Is It safe for Marathon Man? Not when Fr Horan’s around…

The BBC carries a piece on Cornelius Horan (also known as Neil Horan), the religious protestor who managed to wreck the Olympic marathon:

Horan, who pushed Brazil’s Vanderlei De Lima off the road, told police it was to “prepare for the second coming”.

Opinions about Horan, who invaded the British Grand Prix last year, are divided. According the Greek authorities:

Police said Horan had mental problems, adding he was “not very well”.

But Horan’s e-publisher at Deunant Books had a different perspective:

He comes across as a shy, very intelligent and compassionate man but as is often the way with people who are very intelligent, it sometimes manifests itself in very strange ways.”

After the Grand Prix protest, Broad had refused calls to withdraw Horan’s books, arguing in the Wales Daily Post that:

“These books are too important to pull. I found them compelling and I’m not just saying that. It really surprised me.

“Father Horan has a very compelling argument in these books that Armageddon is just around the corner and it’s going to start with an imminent nuclear war in the Middle East. The books are entitled A Glorious New World and Christ Will Soon Take Power From All Governments.

The Irish Kingdom fills in some background:

Following his studies at St Brendan’s College, Killarney and St Peter’s College in Wexford, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Eamonn Casey on June 17, 1973 in St Mary’s Cathedral in Killarney. The following year he took an interest in a movement known as the Apostolic Fellowship of Christ and resigned from the priesthood but he rejoined in 1980…

He was ordered by his superiors to have psychiatric treatment, in Killarney and in Harley Street, and he was later sacked for using his sermons to “advance his sensationalist views”.

Further details (although not quite consistent with the above) are available from Deunant Books:

His interest in Bible prophecy began when he attended a lecture in 1974, given by the Apostolic Fellowship of Christ, a group which had originated with the Christadelphians…He is still a Catholic Priest, listed in the Catholic Directory under his full name of Cornelius Horan. Cornelius, a Centurian in the Roman army, was the first Christian convert; Father Horan is proud to bear that name and hopes to meet his famous namesake soon, when Jesus comes.

The Kingdom has covered Horan for a while:

We have reported faithfully on his one-man crusade for world peace, his peace dance at the House of Commons, his correspondence with world leaders and his heartfelt belief that the end of the world, as we know it, is fast approaching and will be replaced by “a glorious new world”. Fr Horan’s publicity campaign has stemmed from a genuine belief that the end is nigh and, dear reader, who are we to dispute his stance or dismiss his predictions? His decision to race onto the track at Silverstone while the British Grand Prix was in full flight was the act of a man desperate to get his point across and it confirmed that he was willing to risk his own life be true to his convictions.

Horan has also gained the attention of Robert Fisk at the UK Independent (see here for a reposted version) who told us in 2001 that:

Of all the mail that arrives in Beirut for me, none is more singular, more crammed with biblical quotation, more bizarre than the packet that regularly arrives from a certain Father Neil Horan of Nunhead…he has a stack of letters from the great and the good from Tony Blair to the Royal Thai embassy, from Lord Tebbit to the Israeli chairman of “the International Forum for a United Jerusalem” expressing appreciation to him for sending his predictions, without apparently realising that one of them is the arrival of Jesus Christ as Commander-in-Chief of the Israeli army.

Various responses are reprinted. Here’s the one from Tebbit (a sort of British Jesse Helms from the Thatcher years):

“Dear Father Horan,” he writes in May of this year in response to a letter from the priest about religion and the EU. “Alas, the only religion supported by the European Union is the religion of centralised undemocratic power.”

UPDATE: Father Horan has been acquitted of a sexual abuse charge.

Homeland Security Takes Charge of American Academia

A possible scalp has been gained for the new McCarthyites, as Swiss Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan is refused a visa to teach at Notre Dame under the Patriot Act. The Chicago Sun-Times:

Kelly Shannon, a spokeswoman for the State Department’s consular affairs section, said Monday that Ramadan initially received a visa after being cleared by Homeland Security. But Homeland Security later reversed its decision, ordering the State Department to revoke the visa.

