Sunday, November 17, 2019

My New Book Now on Amazon

This short volume (less than 70 pages) poses the question, Can Islam Transform the West? Or, more specifically, can Islamists transform the West?

I have made every attempt to present an even-handed, nuanced analysis by considering important differences among Muslims, looking carefully at the statistical data on Muslim beliefs and practices from numerous polls, and analyzing the ingredients which would be required to bring about cultural and political change.

The book concludes by examining actual instances in which Islamists are changing, or might be changing, Western culture in regards to free speech, religious hatred and violence, antisemitism, education, and entanglements with Islamic extremism.   

eBook:  $3.50
Paperback: $9.99

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Is the Quran a Unique and Original Revelation?

"Tales of the Ancients":  Origins of the Quran from the Jewish Talmud

Islam has set a very high bar for the Quran.  In claiming that the words of the text are uncreated, eternally existent, and dictated by Allah, Islamic scholars give little consideration to the historical formation of the text and the impact that culture, personality, and style have on writing.  By contrast, the Christian view of inspiration recognizes that God speaks in and through human prophets and writers according to their understanding and their historical limitations. Consequently, we would expect to find references to ancient literature in Scripture (e.g., Paul quoted Menander and Epimenides) and vast differences in style between writers.  But, none of these diminish the spiritual and moral principles which God revealed.

Though this essay does not address the question of divine revelation of the Quran, it does show, using source criticism, that the Quran is neither wholly unique nor wholly original as many Muslim scholars claim. It is a historical document with traceable antecedents.  This, in itself, is not necessarily a criticism of the Quran (though many Muslims perceive it that way), for the Bible also has many historical and cultural antecedents.  But the Quran also recasts Biblical texts and events by uncritically appropriating Jewish stories that were widely known to be embellished with fictional and mythical elements centuries after the fact.   This poses a serious challenge the claim that the Quran is unique, original, and historically accurate.

(click on the image to open PDF)

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Polarization of America

This chart compares the two philosophies which underlie the political and cultural war which is tearing our country apart.  The columns represent generalizations, of course, which do not take into account some of the nuances and variations found in these systems.

Some people will be tempted to pick and choose from both philosophies.  But, the choice between limiting government and enlarging government is rather stark.   And, we are assured by history, that certain consequences will inevitably follow.  We are bidden, therefore, to choose wisely!

For other material on politics, open the Politics & History tab.

Click to download PDF (8.5x14) for the latest version 
(image below is not a current version)

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Islam by the Numbers: A New Global Study on Muslim Beliefs & Practices

Eight months in the making, this report provides the first global statistics on Muslim beliefs and practices as they relate to security, terrorism, and the potential threat to Western culture.  The surveys covered 1.1 billion Muslims---about two-thirds of the Muslim population based on a 2010 estimate.

Here is an overview of the study from the Executive Summary:
  • Sectarian divisions are a major source of conflict within Islam. Each sect believes it represents the true teaching of the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad. 67% (736.3 million) of Muslims surveyed believe that there is only one true interpretation of Islam’s teachings. Disagreements over the interpretation of Islam have sometimes resulted in deadly violence, mostly between Sunnis and Shias. In the Middle East and South Asia, there are tens of thousands of sectarian militants whose actions could spark a broader conflict (Q1).

  • Very devout Muslims—those who say their lives reflect the hadith and the sunna to a considerable degree—comprise 41% (369.7 million) of the survey population. They are more likely to say that sharia (Islamic law) is the revealed word of Allah, that Islam and sharia have only one interpretation, that proselytizing is a religious duty, and that sharia should be the official law of their country (Q2). They are also probably more likely to support extreme punishments such as amputation and stoning. 

  • Though Muslims are evenly divided over the belief that there is only one interpretation of sharia, 69% of Muslims (741.8 million) in the survey countries favor making sharia the official law of their country (Q3, Q4) and 64% (581 million) believe it is the revealed word of Allah (Q4aa).

