The Big History Project

April 15, 2014 1 comment

[Somebody's] Truth about the Universe and How You Fit into It

bighistoryIn the 1980s, David Christian, a 40-ish year-old professor of Russian history at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, became discontent teaching “just the history of one country.” “[N]ot really sure … in a sense, who I am,” he wanted to know about the history of humanity as a whole. “That question forced me back,” he said. “If you want to know about humanity, you have to ask about how humans evolved from primates.” His inquiry continued pressing backward until he was asking about the origins of the earth and then finally of the whole universe. He read widely, synthesized what he found into a course, and began teaching it as “Big History” in 1989.

Bill Gates later saw the DVD series and wanted to make it available to more people. He tracked down Christian and the two founded the Big History Project to disseminate Big History globally, beginning with high schools. The resulting 10-unit, 50-lesson course spanning 13.7 billion years of “universe history” went online in late 2013. The project is funded by Gates’s LLC, bgC3 (Bill Gates Catalyst 3), which is described as a think tank, incubator and venture capitalist firm.

Big History is billed as  “a true history course … with a goal of helping students understand a historical narrative and ultimately human civilization’s past, present and future.” Christian and Gates speak of it with infectious enthusiasm. “This is my favorite course of all time,” says Gates. It’s very special because “it creates a framework for so many of the things [students] will learn in other courses.” How was the universe created? Why does it work the way it does? Why do we find ourselves on this tiny planet, buzzing with life? What does it mean to be human? These are the question Big History purports to answer. They fascinated Christian from the beginning and motivated him “because they made me feel I was a part of something absolutely huge and quite wondrous.” “By the end of this course,” he says, ”you’ll have surveyed the whole history of the universe. And you’ll know how you fit into it.”

What History?

The question that needs to be asked, though, is, In what sense is this history? When Gates concedes that it “blurs the boundaries between science and geography and history,” he doesn’t go far enough. Take another look at the questions Big History aims to answer:

  • How was the universe created?
  • Why does it work the way it does?
  • Why are we here?
  • What does it mean to be human?

These aren’t the questions of science, geography, or history, but of philosophy and religion. Big History purports to be “Universe History,” “Universe History” being the grammatical equivalent of  “Russian History” or “Film History.” But that’s not what it is. Big History is a story of the universe, according to a particular metaphysical worldview – the materialist naturalistic, or atheistic one – to be specific.

Big-history-650x524Big Religion: Now Showing at a School Near You

A broad range of schools are already implementing Big History in the United States and internationally. The project provides all materials and teacher training and offers subsidies to cover additional direct expenses incurred by schools. Given the funding and big names behind it, Big History is sure to be expertly produced, engaging for students, and widely propagated,

But if we take the first definition listed for ‘religion’ on Dictionary.com, “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe,” there is no way to take Big History as anything but an alternative religion. A slickly presented, secular religion, now showing at a school near you.

This article first appeared in Salvo 27, Winter 2013

Jesus of Testimony

February 27, 2014 2 comments

Greg SpencerGreg Spencer of Roseburg, OR, was a police officer in narcotics enforcement in the 1990s. His work kept him immersed in a world of violence, death, and depravity on a regular basis. In addition he was a deputy medical examiner, which meant he had to view autopsies, often on bodies whose life had ended in a horrible death. He was dedicated to his work, but it turned him into a hardened and calloused man, and his first marriage ended because of it.

He left the police force after fifteen years of service and became a cross-country truck driver, but about six months into that, macular degeneration in both eyes rendered him effectively blind. He went on disability, and, with the expectation of being blind and disabled for the rest of his life, got help through the Oregon Commission of the Blind in functional blind living, including white cane and guide dog training.

During this time, he met Wendy – his face softens into a smile when he mentions Wendy – a “born again, on fire believer in Jesus Christ,” who “drug me with her to church.” He met Jesus Christ there. And he married Wendy.

If Greg Spencer’s story were to end there, most of us would consider it a rather happy ending. A man loses his sight but gains salvation, a beautiful wife, and the means to live out a reasonably comfortable life on earth. But his story didn’t end there.

