Sunday, September 30, 2007

Caroline Glick writing in the Jerusalem Post makes some interesting points regarding the recent visit of the Iranian President:

IT COULD be argued that since Ahmadinejad's central message failed to register on his Western audiences that his visit to America was a failure. The fact that no media organs felt it necessary to analyze what he was talking about could be seen as a clear sign that no one is interested in buying what he is selling. But this is a dangerous argument, for it misses a basic truth.

Ahmadinejad is not interested in convincing the US government or even the majority of Americans to convert to Islam. He is interested in convincing adherents of totalitarian Islam and potential converts to the cause that they are on the winning side. He is interested in demoralizing foes of totalitarian Islam within the Islamic world and so causing them to give up any thoughts of struggle. In this goal he is no different from any of his Sunni counterparts in Saudi Arabia, al-Qaida, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas or their sister organizations throughout the Islamic world and indeed throughout the West.

Throughout the world, Islamic ideologues are aggressively spreading their message of global domination. In mosques, on the Internet, on television, in schools, hospitals and prisons, Islamic preachers can be found propagating the cause of Islamic domination. And aside from Iran, no regime, including the Saudi regime, is immune from the pressures of the message.

Perhaps the central reason that Ahmadinejad's message, and the hundreds of thousands of voices echoing his call throughout the world, are so dangerous is because the Free World is making precious little effort to assert its own message. Indeed, rather than contend forthrightly with the challenge that men like Ahmadinejad and Osama bin Laden pose to the West, the West searches for ways to either co-opt their message by seeking out points of agreement or to show that really, the Islamic imperialists have nothing to fear from the West.

The whole article is worth reading.
October 4, 1957 will be the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Space Age. On that date, the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik on top of a R-7 intercontinental balistic missile originally designed to send nuclear warheads to US targets. The R-7 was used by the Soviets to launch the first man into orbit a few years later and modified versions of that rocket continue to loft the current Soyuz Passenger Ships and Progress Cargo Ships to the International Space Station.

There is an interesting article in Newsweek about the effect of Sputnik, attempting to downplay its significance. I don't think the revisionism of the article is entirely right and it seems, especially in its conclusion, entirely too negative about the value of Sputnik's legacy and spaceflight in general.

There is an element in the intellegentsia who think that spaceflight is a waste of money. I think those with that opinion are shortsighted, without much sense of wonder or vision, and ignorant.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Biological Basis For Creativity Linked To Mental Illness

The study in the September issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology says the brains of creative people appear to be more open to incoming stimuli from the surrounding environment. Other people's brains might shut out this same information through a process called "latent inhibition" - defined as an animal's unconscious capacity to ignore stimuli that experience has shown are irrelevant to its needs. Through psychological testing, the researchers showed that creative individuals are much more likely to have low levels of latent inhibition.

"This means that creative individuals remain in contact with the extra information constantly streaming in from the environment," says co-author and U of T psychology professor Jordan Peterson. "The normal person classifies an object, and then forgets about it, even though that object is much more complex and interesting than he or she thinks. The creative person, by contrast, is always open to new possibilities."

Previously, scientists have associated failure to screen out stimuli with psychosis. However, Peterson and his co-researchers - lead author and psychology lecturer Shelley Carson of Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Harvard PhD candidate Daniel Higgins - hypothesized that it might also contribute to original thinking, especially when combined with high IQ. ....

...."We are very excited by the results of these studies," says Peterson. "It appears that we have not only identified one of the biological bases of creativity but have moved towards cracking an age-old mystery: the relationship between genius, madness and the doors of perception."

This may explain a lot about writers...
Tim Rutten, writing in this morning's Los Angeles Times, does a good job pointing out the problem with allowing the President of Iran to speak at Columbia:

One of the world's truly dangerous men, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, left New York a clear winner this week, and he can thank the arrogance of the American academy and most of the U.S. news media's studied indifference for his victory.

