Category Archives: technology

How many churches are there?

Have you ever wondered exactly how many churches are in an area? I have often wondered that so recently I undertook the task of collecting a record of churches in Georgia1, about 10,000 total, and plotting them out in a heat map.

Click here to see the result.2

I’ll continue to develop this visualization to make it more useful and interactive. If you are interested in helping out or have any suggestions, questions, or comments feel free to contact me. If you want to donate to this project in order to see it expand (hosting is cheap but not free), feel free to send a donation.


  1. Data collected from Yahoo’s local search service via YQL. So blame data discrepancies on them. []
  2. Site uses a lot of experimental technology and is known to work best in Google Chrome. If you experience any difficulties please let me know. []
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Global data storage calculated at 295 exabytes. Still less than the average cell.

Recently, the BBC cited a study which estimated the total amount of data stored by humans to be 295 exabytes

The study, published in the journal Science, calculates the amount of data stored in the world by 2007 as 295 exabytes.

That is the equivalent of 1.2 billion average hard drives.

As impressive as this sounds, nature is more impressive still. The report continues

These numbers may sound large, but they are still dwarfed by the information processing and storage capacity of nature.

“The Human DNA in one single body can store around 300 times more information than we store in all our technological devices” according to Dr Hilbert.

How much data is estimated to be in 1 cubic centimeter of DNA? About 108.420217 exabytes.

Its also estimated that the human body processes about 430 zettabytes/day.

And we are expected to believe that all of that precision machinery happened by unguided, unintelligent processes.

Like magic.

Bonus: Here is a story by the Washington Post on the same topic.

But Hilbert offers a humbling comparison. Despite our gargantuan digital growth, the DNA in a single human body still stores far more information – and a single human brain computes far more calculations – than all the technology on Earth.

“Compared to Mother Nature,” Hilbert said, “we are humble apprentices.”

I think he misspelled God there.

Implications of a pattern matching mind

I recently wrote a post on the pattern matching ability of the human mind, here I want to explore the implications of that pattern-matching ability a bit more.

My contention with the mind being a pattern matching machine is that in order to match for patterns, we must first be aware of a pattern to match for in the first place. So it is incumbent on every worldview, theist and atheist alike, to come up with a reasonable explanation for why this is.

According to Darwinism, natural selection operates according to random mutations. Now I realize that modern naturalistic apologists like to object and say that its not random but rather directed by forces of some kind or another. But that only pushes the problem back one step (where did these forces come from and why do they bear the marks of intelligence?) and it still fails to demonstrate why men in particular have an innate desire to match for metaphysical realities like the existence of moral patterns.

My observation above is made against the backdrop of the argument for God based on consciousness (more info here and here).

I’m not sure if you ever answered my question about the mind earlier, but the question about whether we are merely a collection of molecules in motion, animated for a brief time and then transferred to some other part of the universe, has a significant bearing on how we live our lives, how we view the world, and how we interact with others.

So we have at least two good reasons to believe in the existence of an intelligent designer, who at this point we haven’t said much about. As for who that intelligent agent is, we would need something more than the general characteristics we are able to discover from their handiwork (an agent’s creation can’t, by definition, be on par with itself). We would need special revelation if we were to know who that designer is. That means that

  1. the agent would have to want to be known and
  2. that the agent desires some sort of relationship with us since communication implies a relationship of some sort

Now as for sources of revelation, not all are created equally or with the same intents and purposes in mind. Like the transmission of objective truth claims regarding reality. In Hinduism, what we observe around is us known as Maya, or merely an illusion. How we would know that to be the case is unclear. Actually, because of such a view of reality Hindus are wholly unconcerned with whether the propositional statements made by their texts actually conform with reality (ie are true) or not. After all, if its all an illusion, why bother with the particulars of such an illusion.

Likewise, the central thrust of Buddhism is towards nothingness. Its a lot like atheism in that regard. And since nothing is the universal aim of life, it makes little sense to consider the particulars.

Contrasted to all of this is monotheistic belief in a personal God where in an intelligent agent designed the universe and us, has endowed us with epistemic resources that are well suited for the environment in which we find ourselves, and who encourages us to know

  1. Him
  2. Ourselves
  3. The environment

Its out of this worldview that science emerged, and its out of this worldview we’ve made much progress by way of understanding our surroundings.