Healed
In 2001, he attended a men’s retreat, the topic of which was, “Cleansing of the Mind.” He needed that. He’d not been able to sleep nights because of the horrid, graphic images of bodies, violence, and pornography still haunting his psyche. Sometimes he would wake up screaming from the nightmares. So at the retreat he prayed, Lord, cleanse my mind. Take this junk away. Set me free. Right away, he felt the Lord respond directly, You’re clean.

He opened his eyes. And the next thing he knew, he was reading the little red “Exit” sign behind the speaker in the chapel. Not only had his mind been cleansed of the residue of years among such evil, but his eyes had been healed of their blindness. His vision was totally restored. Even the scar tissue was gone.

A subsequent investigation opened by the state of Oregon resulted in comprehensive documentation, both of his visual impairment and the restoration of his sight, and cleared him of any fraud charges in relation to the temporary collection of disability. His is a current-day, thoroughly documented healing, or in the words on the diagnosis submitted by Dr. Brad Seeley of the Dept. of Ophthalmology, Oregon Health Sciences University, “Unexplained Decreased Visual Acuity.”

Jesus of TestimonyThe Testimony of Data
Greg Spencer’s story is only one small component of the documentary, Jesus of Testimony, produced by Nesch Productions, but it offers our scientifically “enlightened” age some powerful evidence of the supernatural to chew on.

Though this story is dramatic, most of the two-plus hour long documentary is more of an intellectual discussion with an array of New Testament scholars. Here’s a brief summary:

Part One: Lord or Legend looks at references to Jesus from sources outside the Bible – for example the Roman historian Tacitus and Josephus, an ancient Jewish scholar – that confirm details in the gospel accounts. For example, many non-Christian sources didn’t shy away from calling Jesus “God” or “Son of God.” Some mention that he was known for miracles, even by those who didn’t believe in him. Thallus, a Greek historian, wrote of the darkness on Good Friday, and Josephus tells about the resurrection.

Part Two: Are the Gospels Reliable? gives data on the numbers of extant manuscripts, full and partial, to address the question, Are the gospel texts we have today reliable copies of the originals? It also looks at ancient customs concerning oral traditions and the dating of the writings.

Part Three: Miracles, which is the segment containing the story of Greg Spencer, deconstructs David Hume’s circular argument against the possibility of miracles, on which most arguments against miracles are based today and explains how the empirical sciences, historiography, and forensics go about (or at least should go about) evaluating claims concerning the miraculous.

Part Four: The Testimony of Prophecy. The Old Testament contains more than three hundred prophecies about the coming Messiah. All were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. This segment draws out a few of them, establishing the supernatural credentials both of the ancient prophets and of Jesus himself.

Part Five: The Resurrection – Fact or Fiction? looks at the practice of crucifixion (a highly reliable means of killing, which the Romans both invented and perfected), the evidence for the empty tomb, and the various theories posited to explain the resurrection away.

Part Six: The Good News gives us the basic New Testament gospel message, and then we hear from two men. Dr. Michael Brown, who says his own story is “from LSD to Ph.D.,” shot heroin and played drums in a rock band with the intention of becoming a rock star until the day he realized how much God loved him and that Jesus had died for him. On that day, he says, God set him free, and he never put a needle in his arm again. Dr. Brown went on to earn a PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures. He is the author of numerous books including Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Messianic Prophecy Objections.

Dr. Craig Keener was an atheist when some people shared the gospel with him. He said, “I’m an atheist; I don’t believe that. Why should I believe that?” and then walked away.

But although they couldn’t give him a good argument for it, they did give him the right content, and after that, God gave him a different kind of evidence. “God gave me the evidence of his own presence,” he says, knowing that some people may not be able to understand that. It was “a certainty that went beyond any other kind of evidence that I could have had because it came directly into my heart.” He didn’t understand the language of salvation that the people had used, and he struggled with God over the implications of it. But eventually his knees buckled underneath him and he surrendered. That was the beginning of his Christian life.

The Testimonies of the Living
Jesus of Testimony is packed with data about this one central figure of human history, Jesus of Nazareth. The information could have been put into book form, but there’s something more human about hearing the scholars speak to it, especially the ones whose lives have undergone such drastic transformations. Greg Spencer didn’t ask God to restore his sight. Dr. Michael Brown didn’t ask for help getting off drugs, and Dr. Craig Keener never asked to be “cured” of his atheism.