If the blood-drenched history of the century just past had taught American academics one thing, it should have been that the totalitarian impulse knows no accommodation with reason. You cannot change the totalitarian mind through dialogue or conversation, because totalitarianism -- however ingenious the superstructure of faux ideas with which it surrounds itself -- is a creature of the will and not the mind. That's a large lesson, but what should have made Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia University this week a wholly avoidable debacle was the school's knowledge of its own, very specific history.

Read the whole article.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Every so often (well, okay, several times a day) I look to see what's up with my book, The Bible's Most Fascinating People. It is currently listed with all the online booksellers that I'm aware of: Amazon, Borders, Barnes and Noble, and Christian Book Distributors. Only Amazon and Borders spell my name right (of course, Borders online store is actually just Amazon with Borders labeling in the corners). The other online sellers mispell my name in the most common way: "Nettlehorst" reversing the "l" and the "e." Of course, Amazon and Borders make the mistake of listing my whole name, "Robin Paul Nettelhorst" instead of my preferred "R.P. Nettelhorst." So far, I haven't figured out how to correct any of this. At least in the actual, physical book, on the title page and on the cover, my name is spelled properly.

So far, the cover illustration for the book has not appeared on any of the online sites, though in the Winter Catalog for Putnam Praise, there is a fuzzy image of it.

Oh, and that's the other odd thing. Barnes and Nobel lists the publisher not as Reader's Digest, but as "Penguin Group (USA)"; Putnam is part of the Penguin Group. Perhaps it being listed in their catalog confused Barnes and Noble?

I really don't think I understand the publishing world yet.


After I wrote that post, I decided to hunt about on the and Barnes and websites, I soon discovered how to let them know about correcting their listings. Now to see if they make the changes I requested.
Almost disturbing, but a funny mashup of Star Trek:

I stepped outside this morning, as I normally do, to get the newspaper. The time was about 6 AM. I looked up at the sky and saw a bright object, nearly as bright as Venus (which is currently up in the morning and very, very bright), moving across the sky, flickering only as it would pass behind thin clouds. I watched it for a couple minutes until I couldn't see it on account of the trees. I've seen objects move like that before, going from west to east and my first thought was: that's the International Space Station.

I went inside, called up Sky Watch, a Java aplet that NASA has on one of their websites and entered the data. I was right: it was the ISS. Here's what the aplet told me for my location in Lancaster:

Fri Sep 28@5:57:24 rise
Fri Sep 28@6:07:00 set

Max elevation (degrees) 36.7

It's the first time I had seen it.

Made me happy.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Dawn spacecraft is on its way to the asteroid belt. It took off this morning about 7:30 Eastern Time (4:30 Pacific).

Meanwhile, MSNBC relates that astronomers have found something odd:

A new and intense type of radio burst has been discovered in archived views of the cosmos, astronomers revealed today.

The single, short-lived blast of radio waves likely occurred some 3 billion light-years from Earth, and it may signal a cosmic car crash of two neutron stars, the death throes of a black hole — or something else.

As a Star Trek fan I like to imagine it's a starship going to warp. But I know it's probably something more mundane (as if coliding neutron stars or a dying black hole isn't actually something quite weird in its own right).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

If the weather cooperates and there are no technical glitches, the Dawn spacecraft will launch aboard a Delta II about 7:20 AM Eastern Time (4:20 Pacific Time) on Thursday for a long voyage to visit Vesta and Ceres, two asteroids who between them account for about 1/3 of the mass of the rubble that makes up the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn will reach Vesta in 2011 and spend 10 months there before voyaging on to Ceres, which it will reach in 2015. Ceres is interesting because observations from Hubble indicate it has a thin atmosphere and a thick layer of water ice beneath its surface. If that turns out to be true, Ceres may contain nearly six times as much fresh water as Earth (in frozen form). Ceres is large enough that it is now classified as a "dwarf planet" like Pluto.

The Dawn spacecraft is interesting because it will be using ion propulsion on its long trek (once it leaves Earth orbit), rather than chemical rockets. Dawn is also notable because it will be the first spacecraft to enter into orbit around two different planetary bodies other than the Earth and Moon.

