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Archive for January, 2016

I couldn't resist, so my War On Christmas starts early this year. Or Easter; it could be The War On Easter…

Will There Be a National Darwin Day?

by Ken Ham on January 19, 2016

Will there be a National Jesus Day (AKA "Christmas")?

By Daz on the twenty-fifth day of Runcible, in the Year Of The Bewildered Three-Toed Sloth; Fifty-Third Olympiad.

Will Darwin Day be honored as a national holiday here in America? Well, a resolution was reintroduced to the US House of Representatives recently to recognize Charles Darwin's birthday (February 12, 2016) as a national holiday because of many absurd reasons. There has since been an additional resolution from a Democratic Senator that would show Congressional support for the Darwin Day distinction.

Will Jesus Day be treated as an excuse to make petty complaints about people who say "Happy holidays" and such like trivialities over there in Yankeeland? Well, judging by past experience it will be because of many absurd reasons. There continues to be much idiotic, over-pious and self-aggrandising support for putting Jesus Day on a pedestal of pettiness.

Now, some of the reasons listed nationally for celebrating Darwin, who of course was not an American, include the following:

• Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by the mechanism of natural selection, together with the monumental amount of scientific evidence he compiled to support it, provides humanity with a logical and intellectually compelling explanation for the diversity of life on Earth.

Now, some of the reasons usually touted for celebrating Jesus, who of course was not an American, include the following:

• The Biblical theory of the origins of life, together with the heaps of anecdotes used to support it, provides humanity with an easy and morally compelling explanation for the diversity of life on Earth.

• It has been the human curiosity and ingenuity exemplified by Darwin that has promoted new scientific discoveries that have helped humanity solve many problems and improve living conditions.

• It has been the human capacity to treat conjecture as proven fact and our ability to believe any old shit so long as it's contained in a holy book exemplified by creationists that has held so-called "progress" in check and preserved our lovely conservative, nay prudish, status quo for lo! these many millennia.

• The teaching of creationism in some public schools compromises the scientific and academic integrity of the United States education systems.

• The teaching of Darwinism in some public schools compromises the moral and religious integrity of the United States education systems.

• Charles Darwin is a worthy symbol of scientific advancement on which to focus and around which to build a global celebration of science and humanity intended to promote a common bond among all of Earth's peoples.

• Jesus is a worthy symbol of moral advancement on which to focus and around which to build a global celebration of moral reactionism intended to promote a fear of God and Hell among all of Earth's peoples.

These are terrible reasons to make Darwin Day a national holiday. Putting aside the fact that Darwin was not an American, Darwinian evolution has no confirmation in observational science. What we see in the world is consistent with God's Word, not evolutionary ideas about the past, and much of what we observe actually contradicts evolutionary ideas.

These are terrible reasons to make Jesus Day a national holiday. Putting aside the fact that Jesus was not an American, the Biblical genesis has no confirmation in observational science. What we see in the world is consistent with ideas built upon Darwin's theory, not creationist ideas about the past, and much of what we observe actually contradicts Genesis.

Darwin isn't a great example of "human curiosity and ingenuity"—he was compelled to come up with a way to explain life without God because he rejected God. Although AiG doesn't lobby for it because creation would probably be poorly represented by teachers, mandating that creation be taught alongside evolution doesn't compromise "scientific and academic integrity"—if done properly, it promotes critical thinking and inspires a desire to learn more about God's creation.

The Bible and it's authors are not a great example of "human curiosity and ingenuity"—they were compelled to come up with a way to explain life without any concept of empirical research. Although AiG claims not to lobby for it for, it creationism is far too often promoted by teachers. Mandating that creationism be taught alongside evolution doesn't merely compromise scientific and academic integrity—it sets light to it, ploughs the ashes into the oozing mud of mythology and salts the ground of intellectual curiosity so that nothing may grow there except the faith-born marsh-weeds of dogma and superstition.

And Darwin isn't a "worthy symbol" of the promotion of "a common bond among all of Earth's peoples." He was racist and his ideas were racist! Choosing Darwin as the symbol of "scientific advancement" instead of many more worthy and less controversial figures like Newton, Mendel, or Pasteur seems to be nothing more than an attempt to push the anti-God religion of secularism on the nearly half of Americans who believe in a Creator.

And Jesus isn't a "worthy symbol" of the promotion of "a common bond among all of Earth's peoples." He, in his guise as his own father, was, as described, a morally bankrupt, cruel tyrant who killed millions and continues to hold the entire human race responsible for the "sins" (mere transgressions against his personal taste) of our distant putative ancestors. That said, choosing Darwin as the symbol of scientific advancement instead of also celebrating many other worthy figures like Newton, Mendel (whose findings, by providing the first hint of the nature of the mechanism of inheritance, did much to bolster Darwin's theory), or Pasteur seems silly. Let's have more days devoted to scientists and the sciences, instead of the saints, assassinations and battles we're usually saddled with.


