Sunday, February 17, 2019

Will There Be Pets In Heaven? by Susan Harris

Yes or No could be so boring at times, can't it?

To catch my drift on the topic, click on the video below:

This clip is part of an episode for my show Eternity that was taped on location at our farm to accomodate the four-legged adorable ones. Happy watching.

“You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.” Revelation 4:11 (NLT)

Eternity is hosted by Susan Harris on Access7 Television in Saskatchewan. The weekly program is a corollary to her upcoming release of her memoir TOUCHED BY ETERNITY: A TRUE STORY OF HEAVEN, HEALING, AND ANGELS.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Artificial intelligence (AI) as an emergent religion - Denyse O'Leary

 There are many reasons to doubt the “conscious machines” myth, including Levin’s Law and the general difficulty of pinning down what “intelligence” actually means in a specific enough way to ever give instructions to a machine. Similarly, serious analysts are diminishing, not increasing the hopes of finding ET Out There.

 In his new book, Unbelievable: 7 Myths About the History and Future of Science and Religion, Mike Keas, lecturer in History and Philosophy of Science at Biola University, draws attention to the striking similarities between two staples of pop science news, superintelligent AI and superintelligent ET.

Both types of mythical being lurked just around the corner for the better part of a century at least. Popular science media are profoundly unskeptical about their existence, probably because they prop each other up. As Keas documents, taken together, they form an emergent secular religion. For example, cosmologist Paul Davies “along with many other scientists, anticipates that “an encounter with ET will end human-centeredness and cosmic loneliness, ushering in an age of universal spirituality beyond sectarian terrestrial religion.” When people talk that way, we can be sure that it is a new religion (Kindle 2227-2235).

Keas unpacks the key religious characteristics of the AI/ET cult, including the Central Dogma that AI and/or ET (they are hard to separate) are superior to humans. For example, exponents/evangelists Carl Sagan and Arthur C. Clarke agreed in 1973 with the general view of ET that humans are “dumb compared to any aliens that we would potentially meet.” One reason ET and AI are hard to separate, of course, is that many commentators, like astronomer Sir Martin Rees assume that ET has probably already become AI (“long ago transitioned beyond the organic stage”). And that humans will surely follow.  Yes, according to the “new secular Bible story,” humans are moving toward a Singularity too, where we merge with machine intelligence (Singulatarians).

“C. S. Lewis anticipated this bizarre trend in his space trilogy, especially in the last novel, That Hideous Strength (1944). Ironically, several critics have complained about the scientifically unrealistic occult content of Lewis’s space trilogy—it is not scientific (Kindle 2354-2362),” Keas notes.

The critics are right in saying that the occult content is not scientific. But in that respect, Lewis was, ironically, a reliable prophet of the modern AI/ET scene. Many Singulatarians hold that their soon-to-be-realized technology will be indistinguishable by the rest of us from magic.   Are they serious? Well, in 2005, Kurzweil said that the magical Harry Potter stories “are not unreasonable visions of our world as it will exist only a few decades from now” when, due to AI, “the entire universe will become saturated with our intelligence.” (Kindle 2376-2385) Keas warns that this type of thing encourages people “to expect the experiential equivalent of occult phenomena.”

We asked Dr. Keas some questions:

Mind Matters: Do the pundits predicting the takeover of artificial intelligence or our morphing into artificial intelligence-enhanced beings know very much about AI? Do they seem aware of its limitations?

Mike Keas: Some of them know a great deal about AI, but are guided by materialistic presuppositions and so are predisposed to make ridiculous claims about our future. According to the grand narrative of materialism, consciousness already arose out of unintelligent material at least once (here we are), so why not multiple times, including from biological to post-biological life? That's how they think, regardless of how informed they are (or not) about AI.

Mind Matters: The AI Singularity includes a quest for immortality. Is there any equivalent in that religious world of “sin”? Of a "Savior"?

Mike Keas: Sin is reduced to errors in programming. So it is really not a moral concept anymore. Salvation is achieving conditional immortality by making the transition to digital personhood, or something along those lines.

The loosely flowing relationship between AI and ET cults may help believers deal with the ongoing lack of evidence for any intelligent life in our universe other than ourselves. They can endure disappointment because there is always a buzz that inflates the significance of a new AI project to provide a welcome distraction. Anyway, if they are indeed waiting for “magic,” patience is certainly a virtue.