Visit NASA's Dawn Mission Home Page.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

September 26, 1983 could have been a very bad day, but thanks to a Soviet soldier who chose to do nothing, it wasn't:

1983: A Soviet ballistics officer draws the right conclusion -- that a satellite report indicating incoming U.S. nuclear missiles is, in fact, a false alarm -- thereby averting a potential nuclear holocaust.

Read the whole very interesting article from Wired Magazine.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Accordng to the British newspaper, the Telegraph, "Parallel universe proof boosts time travel hopes:"

Parallel universes really do exist, according to a mathematical discovery by Oxford scientists that sweeps away one of the key objections to the mind boggling and controversial idea.

The work has wider implications since the idea of parallel universes sidesteps one of the key problems with time travel. Every since it was given serious lab cred in 1949 by the great logician Kurt Godel, many eminent physicists have argued against time travel because it undermines ideas of cause and effect to create paradoxes: a time traveller could go back to kill his grandfather so that he is never born in the first place.

But the existence of parallel worlds offers a way around these troublesome paradoxes, according to David Deutsch of Oxford University, a highly respected proponent of quantum theory, the deeply mathematical, successful and baffling theory of the atomic world.

He argues that time travel shifts between different branches of reality, basing his claim on parallel universes, the so-called "many-worlds" formulation of quantum theory.

As a science fiction author and fan, of course I like this and hope it's all true. The theological implications of the Many Worlds Hypothesis have always been interesting to me, too.
According to the US Military:

BAGHDAD (AFP) — Iran is smuggling advanced weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, into Iraq to be used by extremists against American troops, the US military charged on Sunday.

US military spokesman Rear Admiral Mark Fox told reporters in Baghdad that Iran was shifting sophisticated arms such as "RPG-29s, explosively-formed penetrators (EFPs), 240 mm rockets and Misagh-1 surface-to-air missiles" across its borders into Iraq.

An EFP is a feared roadside bomb which when it explodes emits a white-hot slug of molten copper that can cut through the armoured skins of US military vehicles.

Fox reiterated that Iranian national Mahmudi Farhadi, detained on Thursday in the northern province of Sulaimaniyah, is one of the kingpins in the bomb smuggling operations.

"He is a member of the Ramazan Corps, the Quds Force department responsible for all operations in Iraq," Fox said.

So Columbia allowed the leader of a country that is actively killing Americans to come address its students. The words Bollinger, the president of Columbia, spoke before the dictator of Iran began rambling do not undo the mistake of giving him a forum as part of the "Columbia Distinguished Lecture Series." As Hugh Hewett pointed out, Bollinger does not seem capable of imagining that "skilled propagandists are at work for the other side, and that Ahmadinejad's non-answers to the questions posed to him will benefit him and his regime." He is naive beyond belief.

Hugh Hewett went on to write in an article entitled Bollinger's Fantasy World:

Today's fiasco has nothing to do with what Bollinger said, a name little known or long remembered anywhere outside of the upper West Side. It is about the platform Columbia provided this thug who is actively engaged in the killing of American soldiers and Marines while plotting the extermination of Israel.

“Gays do not exist in Iran,” according to the Iranian president. He insists women are well treated and respected and free in Iran. He also assures us that he was apparently only joshing about that wiping Israel off the map thing, since, he assures us, he really has no plans to attack any country. He also, he tells us, is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, even as the centrifuges spin.

Of course, Hitler, after signing that treaty with Chamberlain in 1938, assured the world that he had no more territorial ambitions. The Iranian president couldn’t possibly be lying about gays and women, so of course we can trust him about that other stuff, can’t we?

Why do I find it so hard to shake the feeling that I’m living in the late 1930’s all over again?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Columbia sued to prevent access by U.S. military recruiters to their students. They banned the ROTC from their campus. And yet Columbia's administration talks in glowing terms about allowing diverse opinions and freedom of speach.