Proposed Holiday Shows How Anti-God Our Society Has Become

Confuddled Ranting Shows How Ken Ham Remains Stuck In The Iron Age

This proposed new holiday only emphasizes how anti-God our society has become. Christian holidays like Christmas or Easter have been secularized to the point where Nativity scenes and crosses are being taken out of public places, yet a secular figure whose ideas on the origin of life are a major tenet of the secular religion of humanism can be publicly applauded and celebrated. It's not really Darwin who's being celebrated on Darwin Day, it's an anti-God religion and its foundation of evolution and millions of years that's being celebrated. Actually, the intolerant secularists (intolerant of Christianity in particular) are now wanting more and more to impose their anti-God religion on the culture.

This insistence that Jesus Day be celebrated only in ways approved of by them only goes to show how petty the Christian Right has become. Still, if Christian holidays like Christmas or Easter are as definitely religious as they would have us believe, then it is obviously quite right that Nativity scenes and crosses are being taken out of public governmental spaces, since it is stated quite clearly in the First Amendment that "Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa." And, as a completely separate issue, a person whose ideas on the origin of life are the backbone of the biological sciences should be publicly applauded and celebrated by all. It's not really Jesus who the Christian Right celebrate on Jesus Day, it's an anti-science, reactionary dogma and its twin foundations of Iron Age mythology and petty egotism. Actually, the intolerant Christians are still wanting more and more to impose their anti-scientific, anti-human religion on the culture.

On the home page of the International Darwin Day website (a website that promotes the celebration of Darwin around the world) scrolls several phrases: "Let's celebrate intellectual bravery … perpetual curiosity … hunger for truth … Let's celebrate Darwin Day." It should be more like "let's celebrate man's fallible ideas being trusted over God's infallible Word!" This is really a worship of man, a worship of the god of self.

On the home pages of far too many creationist and fundamentalist sites it's easy to find several phrases: "Let's celebrate Christian morality … God's love for humanity … hunger for truth … Let's Keep Jesus in Jesus Day." It should be more like "Let's celebrate human-kind's fallible ideas being trusted over observable fact!" This is really a worship of gullibility, a worship of inhumanity, cruelty and the right of religious folk to impose their immoral "morality" on the rest of society by means of secular law and dogmatic, intransigent custom.

Darwin Day is a day that celebrates the legacy of a man who elevated his own fallible ideas over God's Word. Darwin took the things he observed—natural selection and adaptation—and leapt to the conclusion that these small, observable changes within a kind could lead to huge, unobserved (and still unobserved!) changes between kinds. But his ideas still have no observational corroboration. What we see in nature is kinds that reproduce according to their kinds with only limited amounts of variation within the kind. We do see common designs in all of creation but that is explained by a common Designer, not common descent. This is consistent with God's Word, not Darwin's imaginations about the past.

Jesus Day is a day that celebrates the legacy of the apocalyptic mythology and moral musings of the priestly cast of a minor Iron Age kingdom. They took the things they observed—the results of natural selection and adaptation—and leapt to the conclusion that these things must have been created by a huge, vengeful, cruel and all-powerful bogey-man in the sky. But their ideas still have no observational corroboration. What we see in nature is that small changes accumulate over generations to the point where, after millions of years, the end-result is that huge changes have occurred. We do see common designs in all of creation nature but that is explained by a common ancestry, not an extremely uncommon unseen, and unevidenced designer. This is consistent with Darwin's theory, not the Bible's authors' imagineering about clay dolls, taking snakes and world-covering floods.

This February 12, I encourage you to celebrate the truth of God's unchanging Word. Use "Darwin Day" as a springboard for conversations with your friends and family about the flaws of evolution and show them how observational science confirms God's Word from the beginning. And then challenge people that the history in the Bible—starting with Genesis—is true, and that's why the gospel based in that history is true.

Next Jesus Day, I encourage you to celebrate whatever and however the hell you want to. Use "Jesus Day" as a time to spend time with your friends and family no matter how much the Ken Hams of this world would like to see you spending it on your knees, kow-towing to a non-existent, ghostly tyrant. And then challenge people that the history in the Bible—starting with Genesis—is a crock of watery cow-dung, and that's why the gospel based in that history is laughable.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,
Ken

Thanks for stopping by, and please, for the love of all that's good, do not offer to pray for me,
Daz

This item was written with the assistance of AiG's research team.

This item was written with the assistance of Jennings Cumberland ale.