Where we begin our epistemic journey of discovery of the world around us matters. It matters whether we will even begin the journey in the first place. And it matters whether we can trust the data our epistemic resources like our mind and senses, provide us.

So, the questions for us to consider are:

  1. What is the mind?
  2. How did it come about?
  3. How do we know we can trust it?

Small families, long lives

Here is a presentation by Hans Rosling on the world health statistics which shows an interesting trend regarding the plight of nations over the course of the last 200 years. Contrary to popular opinion, mankind is getting healthier, wealthier, and more efficient as time rolls on. Mankind is progressing, not regressing.

An interesting trend Hans points out at the end is that developed nations tend to have people who live long lives and who have small families. I’m not so sure that is a good thing, but it is interesting to note nonetheless.

A liberal understanding of free speech

Notice Sharpton begins with racist speech and then includes homophobia later on. This is not a coincidence. Homosexual activists have already won the fight to get “hate crimes” legislation passed that would afford special consequences to those unfortunate enough to offend the wrong person.

All of this sounds like Orwell’s classic line from 1982, “all animals on the farm are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

Was the star of Bethlehem an historical event?

Here is the full thought-provoking documentary.

Here is the official website.

Silencing WikiLeaks A Free Speech Challenge For U.S.

[HT NPR]

A people’s commitment to free speech is not shown in how much they merely talk about it. It is shown in how much they tolerate speech they do not like.

The recent debacle with WikiLeaks provides an excellent insight into the superficial lip service most Americans, on both sides of the isle, give to the issue.

I think the former prime minister of Russia, Vladmir Putin, summed up the dilemma quite well:

As they say in the countryside, some people’s cows can moo, but yours should keep quiet, -Vladimir Putin

Here’s my take.

We, that is the US, should sport a black eye from this. We need to accept that our security sucked and hopefully use it to motivate ourselves to do better in the future. It’s not so much a shock that a PFC had access to so much data (Bruce talks about why here). What is shocking is that there were apparently no safeguards at all put in place to prevent someone from doing what he did. Sucking down a ton of data, burning it to a disc, and then walking out with it.

I do not think Assange should be the issue. While I may not like the fact that he has caused the country that I love harm, I believe in the freedom of speech and expression and therefore believe he should be able to leak whatever he gets his hands on.

The real focus here should be on the traitor, PFC Manning, who gave Assange the information.

And here’s Ron Paul on the matter (thanks to a Facebook friend):

Where did the Bible come from?

A friend on Facebook recently asked me how the Bible came to be in it’s present form and how Irenaeus decided which books to throw out and which books to keep.

Here’s my response:

Thanks for the question. I always love a challenge, especially since its bee a while since I’ve studied Irenaeus or the formation of the NT canon.

The first thing I would point out is that Irenaeus didn’t come up with the canon. Even though it is a popular argument from critics that Irenaeus arbitrarily chose the 4 gospels “because there are 4 winds”, the truth is that the gospels were already in widespread circulation long before Irenaeus came on the scene.

Irenaeus wasn’t the only one to list the books that were considered canonical, there were several writers that listed the accepted canonical books of the NT.

In fact, two of the biblical authors, Paul and Peter, cite eachother’s books as Scripture. Which means that by the time Paul wrote to Timothy that all Scripture was God breathed and profitable (2 Timothy 3:16), he already considered at least some of the letters that the other apostles had written to be included along with the OT.

The second thing I would point out is that the “missing gospels” like Judas, Thomas, etc. were never really missing nor were they unknown by the majority of Christendom. They were known and, in the case of Judas, they were soundly rejected at the very beginning by the early believers because they simply did not meet the criteria already established for authoritative writings. Some of those criteria were:

  • clear authorship
  • written within the author’s lifetime1
  • and it must be internally consistent
  • it must be consistent with both the OT as well as the already accepted texts of the NT

The earliest collections of writings passed around included the apocryphal and deuterocanonical writings. These were in the earliest editions of the King James bible and they still exist in Catholic and a few other denominations’ Bibles. However, these writings were never considered canon by the church until after Martin Luther in the 1500s challenged some of the practices of the church of Rome. Then the RCC canonized a few of the apocryphal writings to strengthen some of their practices such as praying to saints, the exalted view of Mary, etc.

