Friday, December 30, 2011

"Apologetics Through Internet Videography"

After being sick for almost a week, my writing muse isn't healed yet, so I'll close the year with a note about an article I have in the latest Christian Research Journal titled, "Apologetics Through Internet Videography." It's a how-to for Christians to learn the ins and outs of producing videos (and for doing so for YouTube specifically). Hopefully this will get a few more good apologetics minds participating there in a place where there are way too many fundy atheists without a semblance of intelligence running their own shows.

See you in 2012!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Pastor Tim Rogers, Godly Man in Authority

Today’s post requires background from the Ticker.

Relating to the Licona-Geisler controversy, Dr. Thomas Howe issued a blog entry of interest. For reasons unknown at the time, the blog entry was removed some days later, and then returned, updated.

In between, another Geisler supporter, one Pastor Tim Rogers (of a small church in NC) took it upon himself to reprint Howe’s posting in full. I’ve watched Rogers for a while and have been duly unimpressed; his support of Geisler earned him a spot in my vid Geisler’s Christmas Carol (see pic), and he’s a guaranteed chicken when it comes to being confronted with his errors, as shown below. (By the way, he also refuses to allow Nick Peters to post on his blog, and gives varied excuses for that as well.)

Those that know me what came next.

I posted as a comment on Rogers’ blog:

Do you have Dr. Howe’s permission to reprint his entry?

If not, do you know what “intellectual property rights” are, or is that sort of moral concern beneath your radar as a “godly man in authority”?

I knew the answer, of course. “Godly men in authority” like Rogers don’t respect the intellectual property rights of others, especially when they think that some higher purpose of theirs is at stake. In what followed, Rogers hemmed and hawed and dodged the issue, with such pointless questions as to whether I was asking for myself or on Howe’s behalf; he responded at one point to my detailed exposition on why he was wrong with nothing but a “Merry Christmas” greeting. That's a Santariffic way to dodge the issue, isn't it?

To be fair, though, Rogers in reply comments demonstrated a dismal ignorance of copyright law as well – which is just a further hallmark of the ignorance of such “godly men in authority”. Among other things, Rogers:

1) Implied that it didn’t make any difference because Howe had taken the blog entry down. (Wrong. Howe is still the owner of the intellectual property of his blog entry.)

2) It was “in the public domain.” (No, it was not. This manifest ignoramus
apparently thinks that “public domain” means “it’s publicly available.” It does not. It means a work where the copyright has either expired, or the author has freely released the work to be used by the public. The music I use for my TektonTV vids is an example of the latter. Neither of those descriptions applies to Howe’s post. And though I corrected Rogers on this point, he later reiterated the same asinine understanding of “public domain” to another commenter.

3) He gave full credit to Howe as author. (Also does not matter. “Fair use” means credit is a good idea – it’s not always required, depending on the circumstances -- and it also means you can’t reprint the whole work, as Rogers did.

4) Later, he also suggested that it was Howe’s responsibility to contact HIM and let him know he didn’t want it used. That too is false. Copyright law is quite clear on this matter:

How do I get permission to use somebody else’s work?

You can ask for it. If you know who the copyright owner is, you may contact the owner directly. If you are not certain about the ownership or have other related questions, you may wish to request that the Copyright Office conduct a search of its records or you may search yourself. See the next question for more details.

How much of someone else’s work can I use without getting permission?

Under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports. There are no legal rules permitting the use of a specific number of words, a certain number of musical notes, or percentage of a work. Whether a particular use qualifies as fair use depends on all the circumstances. See FL 102, Fair Use, and Circular 21, Reproductions of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians.

Somebody infringed my copyright. What can I do?

A party may seek to protect his or her copyrights against unauthorized use by filing a civil lawsuit in federal district court. If you believe that your copyright has been infringed, consult an attorney. In cases of willful infringement for profit, the U.S. Attorney may initiate a criminal investigation.

Could I be sued for using somebody else’s work? How about quotes or samples?

If you use a copyrighted work without authorization, the owner may be entitled to bring an infringement action against you. There are circumstances under the fair use doctrine where a quote or a sample may be used without permission. However, in cases of doubt, the Copyright Office recommends that permission be obtained.