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The origins of the tune known as Bonaparte's Retreat are somewhat hazy, which is often the way with traditional folk, country and blues songs. One theory is that it originates from an old Irish tune named The Eagle's Whistle. Another places it with a Scottish piper who served at Waterloo, presumably celebrating the eponymous defeat, while yet another places it, played at a slower tempo, with Irish musicians bemoaning the same event. (It's not that they would be particularly pro-Napoleon so much as anti-English.) There's a tune named The Dunmore Lasses and another entitled The Bonny Bunch Of Roses, both of which may stem from various evolutions of the song; or which may be merely similar—nobody really knows, although the origin is almost definitely Celtic. By the time of the American civil war, however, forty-five years after Waterloo, the tune—or at least a tune—going by the title Bonaparte's Retreat is noted as having been played on both sides of the Atlantic.

The first version to be recorded, though, is known. Fiddle-player A. A. Gray, from Tallapoosa, Georgia, recorded a version on Okeh in 1924:

It was recorded several times during the pre-war years, with my favourite probably being Luther Strong's version, recorded for the Library of Congress's Archive of American Folk Song, by the great folklorist Alan Lomax:

And then someone put words to it, and things, to my mind, got kind of strange…

Here's Pee wee King, as quoted in the liner-notes to the 1949 disc of Bear Family's wonderful Dim Lights, Thick Smoke And Hillbilly Music series:

So we were rehearsing some square dance numbers with a boy from Texas [Lee A. Bedford], and he showed us a recording of a Texas square dance tune called 'Bonaparte's Retreat,' which had a sort of Cajun beat. It was a folk tune in the public domain, so Redd Stewart and I put a bridge or middle to it, wrote some words, and reshaped the whole song.

Two things to take note of here: firstly, the "boo-waah" swoop of the steel guitar behind the start of each line of the chorus, and secondly the "bridge or middle," as King called it—the part of the tune that sounds vaguely middle-eastern ("All the world was bright as I held her on that night…") (and to which the opening line of Bill Haley's 1956 Teenager's Mother bears a rather suspicious resemblance). Anyways, it's a nice enough little ditty. Enjoy:

King's version didn't do particularly well until Kay Starr picked it up and made a faintly jazzy pop version (not unusual in those days, when songs were routinely repackaged to fit several genres) which became a hit. I'm not particularly fond of Starr's version, but Gene Krupa made a blinder, so here's that instead:

(The vocalist on Krupa's version, Bobby Soots, was a sometime hillbilly singer who Krupa had hired to sing big-band jazz versons of hillbilly/country songs. It's all part of that repackaging thing I mentioned. But I digress…)

Notice how the tune is evolving. It's why I consider the evolution of the song a little strange—though not in a bad way. That understated swoop of the steel guitar in Pee Wee King's version, which forms no part of the tune the song is nominally based upon, has, in Krupa's (and Starr's), and almost any version thereafter, been brought forward in the mix, until instead of being a feature of the backing, it is now a major part of the tune itself. But it gets stranger yet…

By the late '50s, early '60s, although the original, no-lyrics (unlyricked?), fiddle tune was being played now and again by folk, bluegrass and mountain-music artists, it was pretty much unheard of by anyone outside those circles—but plenty knew the Pee Wee King song, or versions thereof, and instrumental versions of that begin to appear. Not many, what with a ten-year-old hit being old enough to be un-hip, but not yet old enough to be considered a classic, but a few. My favourite, I think, is this 1961 version, by German trad-jazz band, the Spree City Stompers:

So, we've started with an instrumental, carried on through a re-arrangement with lyrics, and ended with an instrumental. We should have come full-circle, but we're definitely not back where we started. There are now two different versions of the song and the later one, though these days old enough to be just as "traditional" as the the older, bears little, if any, resemblance to it. Both though, somewhat paradoxically, are indubitably Bonaparte's Retreat. And for whatever reason, that tickles me.

I didn't really set out to make a point with this; rather I just wanted to share what I thought was a kind of interesting chain of changes. If I did, though, I would hark right back to my opening paragraph, where I mentioned how Bonaparte's Retreat itself, like many traditional melodies and songs, had itself evolved from one or more sources. At one time, there were, quite possibly, two or more versions of, for instance, The Eagle's Whistle, which, to the casual listener, bore little resemblance to one another but, to the dedicated historian of music, might have had obvious similarites. If so, it's highly possible that The Eagle's Whistle (as is the way with many old Celtic tunes) has spawned many songs just as seemingly unrelated to the original as that Spree City Stompers number is.

And that, Gentle Reader, is evolution in action.
Daz


That's the end of the essay-proper, but—having listed to far too many versions whilst researching this—I have to share my personal least- and most-liked.

First my least-liked. Remember that gentle swoop on the steel guitar. This is what it's like when, seemingly, rescored for a bloody fog-horn. Ridiculous! (And on Hickory, a country label, to boot. Doubly ridiculous!)

And you knew there had to be a rockabilly version somewhere, right? Eddie Cochran never, to my knowledge, recorded Bonaparte's Retreat. If he had, though, it would have sounded just like Darrel Higham's:


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