrestrials” or “aliens”, but for the purposes of this blog I am not concerned with definitively defining these terms.  We must fight the urge to freak-out about the word “alien”, for at least a moment.  Let’s look at this on a very basic level.  If by the word “alien” we simply mean “a being of higher power and intelligence that is not confined to planet Earth”, then we should all be able to admit that “aliens” are indeed a possibility for the global and historical connection we see in the numbers three and seven.  More than that, aliens may be the only satisfying explanation.

What else could explain the fact that very primitive cultures that were often separated by thousands of miles developed an obsession with the numbers three and seven?  What else would explain the fact that humanity has emphasized these numbers since history began to be recorded, up to the present day?  What else could explain the fact that the number seven seems to be hardwired into our mental makeup?  What could better explain the interstellar relationships seen in the alignment of primitive, man-made pyramids and constellations in distant space?

Does it not stand to reason that an objective observer is needed in all of this?  Isn’t it at least reasonably possible that a being/s who has greater knowledge of the cosmos, and an ability to communicate with human beings who lived (or live) both in vastly different locations and at vastly different times, relayed the importance of the numbers seven and three to us?  If we are being completely honest, we would all have to agree that such a notion is not only reasonable, but is actually probable.  But here we are again—we have to be willing to be honest, and follow the facts wherever they may lead.

Who knows: maybe this being/s even programmed these numbers (and others) into the very fabric of the cosmos.

But that issue is better left for another inquiry . . . and another blog.

References

Coppens, Phillip. The Ancient Alien Question: A New Inquiry Into the Existence, Evidence, and Influence of Ancient Visitors. Pompton Plains, NJ: New Page Books, 2012.

Schenkman, Lauren. “In the Brain, Seven Is A Magic Number”. ABC News.  6 Dec. 2009. http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/brain-memory-magic-number/story?id=9189664

“Why We Use 7 Digits and Other Fun Phone Facts”. Allconnect. 2 May, 2016 https://www.allconnect.com/blog/why-we-use-7-digits-and-other-fun-facts/

A Crick word about the origin of life

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In my first blog on the angel-alien website, I would like to begin with something basic.  I do not mean “basic” to be understood as intellectually simple or unimportant.  Believe me; this topic is anything but simple or unimportant.  Instead, I intend the word “basic” to be equated with something more like the term “foundational.”  I would like to start with something that far too many well-intentioned people have never truly pondered, and something that those who hold to a slavishly materialistic worldview are (and always have been) either too disinterested or too afraid to explore.  Let’s start with life, and how it originated on this planet.

While Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution has been the dominant explanation for how life diversified on planet Earth since the latter part of the 19th century—and has been rather errantly dominant, in my opinion—the issue of abiogenesis (how life ever arose from non-life in first place) has had no equivalently “concrete” explanation.  That may be an understatement; science doesn’t have a clue how inorganic materials could have given rise to organic creatures.  Don’t allow the academic elite to tell you otherwise.  They have theories, yes, but no naturalistic explanation has emerged from the pack as a suitable match for the problem.

And what precisely is the problem?  Besides the inescapable impossibility of getting living matter from non-living matter, one of the major issues is the sheer complexity of life.  We see this wherever we look, particularly when we examine ourselves.  Researchers Ron Milo and Ron Sender—of the Weizmann Institute of Science—have proposed that the typical male body is made up of some thirty trillion cells.  Many scientists have actually hypothesized that there could be trillions more than that.  It is not simply the number that is baffling, either, but the complexity found within each one of those thirty trillion cells. With our ever-increasing understanding of the nature of the cell, we see that even the simplest units of life are anything but simple.  When asked on Ben Stein’s documentary, Expelled, what he would compare a human cell with—in comparison to the “simple” cell that Charles Darwin understood—esteemed philosopher David Berlinski simply replied, “a galaxy.”  Various others have suggested that an individual cell contains more information than the engineering on display within entire cities.  Harold P. Klein, the “father of Exobiology”, summarized the complexity involved in even basic life perfectly:  “The simplest bacterium is so damn complicated . . . that it is almost impossible to imagine how it happened.”

Yes, life is that complicated.  It is that complex.

If the cell is such an amazingly intricate masterpiece, it should go without saying that everything comprised of mass collections of cells is all the more astonishing and naturalistically difficult to explain.  The nature of DNA has been another area where we are continuously baffled.  Speaking of Francis Crick’s (discussed momentarily) “Sequence Hypothesis”, philosopher of science Stephen Meyer observed the following:

 “. . . it was the idea that along the spine of the DNA molecule there were four chemicals that functioned just like alphabetic characters in a written language or digital characters in a machine code. The DNA molecule is literally encoding information into alphabetic or digital form. And that’s a hugely significant discovery, because what we know from experience is that information always comes from an intelligence, whether we’re talking about hieroglyphic inscription or a paragraph in a book or a headline in a newspaper. If we trace information back to its source, we always come to a mind, not a material process. So the discovery that DNA codes information in a digital form points decisively back to a prior intelligence.”

In case one has an issue with the fact that I mentioned Stephen Meyer—who is currently the chief proponent of the Intelligent Design movement—other fields of scientific inquiry have lead us to precisely the same realizations about the information contained within DNA.  Bioengineer George Church and geneticist Sri Kosuri were able to store roughly 700 terabytes of data in a single gram of DNA.  The experiment was performed at Harvard’s Wyss Institute.  The reality that DNA contains a type of informational code, and that the best explanation for this informational code is that it has been written by some type of intelligent being/s, is a reality that crosses many realms of science.  It now seems to be an inescapable conclusion.

