Obama’s apostasy

It is unusual for me to write about the US presidential race, because, frankly, it is a bit overdone.  We are inundated with the minutest details and the wildest speculations over and over, whether we care or not.

Yet, there is one very important speculation that I have never heard voiced.  Perhaps it is my own fault for shutting out so much of the detail, and it has been covered and dealt with.  If that is the case, then I beg your forgiveness.  But, if it has not been addressed, then I would humbly request that people give this some sober, realistic consideration.

Different people – and nation states – react very differently to identical ‘facts’.  Mundane example: I see a rabbit, I will think ‘pet’.  Another person looks at a rabbit, they may see ‘dinner’.  It would be unreasonable to expect the same reaction from both of us to being served a rabbit-burger.  The same is true of many, many things, not all of them mundane or witout deep impact.

Many supporters of Mr. Obama’s bid for the Democratic nomination, and ultimately the Presidency of the USA, say that he would be well received in the world, and enjoy much more credibililty than either Ms. Clinton or Mr. McCain.  While his lack of experience and specific policies he suggested may have come under attack, his supporters maintain that his multicultural outlook would be great assets giving him (an by extension, the USA) great credibility, especially in Africa.

But are we not overlooking one extremely important point?  Mr. Obama is an apostate to Islam – and much of the Muslim world, including in Africa, consider this to be very bad thing indeed.

This has less to do with the views of Mr. Obama himself.  It does not concern anything a preacher he’d listened to may or may not believe.  All it has to do with is the fact that as a child and young man, Mr. Obama was a Muslim, and now he is not.  He does not deny that – nor has he ever tried to.  By definition, this makes him an Apostate.

The very fact that he has converted from Islam to another faith may make it impossible for many fundamentally Islamic nation-states to accept him.  After all, rightly or wrongly, many of them do interpret The Qur’an, specifically Sura (chapter) 4, verses 89-92: “If they turn away [convert away from Islam], then sieze them and kill them wherever you find them;…”. 

Also, many Muslims use several books in addition to the Qur’an.  These are not given the central importance that Qur’an is, but because they contain the collected sayings of the Prophet Muhammad and strories of his life, these are often used as a guide according to which the Qur’an is supposed to be interpreted.  One of these is often quoted as to the proper interpretation of the above verse: ‘Bukhari’ 4.52.260 – “The Prophet said, ‘If a Muslim discards his religion, kill him.’

In 2006, a man was sentenced to death in Afghanistan for having converted from Islam to Christianity.  This was well after the Taliban were out of power, but even the moderates in Afghanistan did not understand why people in ‘The West’ were upset by this.  Most of us are familiar with the case of Lina Joy, and others like her.

In fact, four of the major Sunni as well as the major Shia schools of Islam all agree that a sane, adult male who converts away from Islam deserves the death penalty. 

I offer this as an entirely pragmatic consideration:  will some people be able to see Mr. Obama, the man, or will they only see an Apostate? 

How will they react if the USA elects an ‘Apostate President’? 

“say, doesn’t co2 kill plants??????”

While I have been taking a look at Aspergers, and describing some of my experiences and coping methods that worked for me, I have neglected a number of other very important topics. 

For example, I have promised to post on the topic of the climate.  And I promised that I would provide some solid information about why I hold the views I do.  Thus, I was preparing something on this. 

Alas, it is difficult to assess the information one is provided if one is not familiar with the underlying science behind the words.  More and more of what I have been reading from non-scientific (that is, MSM (main stream media) and many blogs, debating sites etc. – you know, all them places that have replaced the ‘watercooler chat’) has convinced me that before I can hope to provide useful information, it will be necessary to log in some explanations first.

As if to convince me that I ought to do this, in a coment on this post on a dime a dozen blog , somebody asked the following question: 

“say, doesn’t co2 kill plants??????”

I thought this question needed to be addressed, the sooner the better.  Here is my (somewhat expanded) answer:

No.  CO2 does NOT kill plants.  Nor is it pollution!  It is plant food, and what plants use to make food for us.

There are 2 basic ‘gas exchange’ processes that occur in plants:  breathing (respiration) and photosynthesis.

RESPIRATION

Why breathe?  What is the purposeENERGY!!! 

To carry out the process of living, all cells need energy.  That is why we – and plants – need to breathe 24 hours a day.  So how do we get energy by breathing in oxygen?