See also: Robotic religion is not just sci-fi anymore.

Can we cheat death by uploading ourselves as virtual AI entities?

Noted astronomer envisions cyborgs on Mars

AI and the future of murder (Jonathan Bartlett)


Artificial intelligence is impossible (Eric Holloway)

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Light for the Journey

Today I reach into the 'grab-bag' from ‘ancient history,' abbreviated and adapted from one of my column articles from twenty years ago.

The newlyweds were embarking on their life together. It was November, '66. Their wedding ceremony was hours past and they’d left their guests at the reception venue. They didn’t own a car, but now, snug in a rented Austin Mini, they headed towards their honeymoon hotel destination, about an hour and a half’s drive to the West Coast of Scotland.
'66 Austin Mini. Credit: CarGurus.
Same model & colour, but without 
"Just Married" signs and streamers
Despite the late November night’s sleet and snow the little mini – still bedecked with Just Married signs and other hoopla – hugged the road well. Leaving city traffic behind, the couple soon passed through the suburbs, and before long the city lights were far behind.

The road was quiet, and they zoomed nicely along the country roads, negotiating numerous twists and turns. But it wasn’t long before dazzling lights of an oncoming vehicle met them on a bend in a heavily wooded area, and the groom, who was driving, switched to the dimmed lights. Blackout – no lights at all! Total darkness, except for the dazzle spots temporarily burned into his vision from the vehicle that had just passed them.
He tried to concentrate on the road ahead, and struggled to keep on course in the darkness as he switched back to the full beams. Mercifully, the couple reached their destination in safety. Apparently, a problem with the electrical system of the car meant that whenever the dimmer switch was operated, every light went out. Well, the couple is still together, and you won’t need twenty guesses as to who they are.

 Signing her life away! Good ol' B&W photography, eh. 
It’s very difficult to find one’s way in the dark without a source of light – especially when caught by surprise, as we were. Likewise, as we find our way through life, on and into the uncharted territory of a new year, it is a whole lot easier when we have a source of light and are properly prepared. 

I knew very little about cars at that time. If I’d checked the car’s systems out earlier I would have discovered that problem. We were young then, but are now more cautious about preparing.
How important to prepare for our journey through life, and for our exit from it. The psalmist, in Psalm 27 wrote, The Lord is my light and my salvation . . . The Lord is the strength of my life. And, in Psalm 25:9-10  He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.  10  All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant.

While the year is still quite young, let us open up our hearts and minds in humility to the Holy Spirit, and let the Scriptures speak to our hearts, trusting the grace of God to help us safely negotiate the bends in the road of life, with the Lord Jesus Christ as our companion, who lights up our life – even if the lights should go out.
The original edition was published as a newspaper column article in January, 1999
Peter is a retired pastor  well, sort of retired – as he is currently engaged as an associate volunteer pastor. He lives in Southwestern Ontario with his wife, May, and writes a weekly inspirational newspaper column and occasional magazine articles. Peter is author of two books: "Parables from the Pond" (Word Alive Press) and "Raise Your Gaze . . . Mindful Musings of a Grateful Heart" (Angel Hope Publishing). He and May are also engaged in leading nursing home / residential chapel services and music. ~+~