According to Ramadan’s supporters:

“Professor Ramadan is a distinguished scholar and a voice for moderation in the Muslim world,” the university said. “We know of no reason his entry should be prevented.”…

Notre Dame officials felt Ramadan’s perspective would be valuable to the conversation in the U.S. about Islam. Departing from traditional Islamic thinking, Ramadan has written that there are multiple interpretations of the Koran and that Muslims should engage in ijtihad, a perpetual process of interpreting the holy texts of Islam so that the faith evolves and is compatible with modern times…

“At the heart of it, people refuse to distinguish moderate Muslims from extremists,” said [John] Esposito, who describes Ramadan as “an established academic… with a strong record.”…

[Scott Appleby, director of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute:] “unsubstantiated charges intended to defame a Muslim intellectual is troublingly reminiscent of some of the darkest moments in U.S history.”

The Sun-Times assesses the problem:

It is Ramadan’s pedigree, rather than his writings, that has particularly exposed him to criticism. His grandfather is Hassan al-Banna, who in 1928 founded the Muslim Brotherhood, a conservative religious and political organization that has influenced Islamic groups and movements across the world…Some Jewish groups in France have called Ramadan an anti-Semite, and pro-Israel activists in the United States have contended he is connected to Al Qaeda. However, investigations in other countries have never substantiated links between Ramadan and Al Qaeda.

Then, the inevitable appearance of Daniel Pipes:

“I worry that he is engaged in a complex game of appearing as a moderate but has connections to Al Qaeda,” said Pipes, who said he read about those connections in the French media.

After all, just look at Ramadan’s reign of terror in Switzerland…

Graham Fuller, former vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA, believes that lobbies such as Pipes’s “Campus Watch” are behind the decision:

“They succeed by presenting this as a security matter. There is no way Homeland Security would initiate this on its own,” said Fuller, who is an expert on political Islam.

Ramadan has been the subject of several profiles over the past few years, in Time, Salon, and Open Democracy. Even Pipes himself has given one of Ramadan’s books a positive review. The only controversy with any substance to it concerns comments Ramadan made in 2003, reported as an attack on French Jewish intellectuals. I was unable to find Ramadan’s original comments, but Open Democracy provides the most context:

In 2003, he activated a waterfall of accusation from French thinkers after pointed accusations that their pro–war sentiments over Iraq served “Israeli interests”. He had charged that their selection of France’s Muslim community for a special warning to society as a whole revealed that their claim to a secular, universalist outlook had been abandoned in favour of a particularist loyalty.

But was his selection of prominent targets – Pierre–Andre Taguieff, Alain Finkielkraut, Alexandre Adler, Bernard–Henry Levi [sic], Andre Glucksmann, Pascal Bruckner, Bernard Kouchner – designed to insinuate that the real problem was that most were of Jewish origin?

Is that it? In argument against apologists for Israel and critics of French Muslims (and Ramadan himself apparently holds moderate views on Israel), Ramadan gave as good as he got but because most of those with whom he disagreed are Jewish he must be anti-Semitic. Never mind that that the figures named by Ramadan may indeed have put a “particularist loyalty” first – I tend to find most people, Jewish or not, do, as it happens.

Ramadan’s visa refusal comes just a few weeks after completely uncontroversial Finnish theologian Veli-Matti Karkkainen was denied a visa for teaching at Fuller on the grounds that Fuller is inter-denominational.

UPDATE (9 September): More on Ramadan today.

US Christians Tax Each Other

It’s always nice to see Christians visiting each other’s churches. This kind of ecumenism provides a chance for Christians to get to learn about other Christian traditions and perspectives, and to, er…report each other to the IRS.

Liberal Christians started it last month, as the Kansas City Star reported:

the Mainstream Coalition, whose members include moderates from the political and religious fields, will send undercover volunteers to worship services this month.

Conservative Christians, however, were not happy about this unexpected chance to evangelise their errant liberal brethren:

A group of pastors Thursday lashed out at the Mainstream Coalition over its plan to monitor Johnson County church services for potentially improper political activity.