An oxygen molecule is made up of two oxygen atoms  (hence O2 – the 2 means the molecule is made up of 2 oxygen atoms).  These two atoms are held together by a ‘bond’ – breaking this bond releases energy.  But an oxygen atom by itself has a strong ‘need’ to bond to something (we rate it a level 2 need).  If left in this state, it would harm the surrounding cells (it is called a ‘free radical’). 

Organisms ‘solve’ the problem by taking a carbon atom (C) which has an even higher ‘need’ to bond (level 4).  Two oxygen atoms (with a ‘2’ each) are bonded to the one carbon atom (to add up to the carbon’s ‘4’).  (Yes, this is a major simplification – but the underlying principles are accurately described).  The resulting molecule is CO2 – or one carbon and two oxygen atoms.  All of its ‘needs’ for ‘bonds’ are met, so it is not harmful to the surrounding tissues.

Yes, it does require energy to bind the oxygen atoms to the carbon one.  However, because carbon has such a high ‘need’ for bonds, it takes less enegry to bind the oxygen atoms to it than was released by breaking the bonds between the two oxygen atoms.  In other words, when one breaks the molecular bonds between the two oxygen atoms in O2, then take a part of that energy and uses it to bind the two oxygen atoms to a carbon atom, one has some energy left over.  I stress again, this is a major simplification – there are many steps and other ‘bits’ (like glucose, which is where the carbon molecules for the reaction come from) are essential!!!  However, the underlying principle is correct.  If you would like to read more about this, here and here and here are good starting spots.

This energy difference is what cells use to carry out ‘living’.  We call this process aerobic respiration, both in plants and animals.  And though other molecules may be used in its place, oxygen is by far the most efficient one.  (Respiration in the absence of oxygen is called anaerobic respiration.)

PHOTOSYNTHESIS

During respiration, living cells get energy by breaking ‘bond’ betwen two oxygen atoms in an oxygen molecule (O2), and then use carbon atoms from glucose (simple sugar, made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms) molecules to stop the resulting oxygen atoms (free radicals) from harming the cell itself.  So, where does the glucose come from?

Glucose is produced by photosynthesis.

Plants have special organelles called chloroplasts.  These are specialized organelles (sub-section of a cell with a specialized function) in the plant cells which contain the green pigment chlorophyl.  Their function is to take IN carbon dioxide (CO2) form the air, and combine it with hydrous oxyde (H2O – water). 

The C (carbon) from the CO2 is combined with the OH group from H2O.  OK, I am simplifying again:  you need several molecules of CO2 and H2O to make it work, because the result of combining the carbons and oxygens and hydrogens together is the simple sugar, glucose:  and it has 6 carbon atoms in it. 

It is, in fact, pretty much the reverse of the chemical reaction during respiration.  But the reason for respiration is to release energy.  So, this process of photosynthesis needs energy from the outside to happen – and this is the reason why it occurs in the chloroplasts, which contain the green pigment chlorophyll, which is very good at absorbing light energy from the sun.  It then uses this energy to drive the chemical reaction of binding carbon atoms (from CO2 in the air) to water molecules to produce the simple carbohydrate, glucose.

This process is called photosynthesis because it uses the enegy from light (photo) to build (synthesise) glucose, a simple sugar.  Glucos molecules can, in turn, be joined up into long chains so they can be stored efficiently.  The end product, the carbohydrate chain, is called starch.

Plants can then use the stored up starch in order to breathe.  And animals, unable to make starch themselves, eat plants in order to get it.  Thus, energy from sun gets stored by plants (using carbon dioxide and water) as carbohydrates. The byproduct of this process in the oxygen molecule. Plants and animals use these carbohydrates and oxygen from the air to use this stored solar energy to ‘drive’ their cells.  The byproduct of this is carbon dioxide.  This is the basic energy cycle of our current lifeforms.

The more complex the plant, the more CO2 it requires to grow and thrive.  For example, the ‘Great Plains’ in the US used to be mostly covered by trees – until the carbon dioxide levels became too low to support them.  Then, they reverted to grassplains, because grass is a less complex plant and requires (and uses)less CO2 in the air.

If you love trees, as I do, you cannot but object to anything that will reduce the CO2 levels available for them to grow.  I am a self-admitted tree hugger – and a scientist.  I thought the ‘global warming’ thing sounded good when it was first proposed, so I have ‘looked into’ it (extensively – though this is NOT my field of expertise!!!  I do not wish to mislead!).  The evidence has convinced me that this is not dangerous.  To the contrary.  Incerases in CO2 levels are higly advantageous to lifeforms on Earth because historically, they raise food availability and are accompanied by greater species differentiation and increase in overall lifeforms supported.  And despite some claims, hard datea shows that we are nowhere near historically high levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

So, why the hype?