  • About one-third to one-half of Muslims in the survey countries (274.0 million - 463.3 million) believe sharia should be applied to non-Muslims in some way, and support extreme punishments such as whippings, amputations, stoning for adultery, and the death penalty for apostasy (Q5-Q8).

  • About one-third of Muslims surveyed (349.4 million - 361.8 million) support the forced veiling of women and say that honor killings are justified, in at least some circumstances, for women who commit pre or extra-marital sex (Q9, Q10)

  • Nearly 33% (333.7 million) of Muslims surveyed said they are concerned about Islamic extremist groups in their country (few were concerned about Christian extremists). Nearly 17% (177.1 million) said that violence against civilians can be justified in order to “defend Islam from its enemies.” The defense of Islam can be broader than resistance to armed attacks. For many Muslims, insulting Islam or Muhammad is regarded as an attack on Islam (Q11, Q12).

  • 46% (503.5 million) of Muslims surveyed believe in the “evil eye”—that certain people can cast curses or spells that cause bad things to happen to others. They also believe that its power can be overcome by incantations (ruqyah) and washings. These beliefs are based on the teachings and examples of Muhammad found in the canonical traditions, or hadith (Q13).

  • Nearly one-third of Muslims in the survey population (353.6 million) believe there is a natural conflict between being a devout religious person and living in a modern society. Most Muslims agree that Western music, movies, and television pose a threat to morality in their country (Q14).

  • In addition to the high degree of support for sharia, about one-third to one-half of Muslims (274.0 million - 503.5 million) in the survey uphold beliefs and practices (mostly related to sharia) that are contrary to many Western values, such as separation of religion and state, religious and individual freedom, freedom of speech, equality of persons under the law, protection from cruel and unusual punishment, the right of self-determination, gender equality, and the rejection of superstition (Q5, Q6, Q7, Q8, Q9, Q10, Q13, Q14).

Security, Terrorism, and the Potential Threat to Western Culture
  • A pre-scientific worldview continues to inhibit Islamic historical and scientific inquiry.
  • Very devout Muslims are likely to reject the legitimacy of Western laws and government.
  • Converting non-Muslims and promoting sharia are religious imperatives (Q15).
  • Intolerance of non-Muslims is widespread and continues to be taught.
  • Terrorism can be religiously justified to defend the integrity and reputation of Islam.
  • Over 100 million Muslims can justify acts of terrorism in the defense of Islam.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Will Palestinians Create a Fundamentalist Islamic Country?

The Palestinian Territories, consisting of the West Bank and Gaza, are home to about 4.3 million
Palestinians (2012 estimate).
  • Gaza:           1.7 million  (99.3% Muslim) 
  • West Bank:  2.6 million  (75% Muslim) 
Gaza is governed mostly by sharia law under the authority of Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist group by many Western countries. The West Bank, which is under Israeli military control, is governed by the Palestinian Authority.  The PA is a parliamentary system that rules by a complex amalgamation of secular law, Islamic law, and custom (ʿurf).

In 2002 the Palestinians signed into law a transitional constitution which not only declared Islam to be the official religion of Palestine, but also asserted that, “The principles of Islamic Sharia shall be the main source of legislation” (Article 4).

Several groups protested this constitution in preference for the “Democratic Secular State” proposed by the Fatah party.   However, based on a comprehensive Pew Research survey conducted in 2012 (see below), as well as a more recent survey, Muslims across the Palestinian Territories would welcome the formation of an Islamic nation once Palestine is cut loose from Israeli control.  89% favor making sharia the law of the land.

Unfortunately, a large majority of Palestinian Muslims support a draconian form of sharia that embraces the hudud punishments. These are among the most severe penalties found anywhere and violate universal human rights.
  • Whippings and amputations: 76% 
  • Stoning for adultery: 84% 
  • Death penalty for apostates: 66% 
In addition to support for the hudud penalties, nearly half of the Palestinian Muslims are willing to impose sharia on non-Muslims (44%). Nearly half can justify attacking civilians in defense of Islam (40%). And, nearly half can justify honor killings (48%), and support the forced veiling of women (42%).