“We are alarmed at such scare tactics,” the group, called Ad Hoc Pastors for Biblical Values, said in a written statement. “These are the methods of coercive rulers. There is no place for this type of intimidation by ‘secret police’ in our land.”

But now, following Jesus’ famous advice to do unto others as they have done unto you, conservative Christians in Virginia are returning the compliment, as the Fredricksburg Free Lance-Star explains:

[The Religious Freedom Action Coalition] has created Big Brother Church Watch, a group that targets so-called “liberal churches” such as the Metropolitan Community Churches, Unitarian Universalist Fellowships and African Methodist Episcopal churches.

If they find any indications of endorsement or objection to a political candidate, the group has said it will report that church to the IRS, which could revoke its tax-exempt status.

The church watchdog group was created several weeks ago in response to a IRS complaint filed last month by the Americans United for Separation of Church and State against the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

The Religious Freedom Action Coalition (founded by Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s evangelist son William J Murray) actually opposes the restrictions on tax-exempt speech, but according to its ratoutachurch.org site (which features a picture of an evil-looking rat behind a pulpit endorsing John Kerry):

Our immediate purpose is to fight back against vicious left-wing attempts to silence conservative, Bible believing pastors. Every election year, liberal groups have a field day intimidating and harassing conservative pastors into silence, while liberal pastors bring in their favorite politicians and shamelessly campaign for them with impunity. This unequal treatment needs to stop!

There’s even a handy form for informers, under the banner “Ending Radical Left-Wing Politics in the Pulpit”. Although of course they don’t really mean that, since in fact they are supposedly against “government interference” in any church.

This site provides some interesting background to the IRS regulations, which date from only 1954.

Jesus Healed a Woman with Three Breasts

…is only the most striking video on offer from Gilbert Deya Ministries (although there is serious competition: Ambassador Carrying a Snake in his Belly Delivered in Jesus’ Name and (Witchcraft) 14 Year Missing Baby Born in the Womb (The Mother is 51 Years Old) are among others). Archbishop Deya, of Kenyan origins, heads a 36,000-member network of Pentecostal churches in the U.K. and other countries from his base in New Cross, south London. He claims that God has empowered him to heal HIV and other diseases, and that through his ministry God has supernaturally solved the visa problems of African immigrants. He also spends a lot of time battling witches and witchcraft, as revealed in his video The Walls of Jericho Came Tumbling Down and Killed the Witches. He explains:

With my experience of witches who killed my brother Wilson in 1979, I know how dangerous they are. They can destroy families and wipe out generations. Many people have suffered because their ignorance of witches and witchcraft. The witches have been destroying some Christians, destroying their marriages, jobs, peace in the family and killing people with incurable diseases.

However, Deya has an even more dramatic  claim that has caught the attention of BBC Radio 4’s Face the Facts (Also, read BBC news stories here and here), and now other media. While Deya’s website claims that members of his church will have any fertility problems solved, the PA carries further details:

[Deya] told the [BBC] programme: “The ‘miracle babies’ which are happening now in our ministry is beyond a human imagination. It’s not something that I can say I can explain because they are of God and things of God cannot be explained by human beings.”

His wife Mary describes the children as a “holy ghost baby” that “came through prayer, that was why the doctor could not find” them.

Archbishop Deya claims to have helped post menopausal women give birth – including a 56 year-old who has had 13 “miracle” babies in three years.

This is the way it works:

Archbishop Gilbert Deya, pronounces the women worshippers as pregnant “by Jesus”, according to the BBC Radio 4’s Face the Facts investigation.

They then travel to Archbishop Deya’s Kenyan homeland where they apparently give birth to babies within days in backstreet clinics in the slums of Nairobi.

But there is a problem:

British authorities have already taken one of these so called “miracle” babies into care after tests revealed its DNA did not match either of its supposed parents. Later its Kenyan birth certificate was found to be a forgery, according to the programme.

This incident is reported on the BBC radio programme, although the BBC website news rather notes the actions of the Kenyan authorities:

The issue has come to a head because Kenyan authorities prevented a so called “miracle baby” from being allowed to leave for Britain, until DNA tests were carried out to establish its true parentage.