Somehow it's appropriate to give an official invite to someone who denies the Holocaust, hates Jews and wishes to see Israel wiped off the map? They'd like to hear the views of a man who presides over a government that oppresses its people, executes gays, hangs teenaged girls, and anyone else they decide they don't like?

The Iranian thug can say anything he wants. But why does a major university have to give him a forum? Is it impossible to render moral judgments against hate-filled murderers? Would they sanction a speach by a serial killer from the local prison?

Perhaps Columbia's administration believes that a man who favors executing children has something worthwhile to contribute to their students? Frontpage Magazine had a discussion three years ago about the slow hanging of a sixteen year old girl in Iran:

Execution of a 16 Year Old Girl

The president of Iran is an evil man heading up a vile government.

I'm sure people can find bad things to say about the U.S. and about Israel. But pointing out the faults of one group does not absolve the other group of their crimes or make them equivalent to the first. Pointing out that someone else has unpaid parking tickets does nothing to make the criticism of your murders invalid or make you any less a murderer.
They liked the Nazis then, and I guess they still do:

Friday, September 21, 2007

Anti-semitism is a long tradition at Columbia University, apparently. Their current decision to allow the anti-Semitic thug running Iran follows a pattern, as reported by George Mason University's History News Network:

Columbia University has invited a representative of the world’s most antisemitic regime to speak on its campus. This week’s news? Try 1933.

Seventy years before this week’s invitation to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Columbia rolled out the red carpet for a senior official of Adolf Hitler’s regime. The invitation to Iran’s leader may seem less surprising, but no less disturbing, when one recalls that in 1933, Columbia president Nicholas Murray Butler invited Nazi Germany’s ambassador to the United States, Hans Luther, to speak on campus, and also hosted a reception for him. Luther represented "the government of a friendly people," Butler insisted. He was "entitled to be received ... with the greatest courtesy and respect." Ambassador Luther's speech focused on what he characterized as Hitler's peaceful intentions. Students who criticized the Luther invitation were derided as “ill-mannered children” by the director of Columbia’s Institute of Arts and Sciences.

Columbia also insisted on maintaining friendly relations with Nazi-controlled German universities. While Williams College terminated its program of student exchanges with Nazi Germany, Columbia and other universities declined to do likewise. Columbia refused to pull out even after a German official candidly asserted that his country’s students were being sent abroad to serve as “political soldiers of the Reich.”

Certain groups in the U.S. were perfectly happy with the Nazis up until Hitler broke the agreement with the Soviet Union and invaded it. They didn't complain at all when the Nazis and Communists divided Poland between them. It didn't bother them what they were doing to Jews, or the mentally ill, or the disabled. They didn't mind the book burnings either.

Somehow anti-Semitism never seems to entirely go out of style with some people, though they insist sanctimoniously that they merely have disagreements with Zionism and the current government in Israel. They are loud in their denunciation of the Jewish state for it's supposed mistreatment of Palestinians. But they don't seem to mind that the Iranians hang gays, preach hatred against the Jews, oppress women, and restrict the press and speach of its citizens. Of course, they don't seem to mind that the Palestinians do that, too, in addition to the terrorist bombings and the like. They remain silent to the barbarity of the Moslem regimes of the Middle East.

I'm really sick of the willful blindness and the plucking at splinters while ignoring logs.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Today is "Talk Like a Pirate Day!"

For details, go to Talk Like a Pirate.
I looked at CNN's website this morning and thought this was worded oddly:

The Israeli security Cabinet declared Hamas-controlled Gaza a "hostile entity" today in response to continued Palestinian rocket attacks. The unanimous Cabinet vote represents a major escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Gaza has--every day--launched rockets into Israel. But Israel's cabinet votes to express the obvious, that Gaza, controlled by the terrorist group Hamas is a "hostile entity" and this "represents a major escalation?" Silly me, I'd have thought shooting rockets at Israel was a bigger escalation than a harshly worded statement. Why is it that Israel is always the bad guy, not the jerks shooting rockets, sending out suicide bombers, or broadcasting Nazi-like anti-semitic statements on their radio, TV and in their schools--every day?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Google Lunar X-Prize has been announced. 30 million dollars to the first team to land a robotic rover on the moon.