In their struggle for independence, the Palestinians have made human rights their cause célèbre.  But, following the precedent set in Gaza, they are prepared to institute an intolerant religious state while paradoxically claiming to hold the moral high ground against Israel.
Palestinian Muslims (2012) 

Q66. Sharia law is the revealed word of Allah, rather than a form of law developed by men and based on the word of Allah—75%

Q79a. Muslims who favor making sharia the official law of their country—89%

Q81. Muslims who say sharia should apply to all citizens (among those who favor making sharia the law of the land)—44%

Q92c. Muslims who support “hudud” penalties such as whippings or cutting off the hands of thieves and robbers (among those who favor making sharia the law of the land)—76%

Q92d. Muslims who favor stoning as a punishment for adultery (among those who favor making sharia the law of the land)—84%

Q92b. Muslims who favor the death penalty for converts—i.e., those who leave Islam (among those who favor making sharia the law of the land)—66%

Q89. Muslims who say attacks against civilians (including suicide bombings) in defense of Islam can be often/sometimes justified—40%

Q54. Muslims who say honor killings are justified (often, sometimes, or rarely) as punishment for women who commit pre- or extra-marital sex—48%

Q58. Muslims who do NOT believe women should have the right to decide if they wear a veil42% 

Friday, March 23, 2018

The Global Warming Picture Book

In this super-colorful, four page booklet, I answer the central question:   

"Does CO2 control global temperature?"  The answer is not a simple "yes" or "no."  My goal is to present a more nuanced view of the controversy than you will find in most media articles or discussions.   

For my other climate publications, click on the Climate Science tab.

A Brief Portrait of Muhammad from 7th and 8th Century Christian Writers

This well organized and concise article puts it all together: 

Muhammad the Initiator of the Conquests
Muhammad the Trader
Muhammad the King
Muhammad the Monotheist Revivalist
Muhammad the Lawgiver
Muhammad the Prophet/False Prophet

The author, a major scholar in the field of Islamic studies, concludes by evaluating the utility of these sources: “Since the Muslim perception of Muhammad underwent major change during this period, this means that Christian sources can sometimes provide evidence for this change where Muslim sources are silent.”

See: “The Earliest Christian Writings on Muhammad: An Appraisal” by Robert Hoyland (2000)

Sunday, January 28, 2018

14 Reasons Why America is 
Not a Racist Country

If you listen to the diatribes of some on the Left, you might conclude that this country is still hopelessly bound by the cords of bigotry.  “Brown skinned” people, we are told, are oppressed to insure the continuation of white supremacy.   Incidents of racism still occur in the United States, to be sure, but we are far and away from being a nation of white oppressors.  Anyone comparing America today to America in 1960 would see a different country.
  1.   America ended slavery in 1865.
  2.   African-American men were given the right to vote in 1869 (women in 1920).
  3.   Jim Crow laws were struck down in the 1950’s and 1960’s. 
  4.   We have 50+ years of civil rights legislation, beginning with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  5.   There are affirmative action programs at nearly every level of society.
  6.   Desegregation school busing was mandated across the country.
  7.   The KKK, once numbering millions, now numbers less than 8,000.
  8.   A black president was elected to two terms in office.
  9.   There are 45 black Representatives in the United States House of Representatives.
  10.   Millions of non-white immigrants from across the globe still seek entry into the U.S.
  11.   Indians and Asians are the top performers in many of our schools and professions.
  12.   Black athletes are heavily represented in many professional sports.
  13.   87% of Americans approve of interracial marriage (compared to only 4% in 1958).
  14.   87% of Americans believe that DACA immigrants should be allowed to remain in the U.S.