Deya’s internet profile is quite low. He is featured on a couple of televangelism sites alongside Benny Hinn and other usual suspects, but doesn’t appear to have interacted with any of them. How he acquired his “Archbishop” title is also mysterious, although one reference links him to the Toronto Blessing:

The renewal has touched both South and East Africa. In November [1994?] Richard Riss attended a renewal conference in Nairobi as a ministry team member along with Dr. A. L. Gill of California.

Riss recounts laughter, drunkenness in the Spirit, and “a tremendous number of healings” first occurred as Gill led a meeting. The most dramatic healings, however, were under the ministry of Archbishop Gilbert Deya, head of the United Evangelical Churches of Kenya.

Deya’s ministry has been a catalyst for both denominational and tribal unity. Deya will finance similar renewal conferences in June to Uganda, and in November to Kenya.

The “United Evangelical Churches of Kenya” has no other internet presence I could find. In 2000 Premier Christian radio, which operates in the U.K., declined to renew Deya’s slot on the station (see here, page 28). In 2002 he won a Gathering of Africa’s Best award. According to the radio programme, Deya is a former stonemason, and his wife Mary is the mother of fifteen, although British hospitals had been unable to detect her pregnancies…

(Link to PA article via The Anomalist)

UPDATE (31 Aug): The Religion News Blog is carrying lots more on Deya, culled from African newspapers. This includes one “miracle baby” recognising his real parents and Deya’s cursing of the Kenyan government.

Kinsella: Maths Proves Bible Prophecy

It’s been a slow week for the blog. There are plenty of interesting religion stories out there, but none that have given me the scent of the hunt. So instead I’ve been trawling the writings of various religious writers on the net, looking for something to comment on. Funnily, I very quickly found a new contribution from Jack Kinsella, Hal Lindsey’s Wormtongue. No doubt Pete and/or SZ will soon have their commentary for the latest Hal Lindsey Oracle Cartoon; meanwhile, I’ve been looking over Kinsella’s official commentary, which consists of some serious numerology proving God restored the Jews to Israel in 1948.

First, the historical background:

Babylon was later conquered by Cyrus in 539 BC. Cyrus allowed the Jews to leave Babylon and to return to their homeland. But, only a small number returned. The return had taken place sometime around 536 BC, 70 years after Judah lost independence to Babylon as Jeremiah predicted.

This “sometime around” seems to undermine the scientific precision of his later mathematical proof. Why not choose 538, the year of the edict of Cyrus? Or 537, the foundation of the Second Temple? But let’s move on to theology:

Because most of the exiles chose to stay in pagan Babylon rather than return to the Holy Land, the remaining 360 years of their punishment was multiplied by 7. The reason is explained in Bible’s book of Leviticus. (Leviticus 26:18, 26:21, 26:24 and 26:28). In Leviticus, it says that if the people did not repent while being punished, the punishment would be multiplied by 7. And, by staying in pagan Babylon, most exiles were refusing to repent.

Yes, don’t those Jews realise they’re not supposed to live anywhere except Israel? You’d think all those anti-Semites would have managed to get the hint across by now. Unfortunately, Kinsella doesn’t give us any Biblical reference for God declaring that those Jews who failed to join Ezra’s theocracy would be punished seven times over: it’s just something he knows God must have decreed. Skinsella’s “remaining 360 years” is derived from adding up punishments given to Israel (390 years) and Judah (40 years) in Ezekiel chapter four and subtracting 70 (although he fails to spell it out properly).

But I fear there are some problems: the punishments are separate, and for two different groups of people – why should they added? Plus, the mysterious 390-year punishment was given to the Israelites of the Northern Kingdom, not to Judah anyway, so would not apply to any of the Babylonian exiles. Another problem is the rather strange take on the curses of Leviticus 26. There, God multiplies horror on horror, and we only get to exile at 7x7x7x7 (after wild animal attacks, plague and cannibalism). There’s no mention of any “seven times over” after that, and even if there were God seems to prefer inflicting new torments rather than merely extending one already given.