The data is compelling on its own. The evidence in human lives, the testimonies of men whose lives have been restored, changed, retooled, if you will, for good rather than for naught, is soul-nourishing. If the historical Jesus of testimony is who he told us he was, this should come as no surprise whatsoever.

Craig Keener, who now teaches at at Asbury Theological Seminary and is the author of numerous books including, Miracles: The credibility of the New Testament Accounts, has a message for anyone who’ll listen: “If God would take me, … who had blasphemed God’s name, who had spoken against him, if God would take me, God will take anybody who’s just willing to accept the testimony of the Spirit. Jesus rose from the dead, and now Jesus is alive and is Lord of the universe and is ready to transform the life of whoever comes to him.”

Related:

Categories: Films

The Modern Missionaries of Evangelical Atheism


Evangelical AtheismAccording to its website, The Unbelievers movie “follows renowned scientists Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss across the globe as they speak publicly about the importance of science and reason in the modern world – encouraging others to cast off antiquated religious and politically motivated approaches toward important current issues.”

Okay, so let’s unpack that a bit and examine the contents of the film in light of its billing.

Science and Reason
Shortly into it, there is a string of clips, apparently taken from an Australian TV show called Q&A, in which (unbeliever) Dr. Dawkins and (believer) Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, participate in an informal debate. Now here’s something to pay attention to, the truly inquiring free thinker might say to himself, rubbing his hands together and preparing to listen up.

But that genuinely curious viewer-listener would be disappointed if he were hoping to hear a scientific or reasoned argument over the existence or nonexistence of God. Or even just a scientific or reasoned argument at all.

Here’s a little snippet from the Q&A:

Cardinal Pell: Most evolutionary biologists today don’t believe … this crude, fundamentalist version of random selection that you have proposed.

Dr. Dawkins: I do not propose it, and I strongly deny that evolution is random selection. Evolution is non-random selection. Non-random.

Cardinal Pell: Oh, so there’s a purpose to it?

Dr. Dawkins: No! [laughs can be heard from the audience]

Cardinal Pell: Could you explain what non-random means?

Dr. Dawkins: Yes, of course I could. That’s my life’s work.

But we never actually get to hear the explanation, if there was one. Oddly, interspersed between the clips of this discussion, we get selected clips from another debate, at another location, between (unbeliever) Dr. Krauss and Muslim (believer) Uthman Badar. When the film cuts back to Dawkins and Pell, the discussion has moved on.

We can surmise, though, from listening between the clips, if you will, that there was mention of discernible purpose in the universe and some reference to the human inclination to look for meaning:

Cardinal Pell: It’s part of being human to ask why we exist.

Dr. Dawkins: The question Why? is not necessarily a question that deserves to be answered.

There are all sorts of questions that people cannot ask. Like, What is the color of jealousy? That’s a silly question. Why? is a silly question.

You can ask, What are the factors that led to something coming into existence? That’s a sensible question. But, What is the purpose of the universe? is a silly question. It has no meaning.

Sadly, we don’t get to hear what Cardinal Pell said next, as the film cuts away again to Krauss and Badar.

Then it cuts back:

Dr. Dawkins: We do have a scientific understanding of why we’re here. And we therefore have to make up our own meaning to life.

We have to stand up, look the world in the face, face up to the fact that we are not going to last forever, we have to make the most of the short time that we have on this planet. We have to make this planet as good as we possibly can and try to leave it a better place than we found it. [applause can be heard from the audience]

And this is, as far as the film is concerned, the end of the Q&A. It’s also the end of any semblance of reasoned argumentation in The Unbelievers of the basic point purportedly at issue: whether there is reason to believe or unbelieve in God.

Encouraging Others to Cast Off … What?
After the two debates, which we see by clips and switches, the film shifts to a ponderous conversation between Dawkins and Krauss. The two are riding in the back seat of a car when Dr. Dawkins expresses some exasperation with the debate format.