Sunday, February 03, 2019

The Art of the Insult by Rose McCormick Brandon

I love a witty put-down. I know, I know, what kind of Christian am I to get my giggles at another’s misfortune. It's an inherited trait (I think). I doubt I can change now. I would have to want to. There lies the problem. So, when I found amongst a heap of used books one titled, The Book of Insults, I had to have it. I put it on the coffee table for my family to enjoy – poor things, they’ve inherited my trait. 
Before people shrieked out their disagreements in sentences laced with cursing and hatred, they used wit to make a point. Writers, like Mark Twain, were especially adept at this. On a woman unacquainted with the conversational pause, Twain wrote:
“The fountains of her great deep were opened up, and she rained the nine parts of speech, forty days and forty nights, metaphorically speaking, and buried us under a desolating deluge of trivial gossip.” (Roughing It)
Mark Twain to a reader: 
Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.
For some writers the dictionary didn't provide enough insulting words. They invented their very own.
Algernon Swinburne’s description of Ralph Waldo Emerson: A gap-toothed and hoary-headed ape . . . who now in his dotage spits and chatters from a dirtier perch of his own finding and fouling: coryphaeus or choragus of his Bulgarian tribe of autocoprophagous baboons.  
Henry Arthur Jones on Bernard Shaw: A freakish homunculus germinated outside lawful procreation. 
The best writers are adept at using a few carefully chosen words:
Oscar Wilde: The English country-gentleman galloping after a fox – the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable.  
Alfred, Lord Tennyson on critic Churton Collins: A louse in the locks of literature.  
Would anyone write this in a note thanking a hostess for dinner?
Edmond de Goncourt: “A very tasty dinner . . . including some grouse whose scented flesh Daudet compared to an old courtesan’s flesh marinated in a bidet.” 
Of an enemy John Sparrow wrote: “If only he’d wash his neck I’d wring it.”
Robert Louis Stevenson: “Poor Matt (Matthew Arnold). He’s gone to heaven, no doubt – but he won’t like God.”
William Faulkner: Henry James was one of the nicest old ladies I ever met. 
A writer could almost appreciate these rejection letters:
Samuel Johnson: Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original and the parts that are original are not good.
Oliver Wendell Holmes: You may have genius. The contrary is, of course, probable.
Insults sometimes lead to curses:
An Irish curse: May the curse of Mary Malone and her nine blind illegitimate children chase you so far over the hills of damnation that the Lord himself can’t find you with a telescope. 
An Arab curse: May your left ear wither and fall into your right pocket. 
Politicians used to engage in wit. Now, anyone who does is immediately forced to apologize and those who laugh are maligned. 
Lady Astor (English MP): Winston, if you were my husband I should flavour your coffee with poison. 
Winston Churchill: Madam, if I were your husband, I should drink it. 
Winston Churchill on Neville Chamberlain: He looked at foreign affairs through the wrong end of a municipal drainpipe. 
History habitually adores the long-gone and basks in their accomplishments, but Abraham Lincoln was disliked on a par with the present leader of the United States. 
General George McClellan on Lincoln: The President is nothing more than a well-meaning baboon . . . I went to the White House directly after tea where I found “the original Gorilla” about as intelligent as ever. What a specimen to be at the head of our affairs now!
Abraham Lincoln to General McClellan: If you don’t want to use the army I should like to borrow it for a while. 
Even Canadian politicians used to be witty.
John Langton on William Lyon Mackenzie: He is a little red-haired man about five feet nothing and extremely like a baboon.
William Lyon Mackenzie on Sir Peregrine Maitland: He is one of the lilies of the field; he toils not, neither does he spin. 
Sir John A. MacDonald in an election speech: I know enough to know that you would rather have John A. drunk than George Brown sober.
Sir John A. on Donald Smith: I could lick that man Smith quicker than hell could fizzle a feather.
John Diefenbaker on Jean Lesage: He is the only person I know who can strut sitting down.
Pierre Trudeau: The honourable member disagrees. I can hear him shaking his head. 
Agnes McPhail was asked by a man, “Don’t you wish you were a man?” to which she replied, “Yes. Don’t you?”
Stephen Harper: People stop me on the street all the time and ask me, "What’s the secret of your charisma?" Well, the secret is to surround yourself with people who have even less … why do you think I was so anxious to make a deal with Joe Clark? 
Stephen Harper: I’m sure the NHL lockout is on a lot of your minds … but if bored Canadians want to watch pampered millionaires who only work in 45 second shifts they can sneak into the Senate.
Some of the best of Canadian political wit came from John Crosbie. Newfoundlanders possess a clever humour admired by all and Crosbie is a good example.
John Crosbie, Lieutenant-Governor, Nfld-Labrador 2011: This fellow said, ‘I was so depressed last night thinking about the economy, wars, jobs, my savings, social security, retirement funds, etc., I called a suicide hotline and got a call centre in Pakistan. When I told them I was suicidal, they got all excited and asked if I could drive a truck,’” 
Like all wits of the twenty-first century Crosbie was forced to issue an apology. 
When Crosbie stood to speak in Parliament, MPs on both sides of the aisle knew they could depend on him for a zinger or two. A good laugh eases the weight of heavy arguments. Crosbie nicknamed a quartet of female MPs, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. One of them, Sheila Copps, he individually labelled “Shrieky Sheila.” Oh for the days when everyone wasn't over-anxious to play the victim. 
Profuse, apologies to those who found any or all of these quips inappropriate, offensive, or in any way incorrect, unfortunate or unsuitable. I shall try to improve, but I'm not optimistic about it.
Rose McCormick Brandon writes mainly on faith, personal experience and the child immigrants who came to Canada between 1869 an 1939. She's the author of four books, including, One Good Word Makes all the Difference and Promises of Home - Stories of Canada's British Home Children. She has two blogs: Promises of Home and Listening to my Hair Grow. 