The more we understand about the nature of the cell and human DNA, the less “natural” it all looks.  Science has not explained how life originated on Earth, and it may not even be capable of accounting for the incredible complexity of life with any purely naturalistic hypothesis.

At some point, the typical variety of materialistic explanations—explanations that do not allow the possibility of something like a metaphysical “god” or a deity—had to give way to rather unconventional ones.

Enter the theories of panspermia.  Broadly speaking, the term “panspermia” refers to the idea that the basic compounds responsible for life originated elsewhere in the universe, and somehow ended up on earth and developed from there.  Nobel Prize-winning molecular biologist Francis Crick (with chemist Leslie Orgel) hypothesized that the difficulties in explaining both the origin of life and its incredible complexity may be best explained by intelligent beings from somewhere else in the cosmos.  In simpler terms, extraterrestrials are responsible for life on earth. This view was called “directed panspermia”, denoting that intelligent beings had “directed” this process on earth.  Yes, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist theorized that aliens seeded life on earth.

One of the primary reasons for Crick’s hypothesis was the nature of the aforementioned complexity of DNA.  Having co-discovered the nature of the DNA molecule with Dr. James Watson, Crick knew as well as anyone what type of incredible engineering was involved within it.  Specifically, the DNA molecule overwhelmingly appears to have been intelligently engineered.  Bear in mind that Crick was not some Jesuit priest or worldwide Christian evangelist; he was a man cut entirely from the cloth of secular science.  I suspect this is the only reason that his suggestion that a higher intelligence was responsible for the biological world was permitted to begin with, much less the reason why it is still around today.

But that’s just it—the scientific theory that life on Earth actually began somewhere else in the cosmos is not only still around, but it is more prevalent than ever.  This is one of the dirty little secrets that most within the evolutionary community simply do not want the world to know.  A 2004 article written by M.J. Burchell in the International Journal of Astrobiology discussed, among other things, the mathematical probabilities that life could have arrived here from other places (like Mars) in the universe.  A 2012 article in the Journal of Cosmology—titled “Transfer of Life-Bearing Meteorites from Earth to Other Planets”—discusses the various issues surrounding panspermia as well.  In fact, the entire May 2010 edition of the Journal of Cosmology  was comprised of articles dealing with the topic, “Panspermia: Transfer of Life Between Stars, Galaxies & Planets.”  Books have been written as well; Chandra Wickramasinghe’s 2014 work The Search for Our Cosmic Ancestry being one of the more recent examples.

I could go on, but the point should be clear: the notion that life arrived on Earth from somewhere else in the universe is not a fringe idea, but has been advanced by highly-trained, intelligent scientists around the globe.

Who could miss the irony of it all?  Those who are, as I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, slavishly materialistic have no problem labeling aliens as the cause of life on earth but shriek in terror at the forbidden “G” word (I mean God, of course).  Putting that aside for the time being, this entire discussion produces some interesting prospects.  Did extraterrestrials from another planet seed life on earth and engineer our progress, as ancient astronaut theorists suggest?  Is a metaphysical being like Yahweh responsible for the creation and proliferation of the human race, as literally hundreds of millions of Jews and Christians profess?  These are very important questions.  These are in fact the key questions couched within the angel-alien discussion.  Future investigations into the theory of directed panspermia may in fact be able to help us discover the true nature of our maker/s.

But for the moment, it is important to stop and take stock of these developments.  The essential point here is that those from the “ancient astronaut” background and those of us who believe in a creator God can do two things with regards to this issue: we can first extend our hands to one another in a gesture of unification, and we can also turn and do the same with many from within the scientific community.  If people from these various backgrounds—backgrounds that are often found to be in serious conflict with one another—can actually agree about one of the most foundational and important aspects of our existence, then perhaps there is genuine hope that other bridges can be built in the future.  Perhaps we can even work together in an effort to more fully understand the nature of the beings that are responsible for our species.

What could possibly be more important than that?

References

Anthony, Sebastian. “Harvard cracks DNA storage, crams 700 terabytes of data into a single gram”. Extreme Tech. 17 August, 2012.                               https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/134672-harvard-cracks-dna-storage-crams-700-terabytes-of-data-into-a-single-gram]

Biola Magazine, 2010.   http://magazine.biola.edu/article/10-summer/can-dna-prove-the-existence-of-an-intelligent-desi/

Burchell, M.J. “Panspermia today”. International Journal of Astrobiology. 24 December 2004. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/international-journal-of-astrobiology/article/panspermia-today/6BD35AABC8832E4990AAA704B867489F

Hara,Tetsuya, Kajiura, Daigo Takagi, Kazuma. “Transfer of Life-Bearing Meteorites from Earth to Other Planets”. Journal of Cosmology.  8 Apr 2012.  https://arxiv.org/abs/1204.1719

Journal of Cosmology. May, 2010. http://journalofcosmology.com/Contents7.html

“Panspermia: Transfer of Life Between Stars, Galaxies & Planets”.  Journal of Cosmology. http://journalofcosmology.com/Contents7.html

Sender, R., Fuchs, S. & Milo, R. Preprint on bioRxiv http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/036103 (2015).“Can DNA Prove the Existence of an Intelligent Designer?”

Purpose of Angels-Aliens

This is the post excerpt.

It is truly astonishing how many strange things have happened on planet Earth. As I say in God Made the Aliens:

“The universe we inhabit is full of mystery, and there are many questions for which we will probably never have satisfying answers. More incredible things have happened on our own tiny planet than we will ever know about, much less be able to fully comprehend.”

This site involves all of those things we struggle to comprehend. From what happens at death, to biblical giants, to evidence for God, and most things in between, I cover it all. The goal is truth: plain and simple.

Will you join me in following the truth, wherever it may lead?