I hope it's as successful as the 10 million dollar Ansari X-Prize.

Go to for more details.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How the Palestinians responded to this news:

Remember, as Matthias Küntzel wrote, "The recognize the substance of Islamist ideology--the death cult, the hatred of Jews, and the profound hatred of freedom--leads back again and again to the mistaken 'discovery' that the 'root cause' of terrorism is U.S. policies. Ultimately, the refusal to recognize al Qaeda's true motives results in a reversal of responsibility: The more deadly the terrorism, the greater the American guilt. The appeal of this approach is related to the specious hope it holds out: If suicide terrorism has its roots in U.S. policy, then a change in U.S. policy can assuage terrorism and the fear it induces. Al Qaeda, meanwhile, benefits, since the bloodier its attacks, the greater the anger against .  .  . the United States."

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Another interesting article. I found out about this one by way of Instapundit. It's by Matthias Küntzel. Jew-Hatred and Jihad The Nazi roots of the 9/11 attack:

As in the 1930s and 1940s, the sheer absurdity of the claims makes it difficult for educated people to believe that anyone could take them seriously. Nonetheless, this notion of Jews as the root of all evil continues to inspire the mass murder of civilians in Israel and to motivate the joy with which Islamists greet those murders. "Hitler's Islamic heirs," as the historian Jehuda Bauer has called the Islamists, have replaced an anticolonialism aspiring to emancipation with a Jew-hatred aspiring to salvation through the annihilation of everyone "Jewish." It should not be surprising to find Osama bin Laden accusing "the Jews" of "taking hostage America and the West"--or to find Mohamed Atta's acquaintances attributing to him a Nazi worldview. What is truly surprising is that this Islamist hatred of Jews is often overlooked by Western analysts, political actors, and media.

As noted above, the 9/11 Commission Report is a case in point. Instead of discussing the fact that Jew-hatred had reached epidemic proportions in the Islamic world well before September 11, the report gives the impression that Islamism originally arose in response to recent American and Western policies. This is first conveyed in a remark on the early days of Islamism, when, we are told, "Fundamentalists helped articulate anticolonial grievances," an idea that ignores crucial dimensions of the outlook of the Muslim Brotherhood of the 1930s. The stereotypical message that the West is responsible is repeated in the report's analysis of bin Laden's motives: "Bin Laden's grievance with the United States may have started in reaction to specific U.S. policies but it quickly became far deeper." The report gets the history wrong. The al Qaeda leader was first politicized not by "specific U.S. policies," but by the writings of Sayyid Qutb and the jihadist lectures of Abdullah Azzam. As a result, the commission's explanation of al Qaeda's appeal is one-sided: "As political, social, and economic problems created flammable societies, Bin Laden used Islam's most extreme fundamentalist traditions as his match."

It is, of course, true that Islamists seek to exploit social problems for their own ends. But Islamism is not an ideology that ignites protest as it rubs up against social injustice. On the contrary, what provokes Islamist violence is any sign of modern development in the Muslim world: scientific inquiry, political or personal self-determination, economic progress, women's equality, freedom of expression in cinema and theater. The radicalization of Islam is less the consequence of poverty and lack of opportunity than their cause.

The refusal to see this and to recognize the substance of Islamist ideology--the death cult, the hatred of Jews, and the profound hatred of freedom--leads back again and again to the mistaken "discovery" that the "root cause" of terrorism is U.S. policies. Ultimately, the refusal to recognize al Qaeda's true motives results in a reversal of responsibility: The more deadly the terrorism, the greater the American guilt. The appeal of this approach is related to the specious hope it holds out: If suicide terrorism has its roots in U.S. policy, then a change in U.S. policy can assuage terrorism and the fear it induces. Al Qaeda, meanwhile, benefits, since the bloodier its attacks, the greater the anger against .  .  . the United States.