Dr. Dawkins: Well, I got thoroughly fed up with BBC type interviews where you have a chairman in the middle and you’ve got an interesting conversation going on between two … there might be [as many as] five people around the table. And A and B are having an interesting conversation. And so the chairman suddenly says, ‘Well, what do you think about this, C?’ totally breaking the flow and spoiling the conversation, all in the interest of balance and things like that.

And it occurred to me, Why on earth do we bother with chairmen? They’re not necessary. Certainly my recent encounter with the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Sheldonian Theater in Oxford (click here for debate), that was completely ruined by the chairman, who was a philosopher and felt it was his role to clarify things. And of course that meant obscuring things.

The two scientists share a knowing laugh. Those silly philosophers who ask clarifying questions. Don’t they know some questions should not be asked?

And to Embrace … What?
Having cast off those questions that should not be asked or that have no meaning by the fifteen minute mark, the remainder of the film consists mostly of this “Dynamic Duo of Science” traipsing the globe, pontificating together, and speaking to sympathetic audiences about the universe “that can come from nothing,” the multiverse “that can be eternal,” and how we are “endowed by evolution” to create our own meaning during our “brief moment in the sun.”

Look at those phrases again. Does this sound to you like the language of science or the language of religion?

Evangelical Atheism2Later on, the two are riding in the back seat of another car, and we get to listen in:

Dr. Kraus: I guess the best part of communicating is the excitement. Science turns us on. Science is fun. Science excites us. … I feel it’s so fascinating for me that I want to tell people about it.

Dr. Dawkins (looking off into the distance): Carl Sagan said, “When you’re in love, you want to tell the world,” and say to them, “I’m in love with science, and I have to tell the world.”

Do you hear the echoes of religiosity as Dawkins and Krauss pontificate together? These men are not advancing science or reason. These are adherents of an alternative religion.

So don’t ask them silly question they aren’t prepared to answer. Science turns Dr. Krauss on. And Dr. Dawkins? He’s in love, and he has to tell the world about it.

Watch The Unbelievers if you like. But not if you want to hear a discussion based on authentic science or grounded reason. The Unbelievers is about two scientists who are missionaries of Evangelical Atheism.

The Argument of Tears

December 14, 2013 1 comment

USAF CellistA typical crowd of tourists, seniors, and schoolchildren on field trips was mulling around the large lobby of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. when a young man, wearing full military dress and carrying a cello, walked toward a chair curiously placed in the center of the large room and sat down. He took up his bow in one hand, stretched his other arm to adjust the sleeve, and began playing with calm, expert finesse.

After the opening measures, another soldier musician approached with a standup bass and joined in. A small riser was brought out, and a graying maestro removed his overcoat and accepted the conductor’s baton from an assistant with a cordial salute. An oboe came in with the melody, followed by strings, brass, clarinets, flutes, even a harp.

Mothers holding children swayed with the music. Faces broke into smiles and wonder. A few people started recording the flash concert on their cell phones.

The crowd has stopped mulling around; the rockets, space capsules and bi-plane hanging from the ceiling are forgotten. “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” composed by the great Johann Sebastian Bach and performed by the US Air Force Band under the direction of Colonel Larry H. Lang, Commander and Conductor, is enough to render these museum artifacts, sophisticated as they were in their time, as just so much scrap metal.

Then come the vocals:

Jesu, joy of man’s desiring,
Holy wisdom, love most bright …

If you look carefully, you can see a few museum-goers wiping away tears while other faces appear close to tears. In fact, you may find yourself reaching for a tissue as you watch.

Now why is this? Why is it that, all those bystanding technological accomplishments notwithstanding, this music has the power to slip right past the intellect and, drawing from unseen wells of emotion we didn’t even know were there, summon the heart to come forth and behold something greater?

Or to phrase the question in the language of science, what is the explanation for this universal phenomenon we call joy? Or rapture? Hold that thought.

