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ArchiveAPRIL 2019



Many people, according to the late Billy Graham, “are so completely prejudiced that they cannot accept the glorious fact of the resurrection of Christ on Bible testimony alone.

“Certain laws of evidence hold in the establishment of any historic event.  Documentation of the event in question must be made by reliable contemporary witnesses.

“There is more evidence that Jesus rose from the dead than there is that Julius Caesar ever lived!”

Really?  Really?  I think he was simply referring to the preservation of ancient documents.

It's true that we have copies of the Gospels dating all the way back to the second century AD, a mere four generations after the era they describe.  If pen wasn't put to papyrus until a hundred years after the fact, can these manuscripts be trusted?

It's also true that our oldest physical records of Caesar's writings are even less contemporary, dating to the ninth century AD.  Does that rule them out as evidence?

Let's examine three existential allegations.


There is substantial primary as well as secondary evidence.  From coins and statues made during his lifetime, we know what Caesar looked like.  We have copies of the accounts he himself wrote of his military campaigns.  We have other words written during his lifetime, including letters and speeches of his political rival Cicero, the historical writings of Sallust, and the poetry of Catullus.  Many more details of his life are recorded by later historians, such as Appian, Suetonius, Plutarch, Cassius Dio, and Strabo.




Richard Carrier wrote of the resurrection:  “It has not the best, but the very worst kind of evidence — a handful of biased, uncritical, unscholarly, unknown, second-hand witnesses.”  They claim to have experienced a supernatural Jesus.  “He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve,” the Apostle Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15:5-8 (NIV).  “After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time....  I also saw him.”  Given other fantastical claims in the Bible, it's a matter of opinion whether any of these visions can be trusted.




Ever since Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977, some of his fans have refused to accept it.  They say he faked his death to escape his celebrity status.  Hundreds of eyewitnesses have claimed to have spotted him in many cities around the world, in shopping malls, taxis, restaurants.  One author recorded the “true story of a crowd of patrons in a Louisiana honky-tonk who swear that ‘the King’ sang a song one night.”  Were there more than 500 at one time?  These Elvis sightings are attested by biased, uncritical, unscholarly, unknown, second-hand witnesses.


I'm sorry, Billy, but the evidence for both #2 and #3 is much weaker than the evidence for #1.  Case dismissed.

But none of this matters anyway, according to the Apostle Paul.  We don't need to prove that anything is true.  We only have to say it's true and believe it. 

“If you openly admit by your own mouth that Jesus Christ is the Lord and if you believe in your own heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved!”  —Romans 10:9 (J.B. Phillips)

We don't need no stinking “evidence.”  All we need is blind faith.


APRIL 16, 2019    HOLD THE MAYO!

Are you planning to hard-boil and dye a batch of eggs so the kids can find them on Easter?  What will you do with the eggs afterwards?

If they've been kept in the refrigerator, they should still be good to eat.  You could “devil” them and serve them next week.

My mother made deviled eggs for us occasionally, but not with mayonnaise or pickle relish or any of that fancy stuff.  “Deviling” originally meant simply adding large amounts of hot, spicy seasoning, and Mother used only mustard, black pepper, and vinegar.  The eggs were our main course for supper!

I explain in this month's 100 Moons article.


APRIL 13, 2009 flashback   GOOD FOR YOU, BAD FOR ME

When the media characterize news as “good” or “bad,” they’re not always looking at the big picture.

For example, take the weather.  A forecast of 89° and sunny is generally proclaimed as good news, but that’s too hot for my comfort.  A forecast of a rainy day is generally bemoaned as bad news, but not by the farmers whose crops need the rain.  Those same farmers rejoice if the price of wheat goes up, but their joy is not shared by those of us who buy bread.

For another example, take the population.  Although the Pittsburgh region lost 2,967 residents over the last year, the local newspaper found a “silver lining” in the fact that the loss was only half as large as usual.

"It is good news that the population decline has slowed down," said county spokesman Kevin Evanto.

Chris Briem, a regional economist at the University of Pittsburgh ... said he would not be surprised if the population figures released a year from now look even better for the region.

Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission ... Executive Director James Hassinger expressed confidence that the regional population will bottom out by 2015 and slowly tick upward afterward.

A larger population may be good news for businesses and construction workers and politicians.  But should the rest of us want to see more traffic jams, more pollution, more overcrowded schools, and all the other consequences of the fact that there are already too many of us?



2001 photo

Across from the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music is a rather literal memorial honoring the emergence of the Underground Railroad, which came to Oberlin in 1836.

During the first part of the 19th century, this network of secret routes and safe houses helped tens of thousands of slaves escaping bondage in the South to find refuge in the North or in Canada.

They were abetted in their flight by northern abolitionists.  In particular, for three days after the “Oberlin-Wellington Rescue” in 1858, escapee John Price found refuge just 400 feet south of these rails in the home of future Oberlin College president James Fairchild.

Back in 1834, James and his older brother Edward Henry Fairchild had enrolled as freshmen, having come from the family farm ten miles away.  In 1835, from upstate New York came Delazon Smith, whose subsequent pamphlet I've been serializing.