The same pattern explains the bizarre reaction to the Middle East conflict that is widespread in the West: The average observer, ignorant of the anti-Jewish content of the Hamas Charter, has to find some other explanation for terrorism against Jews, which must be--Israel. It is not the terrorists who are guilty, but their victims. Finding suicide terrorism incomprehensible, Westerners rationalize it as an act of despair that invites sympathy. Tout comprendre, c'est tout pardonner. Here, too, following the principle of "the more barbaric the anti-Jewish terror, the greater the Israeli guilt," the bombers' victims become the scapegoat for global terrorism. The old stereotype of Jewish guilt is thus amplified in contemporary form--and only encourages the terrorists.

A struggle against Islamism waged in ignorance of Islamist ideology weakens the West. The attribution of guilt to Israel and the United States adds fuel to the flames of Islamist propaganda and drives the wedge deeper into the Western camp rather than where it belongs--in the Muslim world.

I'd recommend reading the entire article.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Interesting and disturbing article in the Fall 2007 Middle East Quarterly by David Bukay, Peace or Jihad? Abrogation in Islam:

That there is no compulsion in Islam and that Islam is a religion of peace are common refrains among Muslim activists,[1] academics,[2] officials,[3] and journalists.[4] In an age of terrorism and violent jihad, nowhere, they argue, does the Qur'an allow Muslims to fight non-Muslims solely because they refuse to become Muslim.[5] Proponents of Islamic tolerance point to a number of Qur'anic verses which admonish violence and advocate peace, tolerance, and compromise.[6]

But not all verses in the Qur'an have the same weight in assessment. Unlike the Old or New Testaments, the Qur'an is not organized by chronology but rather by size of chapters.[7] Even within chapters, chronology can be confused. In sura (chapter) 2, for example, God revealed verses 193, 216, and 217 to Muhammad shortly after he arrived in Medina. God only revealed verses 190, 191, and 192 six years later.[8] This complicates interpretation, all the more when some verses appear to contradict.

Abrogation in the Qur'an

The Qur'an is unique among sacred scriptures in accepting a doctrine of abrogation in which later pronouncements of the Prophet declare null and void his earlier pronouncements.[9] Four verses in the Qu'ran acknowledge or justify abrogation:

When we cancel a message, or throw it into oblivion, we replace it with one better or one similar. Do you not know that God has power over all things?[10]
When we replace a message with another, and God knows best what he reveals, they say: You have made it up. Yet, most of them do not know.[11]
God abrogates or confirms whatsoever he will, for he has with him the Book of the Books.[12]
If we pleased, we could take away what we have revealed to you. Then you will not find anyone to plead for it with us.[13]

Rather than explain away inconsistencies in passages regulating the Muslim community, many jurists acknowledge the differences but accept that latter verses trump earlier verses.[14] Most scholars divide the Qur'an into verses revealed by Muhammad in Mecca when his community of followers was weak and more inclined to compromise, and those revealed in Medina, where Muhammad's strength grew.

Classical scholars argued that anyone who studied the Qur'an without having mastered the doctrine of abrogation would be "deficient."[15] Those who do not accept abrogation fall outside the mainstream and, perhaps, even the religion itself. The Ahmadiyah sect, for example, today concentrated in Pakistan, consistently rejects abrogation because it undercuts the notion that the Qur'an is free from errors.[16] Many Muslims consider Ahmadis, who also see their founder as a prophet, to be apostates.