Several years ago, I had an interesting conversation with an atheist named Ken. A medical doctor, Ken is very intelligent and articulate. His mother had passed on a few weeks prior, and the conversation turned to his reaction to it. “I was walking down the street Tuesday,” Ken said, “by an antique shop. And I had looked for a particular kind of double-striped cranberry glass that my mother collects. It’s very rare. And every time I go by this antique shop I look to see if they’ve got any in the window. I’ve never seen it. And I realized as I walked by that I never really need to look for that … ” and here his voice broke away. An emotional wave had struck him, seemingly, out of nowhere, and he couldn’t finish the sentence, I never need to look for double-striped cranberry glass again…

He changed the subject and soon afterward ended the conversation. It made me want to cry for him – not so much for the loss of his mother, but for the loss of his ability to grieve the loss. He feels something very deeply, but he’s cut himself off from both the source and satisfaction of that longing. Ken has rejected belief in God for lack of evidence, yet he misses the evidence that springs from the emotional wells of his very soul.

C.S. Lewis wrote about the innate desire for something beyond. That desire is also a form of nascent knowledge. “Most people, if they had really learned to look in their hearts, would know that they do want, and acutely, something that cannot be had in this world.” The human soul was made to enjoy some objects that are “never fully given – nay, cannot even be imagined as given – in our present mode of subjective and spatio-temporal experience.” He called it joy; he also called it longing. A literary critic, he even at times called it Romanticism. This desire, Lewis wrote, is distinct from others in that it is itself desirable. “To have it is, by definition, a want: to want it, we find, is to have it.”

To want to have what? Look at the rest of the words of the first stanza of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” penned by Robert Bridges to be sung to the masterpiece:

Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring,
Soar to uncreated light.

Souls aspiring to do what? To soar to uncreated light.

Christmas NightTo rise up to God, to be united, or re-united, with our Maker. Why is Ken moved at the remembrance of his mother? Because God made both him and his mother for eternal relationship, and those relational bonds transcend death. Why are museum-goers moved by beautiful music? Why are we moved by beautiful music? Because God himself is beautiful, and he made us to dwell with him in glory and beauty. It’s part of the created order. We long for it, and we know it.

The tears tell us so.

Related:

Remembering a President

November 20, 2013 Leave a comment

JFK_300px-Soviet-R-12-nuclear-ballistic_missile

Soviet R-12 intermediate-range nuclear ballistic missile (NATO designation SS-4) in Red Square, Moscow

Standoff
On the morning of October 28th, 1962, Nikita Khrushchev, First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, received a cable from Anatoly Dobrynin, the Soviet ambassador in Washington. For nearly two weeks the Soviet Union and the United States had been engaged in a nuclear standoff in the Atlantic Ocean over Soviet missiles in Cuba. Cold War tensions were as high as they had ever been. The cable relayed a message handed to the ambassador by US Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the brother of the President.

The message was direct and clear: Time is running out. The United States is prepared to take strong and overwhelming retaliatory action by the end of the week if Moscow does not immediately agree to withdraw its missiles from Cuba.

By midnight that night Moscow time, about a dozen Soviet ships that had been steaming their way toward Cuba were turning around. Khrushchev had backed down. The Kremlin also announced that all Soviet missile bases in Cuba would be dismantled and returned to Russia and that UN inspections would be permitted to verify the removal. It had been a tenuous game of global chicken, and the Soviet Union had been the first to turn back.

That same evening, General Ion Mihai Pacepa, head of Romania’s Securitate (secret police), went to the residence of Gheorghe Gheordhiu-Dej, General Secretary of the Soviet satellite, to report the end of the Cuban crisis. “That’s the greatest defeat in Soviet peacetime history,” Dej said. Neither Dej nor Pacepa was a fan of the bellicose Khruschev. Although Khruschev had gained favor with the world through “unmasking” Stalin’s crimes and had publicly espoused a policy of peaceful coexistence with the capitalist West, the two Romanian leaders knew Comrade Khrushchev personally. Together they celebrated Khrushchev’s “apocalyptical” humiliation over caviar and champagne.

Payback
But although Kennedy had won this skirmish, Dej remarked that at this point, he wouldn’t give a penny for Kennedy’s skin. Then he made a prediction that is stunning to Western (but not Eastern) ears. “He won’t die in his bed.”

Indeed he would not, as the world would see a scant thirteen months later.