Even in those days, several hundred slaves were already fleeing each year.  Smith presumably agreed with abolition, as he attended the convention of the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society in the spring of 1836.  But a few months later, when the town first became involved with the Underground Railroad, he objected.  The fleeing slaves were still legally the property of their Southern masters.  Abetting their escape to freedom was not only illegal by the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 but also a violation of Article 4 of the Constitution: 

No Person held to Service or Labour in one State under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.”

Proclaiming their loyalty not to the Constitution but to “a higher law,” several Oberlin students traveled 200 miles south and stationed themselves on the banks of the Ohio River.  There they enticed slaves to desert their masters and head north to freedom.  One commentator later would call Oberlin “the town that started the Civil War.” 

In my latest installment of Delazon Smith's Oberlin Unmasked, the author opposes this civil disobedience.  He also reveals his racism, criticizing the “revolting doctrine of amalgamation” that allowed blacks to mix with whites in polite society.  Such an “abomination,” later known as integration, was a likely result of Abolition.



Did you know that if you're accused of a crime, you don't necessarily have to entrust your fate to the uninformed guesses of a motley crew of a dozen dopes like me?

You can waive your right to a jury trial and instead have your case decided by a learned justice, with chambers and law books and a black robe and everything.

I argue in favor of that decision in my new article, Oft May Ye Waive. 



After six months with my new car, I’m starting to figure out one of its features:  HD radio.  I’ll limit my remarks to FM stations that use this relatively new technology.

You probably didn’t know that a station today delays its audio by eight seconds before transmitting it.  This particular delay has nothing to do with giving the station a chance to bleep out obscenities before they’re aired.  No, it’s a requirement for HD.  (In this case, HD does not stand for High Definition.  Some say it means Hybrid Digital.)

When I first tune to a station, I hear (via the regular FM analog signal) what the announcer said eight seconds ago.  Meanwhile, my receiver starts collecting digital bits to assemble a cleaner version of what he’s saying now.  It takes about eight seconds to get enough data, allowing for brief dropouts should I drive past a building or something.  After this “latency” period, the receiver switches over; it stops playing the delayed analog signal and starts playing the digital version that it’s created.  The analog signal I heard first was delayed so it would sync up with the digital signal I’d hear later.

The digital quality is supposed to be better, although in the somewhat noisy environment of my car I have a hard time hearing any improvement.  If I listen very carefully, after eight seconds I notice the bass is slightly stronger.  This leads me to wonder about the point of the whole exercise.  (However, digital transmission does allow the station to broadcast additional channels like HD2 and HD3, plus brief text annotations.)

But sometimes on Pittsburgh’s KDKA-FM, a sports talk station known as 93.7 The Fan, the switchover is very obvious.  A couple of days ago, the analog delay wasn’t working, so when I first tuned in I heard eight seconds of live analog followed by the digital version of the same eight seconds.

Had I tuned in as they started broadcasting the Gettysburg Address, I would have heard something like this, with the switchover from undelayed analog to digital occurring at the word “four”:

(Analog fades in)  Seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated....

That’s amusing, if it only happens once.  But when I drive more than 25 miles from Pittsburgh, sometimes the station’s signal falls off the “digital cliff.”  When no digital version is available, my receiver automatically returns to regular analog FM.  And if the regular analog FM isn’t being delayed, at the switch I seem to jump forward in time.  I miss a sentence or so.  Before long, the receiver reacquires the digital signal.  Eight seconds after that, I jump backward in time, hearing again the sentence that I just heard.

I first noticed this while trying to listen to a college football game last fall.  Apparently the delay wasn’t working then, either.  As you can imagine, the random cutting back and forth was rather confusing.

And there’s the kickoff, and it’s going spotted on the 25-yard line, where Pitt will have the ball first and 25-yard line, where Pitt will have the ball first down and ten.  Let’s see if they can over right tackle for a gain of maybe two yards to the 27.  Making the tackle was John Smith, the inside linebacker.  So we’re looking at second down 27.  Making the tackle was John Smith, the inside linebacker....

Yesterday I was planning to e-mail a TV engineer I know at KDKA to have him check with his radio colleagues about this.  But apparently they were aware of the problem, and they got the delay working again.  Everything seems fine for now.  Cross your fingers.



When I was seven, we didn't yet have a TV set, but my parents did buy me an occasional comic book.

I remember staring at one panel that looked something like this.  It depicted a cwoss-section of a wabbit hole, and I wondered what supported the round-bottomed chunk of ground upon which Elmer was standing.

When I became older, I put away childish things.  I grew embarrassed to have ever behaved as a little kid.

But I must confess that once, at the age of seven, I scampered around pretending I was a superhero with a red cape streaming behind me.  No, not Superman.  A little parody of Superman.  “I'm Mighty Mouse!” I proclaimed.

Mr. Trouble never hangs around
When he hears this mighty sound:
“Here I come to save the day!”
That means that Mighty Mouse is on the way!

(And he's a heldentenor.)

Often the stories featured the invulnerable Mouse flying in at the last moment to rescue Mitzi, his damsel in distress.  Even at that age, I enjoying imagining myself as a dashing hero winning the adoration of a fair maiden.

However, I didn't want to emulate the Mouse's violent tactics.  For some reason I remember one line of comic-book dialogue.  After raining vicious blows on the chin of another villain (or maybe a flying saucer), Mighty remarked, “Wow, skinned my knuckles on that one!"