I’m also rather confused over how this punishment fits in with the whole Second Temple period. Since the Jews were being given the chance to return in 536, in what sense was a “remaining 360 years” of punishment still underway? Was the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE a punishment for this lack of repentance in “sometime around” 536 BCE? But surely the events of 70 CE and after only affected the descendants of Jews who had followed God’s command to return, not the others? And why did God wait 600 years? But these are deep questions. Let’s move on to the maths:

So, if you take the remaining 360 years of punishment and multiply by 7, you get 2,520 years. That is 2,520 Jewish lunar years. 2,520 years x the 360-day lunar calendar works out to 907,200 days. Divide that by 365 and you come up with 2485.479 years.

But what about the intercalendary months in the lunar system and the leap years in the other? Although the Bible appears to use a symbolic 360-day calendar in certain passages, the lunar calendar actually used by Jews evens out at 365 days a year over 19 years. This is important because of his punchline:

2,485.479 years from 536 BC brings us to the end of the first quarter of the year 1949 — exactly one year AFTER Israel’s restoration in 1948. But 1 BC and 1 AD were the SAME year, so the ACTUAL date on our calendar that Ezekiel predicted the restoration of Israel corresponds to late spring, 1948!

But that’s not ACTUALLY true. However, sometimes someone says something so weird and outrageous that you wonder whether it must be true despite all you know, so I went to the trouble of digging out an essay by L. E. Doggett in  Explanatory Supplement to the Astronomical Almanac, edited by Kenneth Seidelmann (University Science Books, Sausalito, CA):

Given an initial epoch [A.D.], one must consider how to record preceding dates. Bede, the eighth-century English historian, began the practice of counting years backward from A.D. 1 (see Colgrave and Mynors, 1969). In this system, the year A.D. 1 is preceded by the year 1 B.C., without an intervening year 0.

But there’s more. Kinsella has merely ripped off the whole theory (more or less) from Grant R Jeffrey. Perhaps Kinsella gives Jeffrey credit in his Omega Newsletter (from where the cartoon commentary is reposted), but I suspect more likely that Kinsella is a plagiarist. Anyway, Jeffrey himself boasts that:

Several years ago I discovered that God had hidden in the pages of Scripture a precise prophecy about the exact time when He would miraculously restore His chosen people to their ancient Holy Land…The interpretation of Ezekiel’s prediction about the time of Israel’s rebirth appeared in my book Armageddon – Appointment with Destiny in 1988. Despite the fact that over five hundred thousand people have read this material in various editions and languages of Armageddon, no one has been able to refute the accuracy of this incredible biblical prophecy that was given to the prophet Ezekiel when he was taken captive to Babylon twenty-five centuries ago.

Well, I think I’ve made a decent effort. However, a rather more in-depth rebuttal, and done with more panache, was posted a few years ago by Farrell Till. It can be read here, with part two here.

Last week, Kinsella pondered John Kerry’s nomination speech, and concluded: “When it was over, it occurred to me that the phrase, ‘My name is John Kerry’ was the only true statement contained in it.” What was that in the Bible about motes and beams?

Diamond Geezers

WorldNetDaily is (again) triumphant:

United Nations prosecutors confirm al-Qaida has been deeply involved in the African diamond business since before Sept. 11, 2001, confirming a report last year broken by Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin, the premium, online intelligence newsletter published by WND.

A series of witnesses place six top al-Qaida fugitives in Africa buying up diamonds in the run-up to the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a confidential report by U.N.-backed prosecutors obtained by the Associated Press.

WorldNetDaily is clearly well ahead of the game, and its “report last year broken” came only a year (at least) after the story was all over the mainstream press, thanks particularly to the investigations of Douglas Farah (no apparent relation) in The Washington Post. In 2002 Douglas Farah reported in the Post that:

ANTWERP, Belgium — An aggressive year-long European investigation into al Qaeda financing has found evidence that two West African governments hosted the senior terrorist operatives who oversaw a $20 million diamond-buying spree that effectively cornered the market on the region’s precious stones.

Investigators from several countries concluded that President Charles Taylor of Liberia received a $1 million payment for arranging to harbor the operatives, who were in the region for at least two months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon. The terrorists moved between a protected area in Liberia and the presidential compound in neighboring Burkina Faso, investigators say.