Because the Qur'an is not organized chronologically, there has been a whole subset of theological study to determine which verses abrogate and which are abrogated. Muslim scholars base their understanding of theology not only upon the Qur'an but also upon hadiths, accounts of the Prophet Muhammad's life. One hadith in particular addresses abrogation. It cites Abu al-A‘la bin al-Shikhkhir, considered by theologians to be a reliable source of knowledge about the Prophet's life, as saying, that "the Messenger of God abrogated some of his commands by others, just as the Qur'an abrogates some part of it with the other."[17] Muhammad accepted that God would invalidate previous revelation, often making ordinances stricter.[18]


How does the theological debate over abrogation impact contemporary policy formulation? While not all terrorism is rooted in Islam, the religion is an enabler for many. It is wrong to assume that more extreme interpretations of religion are illegitimate. Statements that there is no compulsion in religion and that jihad is primarily about internal struggle and not about holy war may receive applause in university lecture halls and diplomatic board rooms, but they misunderstand the importance of abrogation in Islamic theology. It is important to acknowledge that what university scholars believe, and what most Muslims—or more extreme Muslims—believe are two different things. For many Islamists and radical Muslims, abrogation is real and what the West calls terror is, indeed, just.

During the lifetime of Muhammad, the Islamic community passed through three stages. In the beginning from 610 until 622, God commanded restraint. As the Muslims relocated to Medina (623-26), God permitted Muslims only to fight in a defensive war. However, in the last six years of Muhammad's life (626-32), God permitted Muslims to fight an aggressive war first against polytheists,[52] and later against monotheists like the Jews of Khaybar.[53] Once Muhammad was given permission to kill in the name of God, he instigated battle.

Chapter 9 of the Qur'an, in English called "Ultimatum," is the most important concerning the issues of abrogation and jihad against unbelievers. It is the only chapter that does not begin "in the name of God, most benevolent, ever-merciful."[54] Commentators agree that Muhammad received this revelation in 631, the year before his death, when he had returned to Mecca and was at his strongest.[55] Muhammad bin Ismail al-Bukhari (810-70), compiler of one of the most authoritative collections of the hadith, said that "Ultimatum" was the last chapter revealed to Muhammad[56] although others suggest it might have been penultimate. Regardless, coming at or near the very end of Muhammad's life, "Ultimatum" trumps earlier revelations.

Because this chapter contains violent passages, it abrogates previous peaceful content. Muhsin Khan, the translator of Sahih al-Bukhari, says God revealed "Ultimatum" in order to discard restraint and to command Muslims to fight against all the pagans as well as against the People of the Book if they do not embrace Islam or until they pay religious taxes. So, at first aggressive fighting was forbidden; it later became permissible (2:190) and subsequently obligatory (9:5).[57] This "verse of the sword" abrogated, canceled, and replaced 124 verses that called for tolerance, compassion, and peace.[58]

Suyuti said that everything in the Qur'an about forgiveness and peace is abrogated by verse 9:5, which orders Muslims to fight the unbelievers and to establish God's kingdom on earth.

I'd recommend reading the entire article.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Back in 2004 I had the opportunity to be a volunteer with the X-Prize Foundation and so I was there for both launches of SpaceShipOne when it won the 10 million dollar Ansari X-Prize. On September 13, the X-Prize Foundation will be announcing a new, much larger, X-Prize. They've made a teaser video which I discovered at

Saturday, September 01, 2007

By way of GeekPress, I found out about the "Exploit the Earth or Die" campaign. I think it's both amusing and true:

It's not a threat. It's a fact. Either man takes the Earth’s raw materials -- such as trees, petroleum, aluminum, and atoms -- and transforms them into the requirements of his life, or he dies. To live, man must produce the goods on which his life depends; he must produce homes, automobiles, computers, electricity, and the like; he must seize nature and use it to his advantage. There is no escaping this fact. Even the allegedly "noble" savage must pick or perish. Indeed, even if a person produces nothing, insofar as he remains alive he indirectly exploits the Earth by parasitically surviving off the exploitative efforts of others.

They had a graphic element available for it, so I put that in the sidebar to the right; it's at the bottom, under "links I find interesting."
I finally updated the list of my books in the sidebar. Eventually, where it currently says "no image available" in the spot for my book, The Bible's Most Fascinating People an image of my book's cover will appear.