Damage Control: Dezinformatsiya
Four days later, General Alexander Sakharovsky, head of Soviet foreign intelligence, arrived in Bucharest, Romania’s capital city, to brief the Securitate on Operation “DRAGON,” the goal of which was to divert attention from the KGB’s intelligence relationship with Lee Harvey Owsald and to frame instead as the culprit, the CIA.

It was business as usual in the Eastern bloc. “Unlike Western intelligence services, Soviet bloc espionage was not designed to obtain factual information and predict enemy intentions,” wrote Pacepa years later. “The communist tsars used their foreign intelligence services to hide their crimes and to embellish their own stature — in other words, to lie to their country and to the rest of the world.”

And for the most part, the West bought it hook, line, and sinker. Quite likely with the complicity of President Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson.

Reflection
Gen. Pacepa is kind to the members of the Warren Commission, which reported a year later that Oswald acted alone. “We should not blame the Warren Commission for missing the significance of the espionage proof sitting right in their hands. None of its members had any background in counterintelligence analysis. … You cannot expect a plumber to perform heart surgery.”

But a plumber can learn from a heart surgeon who’s willing to teach him. Gen. Pacepa has extensive experience with KGB modus operandi. In Programmed to Kill: Lee Harvey Oswald, the Soviet KGB, and the Kennedy Assassination, he combines his own knowledge about the KGB’s involvement with Oswald with the evidence assembled by the FBI and other US investigators. In Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism, he adds new information that has become available since the publication of Programmed to Kill.

JFK last day

A half-century ago, President Kennedy came to understand the importance of being prepared to use force to protect American sovereignty. Did he pay for it with his life? Probably, Yes. What would have happened had he looked the other way or pursued a policy of appeasement toward the USSR? Thankfully, we will never know.

For that, we do well to pay honor and respect to President John F. Kennedy.

And to learn a little something of modern heart surgery.

Related:

The Dragon of Disinformation
The Assassination of President Kennedy, the KGB, and the Cuban DGI: An alternate version
Disinformation

Is it Real, or Is It Disinformation?


The Great American Church Fire Hoax

The Campaign
Disinformation-church-fireIn the spring of 1996, a spate of news reports about black church fires in America dominated airwaves and inflamed decent people both at home and abroad. The World Council of Churches (WCC) flew thirty-eight pastors to Washington, DC, to provide government leaders with more information about this racist tragedy. In a June radio address, President Clinton spoke with emotion about his own “vivid and painful memories of black churches being burned in my own state when I was a child.” Charging that “racial hostility is the driving force,” he pledged the full power of the federal government to the crisis and put two hundred federal agents on the case.

By late summer, more that twenty-two hundred articles in the press had condemned what the Center for Democratic Renewal (CDR) called “a well-organized white-supremacist movement.” The Church Fire Prevention Act of 1996 was signed into law in July, making church arson a federal crime, and $12 million was appropriated for combating fires at churches with black congregations. The National Council of Churches (NCC), the national affiliate of the WCC, took out full-page ads in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and several other outlets soliciting donations for its new “Burned Churches Fund.” It reportedly raised nearly $9 million in two days, with contributions continuing at about $100,000/day.

With that kind of money coming in, though, could America really be that racist of a country? Probably not. As it turned out, the whole brouhaha was more media firestorm than actual fire. It was later established by the National Fire Protection Association, a private organization that keeps track of church arson, that the data did not confirm the reports, but rather showed that there had been a dramatic drop in church fires in the years leading up to 1996. Of the few on record, law enforcement officials in the South couldn’t confirm any as having been racially motivated, and despite the president’s vivid and painful memories, no church burnings had occurred in Arkansas during his childhood.

Michael Fumento traced the source of the black church fire media meme to the CDR, whose mission at the time was to work “with progressive activists and organizations to build a movement to counter right-wing rhetoric and public policy initiatives.” The corrections received comparably scant coverage, and most Americans went on about their lives forgetting the whole thing. But even as they did, their country was being slandered as a cauldron of neo-Nazi racism both at home and abroad.

The key to understanding the significance of this lies in the fact that the World Council of Churches and the CDR, both of which ignited and promoted the story, have been the tools of Russian intelligence since the early 1960s. It was classic disinformation, designed to defame.