By the way, the Government's stuff isn't covered by I can quote THAT all I want.

Additionally, one of Rogers’ airheaded supporters – also a pastor of the same mold – arrived at the ludicrous conclusion that the same objections ought to have applied to eg, 2 Peter and Jude (whoever copied whom). Not only is that absurd because it applies laws and concepts that did not exist for another 1800 years at least; it is also oblivious to the point that the Bible, ultimately inspired by God, is God’s property to freely inspire others to use – or, even if you are not one who believes in the inspiration of the Bible, the Bible is itself the property of the community (Body of Christ), and so its members are free to reproduce it. Morever, if the Bible’s purpose is to evangelize and exhort everyone (in line with the Great Commission), that would be the equivalent of a “public domain” purpose.

The same airhead also professed that it was not as simple as I made it out to be with the Internet in the mix. That’s true – the Internet makes it much easier for moral indigents like these pastors to get away with, and engage in, such wholesale intellectual theft. But has it made it any less immoral or illegal? Nope.

In the end, Howe’s updated reposting of his entry saved this poor schlep the moral question of what he ought to do and enabled him the ultimate dodge on the central issue. But it didn’t save him from exposure as a moral failure. All he had to do, really, was say, “Oh. OK. I’ll ask Howe by email/phone. Be right back.” That wouldn’t have been that hard.

But no, that is not how it is with “godly men in authority.” They are godly, so their rule is law. They can’t be troubled to make sure they’re doing right, or to look up things like “public domain”. Everyone else can take the rule of law and stick it somewhere dark and comfy when they’re busy with their work for the Kingdumb. Shut up, you idiot, I'm preaching the Word of God.

If you ever wonder why I’m so insistent on making an issue of authoritarian bullies – look no further. They’ll help kill the church in America faster than even John Loftus can.


Update: Hours after this post, Rogers professed to have in hand the permission I requested to reprint. Notably, he very carefully failed to indicate that he only got this permission AFTER being called down for his moral failures.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tekton Tenure, Oct-Dec 2003

It's time for a look at what's up with our past opponents, this time from the last quarter of 2003.

Mike Ledo continues to be active in the Atlanta area and is still publishing nutty books. He's not short on egomania either, as this description of his latest book shows:

This is a landmark book that will change forever how the scholarly community views the Bible, history, and myth. In spite of what appears to be a New Age title, this book is built upon scholarship. There are three major tenets to this book.

1)The current notion of Wellhausen’s document hypothesis and the unified text theory are both wrong. The Bible was constructed as a “living” document using the same identical techniques already known to us via Tigay’s work on Gilgamesh.

2)Knowing the techniques used to expand texts, one can do some deconstruction of the text in order to uncover the original or proto-Bible text. Why this has never been done I don’t know. It would be the logical net step to do once we discovered exactly how it was done to Gilgamesh.
When this is done what is left is an Middle Bronze Age text, about 1000 years older than what is currently believed by “accepted” scholars. This text dates to circa 1930 BCE..

3)This proto-text is a huge cosmic myth. It follows the constellations in a contiguous fashion leaving no doubt that this is indeed an ancient cosmic myth.

4)There are interesting corollaries to this also. The stories are not entirely fictional, nor were they intended to be. They combine history and myth. I have been able to positively identify Biblical characters with known historical figures and events including Moses, David and Solomon.

And even worse, he can't count, either.

Darwin Fish: Speaking of nuts, he's still around, and these days he has a blog called The Wrath of the Gods (!) where he highlights bad things like the air crash in Reno, or a child being run over in China, and posts them with Bible verses predicting God's judgment. I guess that's the sort of thing that entertains small minds.

Kevin Graham: My friend Kevin, who used to be Mormon, has long since abandoned that faith after a public tussle with leading Mormon apologists over the Book of Abraham, and last I heard is in a sort of spiritual limbo. I suspect he's more concerned with spending time with his family these days.

Tracy VanWyngaarden: This hyperpeterist's work still gets cited, but as far as I can find, he has written nothing new since 2002 and the article I critiqued by him.

PTET: This nuisance is still around; he has a blog (though last updated May 2011, and rarely used at that). He seemed to run in spurts before and I'd guess he still does.