Even before the al-Qaeda link was discovered, another Post writer was questioning Taylor’s diamond-business links with another kind of religious extremist: Pat Robertson. Famously, Robertson contrasted the “Christian, Baptist” Taylor with his Muslim opponents in Liberia, totally ignoring Taylor’s appalling record. Funnily enough, WorldNetDaily has decided not to mention the former Liberian President or Robertson, preferring a more general discussion of the problem of “blood diamonds” in Africa.

Douglas Farah’s reaction to the 9/11 Commission’s dismissal of the diamond link can be read here (found via his website).

This is a second recent scoop for WND – only last month Joseph Farah’s radio show “broke” the news of Rev Moon’s coronation in a senate office building a mere two weeks after Bill Berkowitz had drawn attention to John Gorenfeld’s work of four months previously.

Meanwhile, Pete at the Dark Window notes the patriot Robertson’s shocking discovery that John Kerry has a French cousin.

Doctor Know-Nothing?

The Revealer logs a report in the Hindustan Times about Islamic militant doctors in the UK:

Some Muslim doctors are allegedly refusing to treat patients with sex diseases and Aids because they believe that such ailments are result of sinful behaviour and punishments from God…Such “militant” doctors are generally found in inner-city areas with large ethnic population, such as Leeds, Bradford and London. They pass such patients to other GPs. They are not identified because of the fear of action by the General Medical Council.

This comes just a few weeks after a report that some Christian doctors and pharmacists in the USA are refusing to dispense contraception. But even taking into account likely patient embarrassment, why has no-one at all apparently made a formal complaint? And why can’t the journalist muster even one anonymous anecdote from someone referred elsewhere by their GP? What we’re left with is an article (based on a previous Mail on Sunday piece, which I have been unable to see) very short on specifics. We get only two sourced facts in the whole story. First:

Dr Jafer Qureshi of Muslim Council has been cited in Sunday Mail saying that 600 of 30,000 students in medical schools, about a 10th of the Muslim intake believe sexual diseases are a punishment for immorality.

OK, but a) how does that figure compare with other religiously-minded medical students; and b) how many of that 10% will allow that belief to affect their treatment of victims?

The second:

Dr Abu Osama of the Society of Muslim Doctors refused to condemn medics who refuse to treat sex ailments. He said Muslim doctors believed that the Quran over-rode any other law and order.

But who is he? The Society of Muslim Doctors does not have any web presence that I could find, and the only references I could find link it to Al-Muhajiroun, an extreme and buffoonish fundamentalist organisation with no standing among the vast majority of Muslims whatsoever. Why contact such a crackpot and obscure outfit when there is the rather more mainstream Muslim Doctors and Dentists Association?

he article also alleges that

Some students from the community are also refusing to accept the theory of evolution or to studying abortion, euthanasia or fertility procedures…The situation regarding Muslim medical students has become so serious that a senior professor at a leading medical school in London was prompted to contact the Sunday Mail [he means The Mail on Sunday] with a “dossier of complaints”. He is alleged to have said that everyone knows such a situation but the lecturers are scared to speak out. They would be accused of violating political correctness.

Accused by whom? Is it really the case that Muslim fundamentalists are qualifying as doctors without doing the work and that a “senior professor” has no other recourse than to contact anonymously a tabloid newspaper? That would be rather astonishing. And, we might ask by way of contrast, how do Christian medical students handle studying abortion and euthanasia? (and as euthanasia is illegal, is that really a subject studied?)

The above may indeed all be true (although a representative of the Muslim Association of Britain dismisses the GP-refusing-to-treat-patients story as “absurd” in today’s Guardian). But would it be too much to ask for actual case studies, ideally with names and dates? And some contextualisation?

Hal Lindsey’s Sidekick: Kerry only “sort of” Kerry – Really Kohn

Say, you know how Christian Zionists go on about how they love Israel and the Jews? OK, often in practice that means only some Jews – actual Israelis who want peace rather than an apocalyptic war and Jews who have no wish to live in Israel both get short shrift – but I was rather surprised to read this item by Jack Kinsella, Hal Lindsey’s sidekick, and brought to my attention by Pete at The Dark Window:

John Kerry’s acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination for President opened with Kerry delivering a passable military salute to his audience, saying, “My name is John Kerry, and I am reporting for duty.”