The TechniqueDisinformation
Disinformation, write Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa and Prof. Ronald J. Rychlak, in Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism, is not a synonym for misinformation. The two are as different from one another as night is from day. If the Soviet press fabricated a story and published it through its own outlets, that would be misinformation, and readers in the West would rightly take it with a grain of salt. If, however, the same material appeared in Western media and was attributed to Western sources, that would be disinformation, and its credibility – and therefore it power – would be substantially higher. Since World War II, they write, “disinformation has been the Kremlin’s most effective weapon in its war on the West.”

Disinformation is a science and art born and perfected in Russia. In this his third book, coauthored with Rychlak, a law scholar at the University of Mississippi, Gen Pacepa (pronounced ‘pa-CHEP-a’), the highest-ranking Soviet bloc intelligence officer ever to defect to the West, explains how disinformation works by unraveling some of the most consequential disinformation campaigns of the twentieth century. It’s fascinating reading, covering the Kremlin’s systematic denigration and defamation of Christianity, Judaism, Pope Pius XII, America, and the West through multiple channels and in widely varying communication forms.

But Pacepa didn’t write Disinformation as a matter of historical curiosity. Disinformation has caused worldwide damage to the reputation of the United States. That was a primary Kremlin objective, and it was accomplished stunningly. But now, disinformation is taking root in America itself. That is worse.

The Antidote
To neutralize disinformation, people of conscience must learn to recognize disinformation for what it is because, like the terrorists who killed three thousand Americans on September 11th, 2001, disinformation is usually clothed in innocuous civilian garb.

Gullibility can be costly. Educating the free world is the purpose of Disinformation.

Related:

Sexually Transmitted Unease: How Casual Sex Works Bad Chemistry from Good

October 28, 2013 1 comment

n-GIRL-BED-SAD-large570

“Want a Capri Sun?”

Those were the first words he said to her afterwards. Rachel White, age fifteen, had been anticipating this moment for at least a year. She’d sneaked out on a snowy school night, shoes in hand. Then, wearing nothing but her wet socks,  Ginuwine playing in the background, it was finally happening! Oh my god, she told herself, this is sex! Just move your hips to Ginuwine. When it was over, he locked eyes with her, opened his mouth … and offered her a kiddie drink in a disposable bag.

Nevertheless, delirious in the afterglow, Rachel shared all the details with her friends the following day at school. Soon though, her delirium morphed into a strange agitation. ‘He’ wasn’t her boyfriend or anyone particularly special. They had been “just talking” – her lingo for “just friends” – and since he was cool and good-looking, Rachel had picked him to be the one to whom she would lose her virginity. Once the deed was done, “I wanted something from him. I thought about him every five minutes.” She called him repeatedly, several times a day, until finally, his weary mother asked her to please stop calling. Then depression set in. “I didn’t want to go to school. I didn’t want to eat. And if Ginuwine came on the radio—forget it.”

Rachel later blogged about her experience and found she wasn’t alone in suffering a post-sex funk. Kate responded, describing her first time this way, “He just sort of rolled off me, he was drunk and probably also high, and I just sat there for awhile and stared at the ceiling while he snored. I remember I got up … thinking, ‘That’s it? What the hell just happened?’” Others recounted stories of writing long embarrassing love letters or drunken explosions at parties. Clearly, joining the sexually initiated doesn’t always pan out as expected.

The Neurology of Sex
Any Grandma or psychotherapist worth her salt could have told them that this was bound to happen. In Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children, OB-GYNs Dr. Joe S. McIlhaney Jr., and Dr. Freda McKissic Bush explain, from a neurobiological perspective, why it happens and how. “Scientists are confirming that sex is more than a momentary physical act. It produces powerful, even lifelong, changes in our brains that direct and influence our future to a surprising degree,” they write. A single sexual encounter sets off a cascade of changes in a young brain, and modern imaging technology allows researchers to observe those changes more thoroughly than ever before. Hooked explains what they are discovering.