Liberated Christians: These free-sex loonies still have their site but haven't updated it since 2007.

And that's it for 2003.

Friday, December 9, 2011

How You Should Use the Internet

This week's been busier than I'd like, but it ended up with two object lessons we can use for today's entry.

Case #1: We're happy owners of a Prius -- one of those nifty gas-electric hybrids. After 2 1/3 years and 88000 miles, we'd had no serious trouble with it until this week, when we went out to find it essentially "dead" -- the electronics would not respond, and the car could not be started.

Until we waited about 30-60 seconds. Then the car would resurrect itself, and we could be on our way.

It's not Easter Sunday, so this was obviously some sort of electrical problem. I brought it to the mechanic, who had a hard time figuring it out. To aid the process, I put my search skills to work looking for similar problems with a Prius by other owners. I also signed on to a Prius owners' forum and related the story (in an area reserved for such stories).

I found one account that seemed close to what had happened, I shared it with the service adviser, who carefully and intently read it. However, based on the evidence, he said it wasn't quite a match. The quest continued as other owners made their own suggestions and I related them to the service adviser. They were able to eliminate each suggestion.

In the end, by process of elimination, the problem was discovered and fixed. The solution hadn't matched anything I found online, but now there's a record of the problem and the solution -- a short in the Prius' 12V starter battery (not the large hybrid battery) which required it to be replaced. From here on, the story is available for any other owner with the same problem to find.

Case #2: Last month, readers may recall I had a personal encounter with a kidney stone -- my third in 7 years. Unfortunately, unlike the last two, this one doesn't seem to want to follow Elvis out of the building. It's been stuck for the last 4 weeks at a place called the uterovesical junction (you can look that up if you're morbidly curious). It's causing no pain or discomfort, but it's apparently not a good idea to leave it there. Unfortunately, the only option other than waiting it out is a rather unpleasant surgery.

In coordination with my doctor, a Tekton reader who is a doctor, and my own online research, I've sought out ways to get rid of it, in addition to prescribed medication and exercise (which so far hasn't done the job). Someone along the way recommended a herbal remedy -- marshmallow root tea. I conferred with my Tekton reader and did online research, but found only anecdotal evidence; thus far there have been no scientific studies.

In the end, I found that the tea was cheap enough that I had nothing to lose by trying it. If it had been too expensive, I wouldn't have bothered, but since both anecdotes and my physician reader agree that it certainly can't hurt, and it's available for a low price -- why not?

And so the object lesson. These are two examples of how the Internet -- and personal experience -- are supposed to work: As a balanced network of sources, governed as needed by expert advice (eg, my service adviser and physicians). Not with one at the expense of the other. Not by just taking one or the other at their word and walking away down Wikipedia Lane as though that's the end of it.

One of the Christian goombas I've been tormenting lately is making one of those mistakes right now with respect to the issue of whether agonistic, collectivist peoples experience what we call conscience. In his little mind, because he finds such a notion hard to believe, it must not be true; it's outside his experience, which is enough for him. Never mind the experience of "native witnesses" who affirm that it is true. Never mind the scholars who say it is true (dahhh, they must have an agenda or something!). His experience says no, and that's the end of it. (Kind of reminiscent of Hume, isn't it?)

On the other hand, you're also not supposed to grab whatever pops up first on the Internet and assume that someone there knows the heck what they're talking about. This week I was advising a reader who was concerned about some material on Yahoo Answers -- a reader response tool which rates in my mind as only slightly less offensive than Wikipedia, if only because so few people use it, comparativeyt speaking. As I asked the reader, why give any credence to a rant by some user of unknown qualifications when he says that the Gospels are anonymous -- and that's the extent of their "argument"?

Some people think that the Internet gives us a chance to buck authority and thereby open minds, so that we need not be in thrall to experts like physicians and mechanics or even Biblical scholars. But in reality, they've just traded one authority for another -- themselves, and other equally ignorant people. If they're lucky their angry defiance of authority won't end up doing more harm than good. If they've extremely lucky they might learn something their particular expert didn't know -- but which another one did.

Either way, the supreme error would be to assume that a "5 second Google search," as one atheist put it, is enough to find the truth that will set you free. And that's the sermon for today.