See also”Is America Racist?” (5 min video)

Friday, November 17, 2017

"Blueprint for Terrorism:  
How Muhammad's Example is Used to Justify Violence"

This new infographic is a supplement to my recent documentary, "Through the Lens of Muhammad's Life: How the Example and Teachings of Muhammad Shape Islam Today” (YouTube)
Check it out yourself!  Using the link provided in this infographic, anyone
can read the original source material and look up the examples cited.  
For other original material on Islam, open the Religion tab.

Click to enlarge image (2975x1924), or download the PDF (11x17)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Monday, October 9, 2017

Indigenous Peoples’ Day?
You Might Want to Reconsider That

The myth of the “noble savage” has given impetus to a rising movement which seeks to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day­—a day which celebrates the contributions of Native Americans and recognizes the enormous historical injustices committed against them by Europeans and Americans. 

But, the history of indigenous peoples is plagued by the same demons that afflict European and American history.  It is no more worthy of celebration than the morally defective Christopher Columbus.
In his book, War Before Civilization, archaeologist, Lawrence H. Keeley, “concludes that the idea of the Noble Savage is essentially nonsense, that in fact primitive warfare was more brutal and intense and probably less ritualized than its civilized counterpart” (New York Times review).

After examining archaeological evidence from numerous tribal societies, including pre-Columbian Native Americans, Keeley tells us that 90%-95% engaged in war.  Among Native Americans, only 13% did not engage in wars at least once per year.  The attrition rate in many, close-quarter battles, which are typical in tribal warfare, produced casualties up to 60%.  Compare that to an average attrition rate of 1% of the combatants in modern warfare.
Massacres occurred among both Canadian and American tribes, including Eskimos.  Pre-Columbian Indians used human scalps as trophies and the Iroquois slowly tortured to death captured enemy warriors. 
 At Crow Creek in South Dakota, archaeologists found a mass grave containing the remains of more than 500 men, women, and children who had been slaughtered, scalped, and mutilated during an attack on their village a century and a half before Columbus's arrival (ca. 1325 AD).  This amounted to more than 60% of the village’s population.  Evidence indicates that the tribe’s young women were abducted.

Historical distance, observes the New York Times reviewer, “has made the heart grow fonder and the mind mushier, and the sentimentalization of the savage has proceeded apace, even in the face of hard contradictory evidence.” 

As Keeler concludes, "If Westerners have belatedly recognized that they are not the crown of creation and rightful lords of the earth, their now common view of themselves as humanity's nadir is equally absurd." 

On Columbus Day you have every right to be thankful that you don’t live in a primitive, tribal society.

NOTE: Max Rosen has produced several detailed graphs of the data based on six sources, including Keeler’s book. See (Wikipedia summary) (New York Times book review)

Who Gets to Narrate the United States? 
The NFL protest runs a lot deeper than you think

If you peel back the many layers of controversy which surround the NFL’s national anthem protest, you will find two very different versions of the United States.*  They are reflected, to a large degree, by the political divide between Left and Right. 

A Nation of White Oppressors

NFL quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, who started the protest movement in 2016, said, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color."  Kaepernick’s view of the U.S. as a nation of white oppressors dominates American universities.  It has made its way into many public schools as well. 

The intellectual champion of this perspective is Howard Zinn (d. 2010), author of the celebrated and controversial text, A People's History of the United States.  Zinn takes a dark, cynical view of the U.S. and its history.  He weaves a historical narrative of unrelenting greed, exploitation, oppression, racism, social theft, and even genocide, all committed by white Europeans and American capitalists against people of color.  According to Zinn, the Founding Fathers campaigned for war to distract the people from their own economic problems and arrest popular movements.  This strategy, he claims would continue to be used in the future by the country's leaders
Modern progress towards equality is largely an illusion in Zinn’s view.  Fifty years of civil rights legislation, affirmative action programs, school busing, and even the election of a black president to two terms, have done little to change the sinister character of our society.  We are still, as Colin Kaepernick affirms, a nation of white oppressors. 