Three neurochemicals in particular are especially involved in sex:

Oxytocin. Oxytocin is the “bonding” chemical. While it is present in both sexes, it’s much more predominant in females. When a boy and girl touch in a meaningful way, even something as simple as a lingering hug, oxytocin is released in the girl’s brain, causing her to desire more of his touch and to feel an increasing bond to him. It also produces feelings of trust in him, whether or not he actually merits it. When sexual intercourse happens, her brain is flooded with oxytocin, causing her to feel connected to him and to continue to need this connection with him, as Rachel discovered. Oxytocin is also released when a mother nurses her newborn, causing similar, though non-sexual, feelings of deep attachment. “The important thing to recognize,” the doctors stress, “is that the desire to connect is not just an emotional feeling. Bonding is real … a powerful connection that cannot be undone without great emotional pain.”

Vasopressin.Vasopressin is the bonding chemical for males. Often referred to as “the monogamy molecule,” it hasn’t been as thoroughly studied as oxytocin, but is known to play a role in bonding, both to the female sexually and to the children that result. In an article titled, The Two Become One: The Role of Oxytocin and Vasopression, Dianne S. Vadney explained it this way,”Essentially, vasopressin released after intercourse is significant in that it creates a desire in the male to stay with his mate, inspires a protective sense (in humans, perhaps this is what creates almost a jealous tendency) about his mate, and drives him to protect his territory and his offspring.”

Dopamine. Dopamine is the “feel-good” or “reward” chemical. When we do something exciting, dopamine floods our brain and produces feelings of exhilaration and well-being. Not surprisingly, it also makes us want to repeat the behavior that produced it. Active in both males and females, dopamine is values-neutral, meaning it rewards pleasurable or exciting behaviors without distinguishing between those that are beneficial and those that may be harmful.

Hooked by Sex
Chemical biology“Sex is one of the strongest generators of the dopamine reward,” the Hooked authors point out. This is not inherently bad, but overstimulation can cause the brain to become relatively resistant to it, leading the indiscriminate to engage in more and more of the same behavior to regain the high, not unlike the spiral of addictive drug use. “For this reason, young people particularly are vulnerable to falling into a cycle of dopamine reward for unwise sexual behavior – they can get hooked on it.” But when the relationships are short-lived, the losses due to breakup are felt in the brain centers that feel physical pain and can actually be seen on a brain scan. It’s not hard to see how multiple relationships, each with its own cycle of bonding and breaking, can lead to profound pain, anxiety, and confusion, especially among teens still far from emotional maturity.

The results can be devastating. A series of studies published between 2002-2007 showed that sexually initiated youth are three times more likely to be depressed than their abstaining peers. The girls were three times as likely to have attempted suicide, and the boys were a whopping seven more likely to have done so. The studies accounted for other mitigating factors in their  lives, ensuring an accurate comparison with their peers.

Natural Chemistry
Rachel White, who now writes for Cosmopolitan, Jezebel, and other sex-focused outlets, offers this suggestion for avoiding the pain of disappointment after first time sex: “Maybe we need to throw out the idea of virginity altogether. Maybe we need to toss away the idea that you ‘lose’ something from a single act. … Perhaps teaching this would help with those depression stats.” In other words, devalue the sex act altogether, starting with the very first one. Lower your expectations, the dismal thinking goes, so you won’t suffer the pain of disappointment.

Rachel can promote disposable sex until the cows come home, but it will never improve the depression or suicide stats. In fact, it will probably make them worse. It’s impossible for the neurochemical aspects of sex to be turned off. Here’s a better idea: Ponder deeply the remarkable work of oxytocin and vasopressin. Consider how the biochemistry of sex appears to be marvelously fashioned for the purpose of forging marriage and family bonds. See sex that way. And then act accordingly. Go with instead of against your natural chemistry.

And finally, lest the cheap sex authors convince you that sexual restraint equals sexual repression, reflect on the serendipitous, dual sex ministrations of dopamine. Only regular, monogamous sex keeps the dopamine rushes coming, strengthening the marital bond, infusing feelings of personal well-being, and smoothing the inescapable bumps that come with living together and, if fortune smiles, raising children. All that without the pain and fear of breakup.

This article first appeared in Salvo 24, Spring 2013

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