He then launched into his speech. When it was over, it occurred to me that the phrase, “My name is John Kerry” was the only true statement contained in it. (Sort of. Kerry’s grandfather, Fritz Kohn, had his name legally changed to ‘Frederick Kerry’ in Vienna in 1902)

So Kerry was only “sort of” telling the truth about his name, because really he’s “Kohn”. How sinister! At least, if you’re an anti-Semite.

Pete also notes this baffling coda:

I have seen the enemy, and it is Skerry.

Que?

Maybe Skinsella is just following up on Jerry Falwell’s famous prophecy:

Who will the Antichrist be? I don’t know. Nobody else knows…Is he alive and here today? Probably. Because when he appears during the Tribulation period he will be a full-grown counterfeit of Christ. Of course he’ll be Jewish. Of course he’ll pretend to be Christ. And if in fact the Lord is coming soon, and he’ll be an adult at the presentation of himself, he must be alive somewhere today.

Or perhaps he was inspired by the great Billy Graham:

This stranglehold has got to be broken or the country’s going down the drain…A lot of the Jews are great friends of mine. They swarm around me and are friendly to me. Because they know I am friendly to Israel and so forth. They don’t know how I really feel about what they’re doing to this country.

But it is still really very odd. I suppose more likely Skinsella is just trying to captialise on a bit of anti-Europeanism, hoping to harm Kerry with the suggestion that any American with an Anglicised name is only “sort of” truthful about their identity. However, that still makes him a bigoted idiot demagogue.

WorldNetDaily does Light Fantastic

Creationist Barry Setterfield is the subject of a new puff piece in WorldNetDaily by Chris Bennett. Apparently, some physicists have been questioning the constancy of the speed of light, something Setterfield was doing years ago! Of course, if the speed of light can be shown to have slowed down over the years

it raises the distinct possibility that scientific validation exists for a (gasp) literal interpretation of the seminal passages of Genesis. Goodbye Scopes trial.

fter comparing measurements for the speed of light in previous centuries, Setterfield and statistician Trevor Norman concluded:

the speed of light was discernibly higher 100 years ago, and as much as 7 percent higher in the 1700s. Dr. Norman confirmed that the measurements were statistically significant with a confidence of more than 99 percent.

Setterfield and Norman published their results at SRI [Stanford Research Institute] in July 1987 after extensive peer review…Setterfield believes that the speed of light was initially about 10 to the 10th power faster than it is today. After the creation of the universe, light speed declined following a curve approximating the curve of the cosecant squared. He believes that light speed reached a point where it is asymptotic since the mid 1960s.

Now that other scientists are questioning the speed of light, Setterfield has referred to them on his website, and it is through his interpretation of these other scientists that the lazy and/or credulous Bennett comes to them:

Within the last 24 months, Dr. Joao Magueijo, a physicist at Imperial College in London, Dr. John Barrow of Cambridge, Dr. Andy Albrecht of the University of California at Davis and Dr. John Moffat of the University of Toronto have all published work advocating their belief that light speed was much higher – as much as 10 to the 10th power faster – in the early stages of the “Big Bang” than it is today. (It’s important to note that none of these researchers have expressed any bias toward a predetermined answer, biblical or otherwise. If anything, they are antagonistic toward a biblical worldview.)… Dr. William Tifft, now retired from the University of Arizona, measured and recorded red-shift data for over 20 years. Dr. Tifft found that the red-shift data were not random at all, but grouped into quantum bands.

Bennett then goes on to allege an academic conspiracy by the godless to suppress the research:

Dr. Joao Magueijo was forced to wait for over a year between submission of his initial work on varying light speed and publication. Setterfield, Dr. Tifft, Dr. Paul Davis [not mentioned elsewhere in Bennett’s article, and he means “Dr Paul Davies”], Dr. John Barrow and others have been subjected to peer review which borders on ridicule.