Many people are, for good reason, offended by Kaepernick’s view, and the refusal of NFL players to stand for the national anthem as a show of respect (I grant that some players may not be protesting for the same reason).  White Americans who have made earnest efforts to bring about a just society, and consider themselves tolerant and enlightened citizens, are broad brushed as willing accomplices in racial oppression.  This slur barely rises above ‘white shaming’ which equates skin color with oppression.
A Nation of Liberators

Arrayed against this perspective is a more optimistic view of the U.S. and its history rooted in the founding principles and our nation’s ability to overcome the limitations of the past.  I am not referring here to the naïve triumphalism that has characterized some historical narratives in the past.  That narrative is all but dead.  Rather, it is possible to celebrate the principles which make us a great nation while taking a sober view of history that acknowledges past oppressions.   

Integral to this optimistic view is the belief that America possesses the civil and moral virtue necessary to redress past transgressions and overcome the limitations of bigotry and intolerance.  Just as we eliminated slavery and institutional racism, we will eventually overcome the limitations that bind us in the present.  America is not a nation of oppressors, but liberators.  
The Myth Lives On 

Which view is correct?  Zinn’s history, though popular, is regarded by many historians as an overly biased and simplistic version of America’s past.  He is not above stretching some facts and ignoring others in order to squeeze history into the Procrustean bed of his narrative.  His view of history only succeeds by adopting a myopic view of the U.S. and its past. 

Moreover, it is necessary to ask: If America is a nation of white oppressors, why do millions of non-white immigrants from across the globe continue to frequent our shores?  Why are students from India and Asia the top performers in many of our schools?  Why are there so many black athletes in professional sports?  Etc.
Though Zinn has passed off the scene, his narrative lives on in the Colin Kaepernicks of the world who continue to perpetuate the dishonest and divisive myth of ‘America the white oppressor.’

* This is not, and never has been, a disagreement over free speech.  No one, to my knowledge, is calling for the government to censure the kneelers.   And since employers have the legal right to set codes of speech and conduct in the workplace, employees who violate those codes are not protected by the First Amendment as case law has shown.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A New Documentary on Muhammad and Islamic Doctrine

After a year in the making, I have finally completed work on,  "Through the Lens of Muhammad's Life:  How the Example and Teachings of Muhammad Shape Islam Today."  This non-confrontational documentary presents a fair and respectful treatment of Islam, but without sugarcoating or poisoning the facts. Historical honesty demands an impartial review of the data before drawing a conclusion.  This approach, I believe, will also enable us to reach a wider audience.
43 min

The premise of the documentary:  For the vast majority of Muslims, the example and teachings of Muhammad are the final authority for Islamic beliefs, practices, and interpretation of the Quran. This documentary traces the origin of modern Islamic doctrines and practices from the life of Muhammad himself.  It also explains some of the apparent contradictions we find in Islam (e.g., between peace and the use of violence), and will enable viewers to better judge the legitimacy of assertions made by Muslims and Islamic groups who claim to represent “true Islam.” 
Topics covered (43 minutes):
1. Muhammad’s Authority
2. From Peaceful Persuasion to Violent Extremism
3. Magnanimity, Generosity, and Mercy
4. Jihad (Holy War) for the Cause of Islam
5. Jews, Christians, and Pagans Under Islam
6. The Roots of Jewish Hatred
7. Marriage and Women
8. Slavery in Islam
9. The Enigmatic Muhammad

A special thanks to those who assisted in the production, editing, and review of this documentary.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Word of Explanation

Welcome to Science Et Cetera.  This blog is a portal to my research and writings.  It will be updated as material becomes available.

Under each subject tab you will find links to my video, papers, photos, graphics, and other articles of interest.  All the material is accessible on the web either in its original published form, or as a Google Doc.