Finally, I would note that the best place to begin if you are searching for the historical basis of Christianity is to examine the gospels as historical evidence in the same fashion as any other ancient source. From this historical approach it is worth asking one central question which is “Who was Jesus?”.

The reason this question is important is that the whole of the Christian faith rests on one historical event (1 Corinthians 15) and if that event is found to be false, then all of Christianity is rendered invalid. So if you are looking for a place to start, I would highly encourage you to start with that one question, keeping in mind that the gospels in the NT are separate documents which each present an eyewitness account of one man’s life, death, and resurrection.

After examining the Gospels in light of the question above, I am willing to wager that the answer as to why other books were not accepted as canonical will be readily apparent as their goal is not the same as the gospel writers to, as Luke puts it, “provide an orderly account” (Luke 1:3) of historical events.

Here are some excellent resources regarding the formation of the NT if you are interested:

Bonus: Here is the history of our English Bible.

Extra credit: Here is a 30 part lesson series to answer the question of “Are the New Testament Gospels Reliable?”

  1. by contrast the earliest known copy of the gospel of Judas is dated to the 2nd century, long after Judas’s death []

The Moral Climate: Exploring the Ethical Dilemmas of Climate Change

Here is an excellent debate from the Veritas Forum on the etchics of climate change.

Scientists now argue that we are on a collision-course with disaster unless the nations of the world collectively improve their stewardship of the environment. Yet the practical, ethical and political obstacles to change are truly daunting: Who is responsible for the climate-induced droughts in Africa? The floods in India? How conclusive is the evidence that climate change is man-caused? Who should be the primary receivers of protection and aid? Is a clean environment a human right? If so, where does it stand in relation to other competing rights? What is the basis of human rights? Vinoth Ramachandra, a Christian theologian from the third world, and John Mutter, one of Columbia’s premier experts in this field, will discuss these and other fascinating questions on the ethics of intervention. Who will have the most satisfying answers to the questions that climate change has provoked? Opening presentations will be followed by a moderated discussion, and audience Q&A led by Cynthia Peabody.

The Moral Climate: Exploring the Ethical Dilemmas of Climate Change from The Veritas Forum on Vimeo.

Naturalism’s problem with the mind

Here is a 3 part video set that shows what naturalists think the fate of philosophy will be in the “age of neuroscience”

Our biological similarities with animals should serve as evidence that our real cognitive differences do not lie in our biological/physical make-up. However, neuroscientists like the ones above are quite happy to paint humans as mere machines responding to stimulus around them (aka, naturalism). The problem they face (and have yet to address) is that human’s regularly display patterns of mental activity in the absence of any stimulus. It’s called dreaming and it is the experimental Achilles heel of neuroscientists who think their field will supplant fields dealing with metaphysics like philosophy and theology.

Now neuroscience does a great job in showing us how the brain functions and how it may affect our cognitive abilities, but when it makes claims like “our cognitive faculties are only material, nothing else” it steps outside of empirical science and into philosophy. Even if it were true that we are nothing more than molecules in motion, there would be no epistemically valid reason for us to believe it.

Also, “I can’t imagine” is not an accurate representation of the current argument against philosophical naturalism. This is what the neuroscientist above arrives as at when pressed on the implications of their views in regard to the free will, a phenomenon all humans experience. The real argument is based on the logical contradiction found in epistemically closed system1. If the physical is all there is, then our brains are causally directed by the world around us. The will is rendered a myth and our appearance of thought is merely an illusion (which also begs the question as to where this illusion came from in the first place). It’s odd that she brings up the commonly believe and ultimately false scientific notion that the universe had no beginning. If our brains are nothing more than complex machines, then our thoughts had no beginning either.

She also misrepresents Galelio, his error was making wild claims without sufficient proof in arrogant ways. Much like what naturalists do when they claim to have answers they don’t.

Using fire as a deconstruction linguistic tool to lead into their definition of free will. Culminates in a great big “we don’t know”. We don’t know? Really?

Something tells me that, like the death of God, the death of philosophy is greatly exaggerated.

  1. That is, a system where new knowledge cannot be acquired. In this case new knowledge is impossible if our minds are causally controlled by purely physical forces. []