Of course, this is typical Creationist strategy: wait for proper scientists to open a debate, announce that this debate shows that the mainstream position is just so much dogma, and offer Creationism as the solution despite the fact that none of the qualified participants in the debate have any use for the pseudo-scientific arguments put forward by the Creationists. Here are some other media reports (not being a scientist, I haven’t attempted to chase down the actual papers) on the topic, by way of contrast. First, CBS:

A team of Australian scientists has proposed that the speed of light may not be a constant, a revolutionary idea that could unseat one of the most cherished laws of modern physics — Einstein’s theory of relativity.

The team, led by theoretical physicist Paul Davies of Sydney’s Macquarie University, say it is possible that the speed of light has slowed over billions of years.

Now, Spacedaily:

In the early 1990s Moffat proposed a radical alternative theory: that the speed of light was faster closer to the time of the big bang. His early calculations suggested that light travelled as much as 1,030 times faster than its present value (186,000 miles per second) just following the explosive beginning of the universe…

Last month theoretical astrophysicist Joao Maguelijo of Imperial College London published Faster than the Speed of Light, a new book describing his theories on a variable speed of light and acknowledging Moffat’s groundbreaking work.

In August 2002 the journal Nature published a paper by Paul Davies from the Australian Centre for Astrobiology, a followup on other papers based on Moffat’s theory.

Further, Moffat does not seem to share Bennett’s view that dogmatic scientists have tried to suppress him:

“The physics community is a very conservative community, and so it should be,” says Moffat. “This is not a trivial matter. You don’t just go around changing paradigms in science willy-nilly.”

Finally, the New Scientist (which Bennett does link to, although he shows no evidence of having read):

It was [Victor] Flambaum, along with John Webb and colleagues, who first seriously challenged alpha’s status as a constant in 1998. Then, after exhaustively analysing how the light from distant quasars was absorbed by intervening gas clouds, they claimed in 2001 that alpha had increased by a few parts in 105 in the past 12 billion years…John Barrow, who has pioneered varying-alpha theories at the University of Cambridge, says that the latest Oklo result does not favour any of the current theories. “You would expect alpha to stop [changing] five to six billion years ago,” he says.

In other words, there is absolutely nothing in the recent research to support the idea that it is time to say “Goodbye Scopes trial”, although there is plenty of evidence that Setterfield is a naked opportunist and WorldNetDaily has very low journalistic and intellectual standards.

But who is Setterfield? Gondwanaresearch.com gives some background:

Barry Setterfield is a young earth creationist who has updated the ‘created with the appearance of age’ argument using something called ‘speed of light decay’. The argument is that all atomic clocks make the earth look ‘old’ because of a slowing down of c since creation. The claim that the speed of light has changed through time allows him to overcome the classic argument against appearance of age. Barry would argue that, yes, the rocks are dated correctly using radiometric dating, but that the decay rates varied with the variance of c (i.e. they would slow down as well). Thus, the young earth does have the appearance of great age, but does not require a deceptive God because he left evidence for the slowing of c. The ‘evidence’ for speed of light decay was contrived by Trevor Norman and Barry Setterfield and ‘published’ in 1987. The ‘publication’ was basically an internal memo of the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). The memo was put in place by another creationist (then at SRI) in order to then advertise the memo as a ‘real scientific’ publication.  Basically, the initial model used historic measurements of light speed as support for the claim that the speed of light has decayed. This ‘research’ has been debunked by a number of people including a reasonable summary at Talk.Origins. Nevertheless, Barry has continued to make the claim that c-decay is real and is currently trying to publish this in mainstream physics journals.

The Australian Setterfield is not just a scientist, however. He’s also a poet, with a delightful gift for doggerel:

Look at Mankind’s grand achievements,
As this epoch draws its veil.
Radio, aircraft, motor transport;
Yet the violent hordes prevail.
Television brings us pictures;
Satellites beam round the Earth;
Spacecraft probe our Solar System;
Science brought the Bomb to birth.

“World Peace”, cry negotiators;
UN power Saddam erodes;
Wye Agreements carve up Israel;
Hamas terror still explodes…