I don’t know.  In situations where things get as murky as this is, I like to use a very simple ‘rule of thumb’:  “cui bono?” 

Or, in other words, ‘Follow the money, honey!’ 

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Nature of ‘Faith’

In the last two posts, I looked at an alternate explanation of some statements in the Bible.  As the feedback showed, some Christians believe these statements literally, others figuratively.  And they are all happy holding onto their very different beliefs, even though all of them are inspired by the same passage in Genesis.   That is great!  

People ‘hold on’ to their ‘profound beliefs’, regardless of what others think of them or anything else – and I would not want it to be any other way.  This is called ‘faith’.  I have learned about this phenomenon.  I do not comprehend it, but I am ready to accept that some people are capable of it.

Yet, people often ‘hold on’ to ‘beliefs’ or ‘opinions’ on trivial or non-profound points which are demonstrably unsupportable.  I have tried, but I really don’t understand this aspect of human nature.  Personally, I have a hard time with this 100% one way, or 100% the other way mode of thought…..perhaps because I’m not ‘wired just right’…but I don’t think there is anything I’ve invested a 100%, non-conditional ‘belief’ in.

No, I’m not talking about everyday life things, like knowing I love my kids and so on….emotional investment is NOT what I am talking about.  Nor am I talking about the ‘ought to’ kind of belief, as in “I belive all humans ought to be treated as equals in the eyes of the law.”

I mean ‘factual’ stuff:  like physics, chemistry, history…that ‘stuff’…. and global warming, political implications, someone’s culpability in something, superstitions, trust in actual physical institutions …that ‘stuff’, too.  For example, when driving over a bridge, I am reasonably convinced that the probability that the bridge will collapse under me is so low as to be negligible – or I would not have driven onto it.  Yet, I do not believe that it will not collapse….there is a difference!

OK, I ‘know’ gravity is a ‘force’ – yet, if someone presented me with substantiated evidence that it wasn’t a force, but rather an aspect of, say, space, I would be sceptical, yet I’d want to know what they based their claim on.  They’d need solid evidence, but….I could be convinced by it.   Knowledge, conclusions, opinions – these are all subject to change as more information comes in.  I get that!  I understand that process, and have experienced it many times.  What I don’t get is ‘belief’ or ‘faith’.

Perhaps this is a characteristic of us Aspergers’ people:  I recall some friends cutting out a comic strip in which a teacher is handing back a math test.  She reads one of the answers out loud:  “provided both trains are travelling in straight line, with no hills or curves, provided there are no accidents that slow them down along the way, provided we neglect to account for the curvature of the Earth, provided the clocks in both stations are synchronized, and that the whole path is along same height above sea-level and so no time diallation occurs, the trains’ average speed is XXX. ”  She hands the test to a boy, and he wonders:  “How did she know this was my paper?  I forgot to put my name on it!”

For some reason, my friends thought this was hillarious and wanted to show it to me….something about the comic basing a character on me… 

It seems many people have as much problems with ‘my’ processing of information into conditional conclusions as I do with ‘faith’.    This truly shocked me….after all, does not EVERYONE state the obvious limits under which any conclusion is valid?  Why do many people percieve such qualifications as ‘waffling’?  It certainly is not so!  Would not presuming such things be an oversimplification, to the point of error? 

Yet ‘belief’ and ‘faith’ seemed more natural to many people than my ‘conditional conclusions’!

What is it that allows one person to ‘believe’ or ‘have faith’, while another cannot even commit to a math-problem answer without stating all the assumptions and limitations?  Which one is the ‘normal’ one, and which the ‘anomaly’?  Or is this like a spectrum, where there are no discrete breaks, just a continuum….with my ilk falling squarely at one extreme?

These questions have haunted me, ever since I can recall formulating their cognitive pre-cursors in nursery shool.  Even back then, I simply could not understand the motivations and expected goals behind other children’s games – and when I asked, I got blank stares or the old ‘index-finger-making-circular-motion-by-the-temple’ gestures in return.  I can understand both the process and the motivation/expected goals behind a calcualted risk, problem analysis, conditional conclusion, that sort of thing….  But, for the life of me, I cannot understand either the process nor the motivation/expected goals behind ‘belief’ and faith’ – both profound and mundane.

Is this just another aspect of my ‘faulty wiring’, one that makes me so very Aspergers?  Or, are ‘belief’ and ‘faith’ simply a label for ‘I don’t understand and am not worthy/willing to think about’?  Or is there something entirely different at play here?