Friday, February 01, 2019


          Can you imagine learning one day, at the age of 66 that the life you have been living during the last 27 years of a 47 year relationship has all been a lie? That was the interruption that my friend, Marie (name changed) faced. 
            Although Marie was an American, the family had made their home in Paris, but the disclosure that interrupted everything took place during a five-week trip to China, where she and her husband were being shown many different parts of the country by personal guides. 

            Over lunch in a small village a dispute arose between them over the soup and Mark (her husband) flew into a rage, calling her cruel names, and making hurtful, derogatory comments about her as he stalked off and left her trying to grasp what was going on. As she sat reflecting, she realized that this pattern of behaviour was manifesting itself frequently and wondered if it might not be symptomatic of a deeper problem. 

            Thus it was that evening as they sat down to talk things over together. Mark admitted that he had a secret, but was reluctant to share it with Marie. Confidently, Marie assured him that there was nothing they could not face together and overcome. Her reassurance gave him the courage to open up. She was shattered when he told her, “There is a woman who I have known for 27 years. I love her and she loves me.”

            Their relationship had been rocky at times, but never had Marie suspected that there was another woman involved. They had lived quite independently, each with their unique expectations of what the relationship should look like and apparently neither finding the fulfillment they desired, yet both believed that it was possible. 

            It was clear they could not continue in this impossible situation. At first there seemed to be reason for hope. Mark had confessed what was troubling him and was free from the burden of the secret. He was willing to move forward and rebuild their relationship. 

            Although Marie was still reeling under the shock and struggled with absolute disbelief that this could be happening, she was willing to push through her feelings of anger, humiliation, betrayal, rejection, and misunderstanding of what she felt was a profoundly repugnant and disturbing situation and make the effort to get through this together. 

            The whole matter came to a head in a counselling session where Mark admitted that he did not want to give up the other relationship. Marie knew that she had to make her own choices and opted to rebuild her own life, imposing on them both a ban to any live contact, that is in person, by telephone or electronically (Skype or FaceTime). All business matters between them would be carried on by email.  

            While the disclosure of the double life Mark had been living was a shocking interruption in Marie’s life, the final consequences have revealed some benefits for her. Although she had to process a ton of emotions and sift through her many experiences with a new perspective to discover what was true and what was not, she now feels that she is becoming more and more who she used to be and who she really is. In the process of all this, her faith was impacted and she had to work through a new understanding of the ways of God and her relationship with Him. Having done the necessary work to explore all of this, Marie finds that she feels better about herself now than at any previous time in her life. 

         Although it seems that this story can be recounted quickly, the actual events involved are much more complex and there are many more aspects to Marie’s saga, some of which I will be looking at in the upcoming book I am writing about a variety of people who have experienced significant interruptions in their lives. I believe what they have shared can help each of us as we encounter those unexpected events in life that change the course of our personal history.  Stay tuned.
Word Guild Award

Eleanor Shepherd from Pointe Claire, Quebec has more than 100 articles published in Canada, France, the U.S.A., Belgium, Switzerland and New Zealand. Thirty years with The Salvation Army in Canada and France including ministry in Africa, Europe, Haiti and the Caribbean furnished material for her Award winning book, More Questions than Answers, Sharing Faith by Listening as well as her Award winning stories in Hot Apple Cider and Christmas with Hot Apple Cider. She co-authored with her husband Glen the Bible Study book Why? Families. Eleanor recently retired from being a pastor in Montreal with The Salvaton Army.
Word Guild Award
Word Guild Award

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