Saturday, December 31, 2016

Australia's Great Barrier Reef


NASA photo of the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is located at the northeast edge of Australia's continental shelf. It is comprised of 3000 separate reefs that started growing about 200,000 year ago. There are 350 species of coral. The Barrier Reef attracts thousands of tourists each year. Half of the Reef is protected from fishing.


Related reading: What is a Coral Reef Made of?; Are Corals Animals or Plants?


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Robert Runnels Williams


Robert Runnels Williams was an American chemist who was born in India, the son of Baptist missionaries. His father designed and supervised the building of the Baptist church and seminary in Ramapatnam, Tamil Nadu (now called Ramayapatnam, Andhra Pradesh) in India. It was built by many of his pupils, who had never seen a two-story building or an architectural plan. The photograph below was evidently pressed at some time against a book or document that partially imprinted itself onto the photo. This building is still in use today and is visible in Google Earth.




The script of this talk is available here.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Ann Marie Thro: A Life of Service


Ann Marie Thro in consultation


Tatum Davis, Grade 8

Ann Marie Thro is a scientist whose experiences throughout her life have made her the exceptional person she is today. She was raised in a military family which meant frequent moves and exposure to new places and people. She is the oldest of three siblings. She is 67 years old and very active professionally. She is a member of the American Scientific Affiliation and a former board member of Christian Women in Science (CWIS). She enjoys gardening, hiking, and working with animals. She also enjoys reading, singing, and needlework. 

Ann was raised a Catholic and she believes that this religious upbringing gave her an awareness of Christ’s love. She attended college during the “hippie era” and during those years she questioned many of the Church’s beliefs.

Ann began to question many things during the 1960s. She felt disappointment that different theories of reality presented by secular philosophies seemed empty. Philosophy was taught as a chronological flow of ideas, but not as a search for wisdom. No one attempted answers to the questions she was asking, and that left nothing. Still, Ann resisted the nihilism of her day.

Several years later Ann became aware of the work of Dr. Francis Schaeffer, the director of the L'Abri community in Switzerland, founded in 1955. Dr. Schaeffer and his wife Edith were Christian theologians and philosophers whose writings from a Christian perspective interested Ann. So, desiring to travel, she went to L’Abri. She listened and found the Schaeffer’s analysis of Western culture to be convincing, but she was not willing to change her lifestyle.

She started praying again, wondering what God had for her future. She couldn’t find a job so she decided to return to school to “retool” for a future career. She completed some courses at a community college, and eventually found an assistantship in agricultural science. Her job prospects were good, but her heart was still stiff toward Jesus Christ.

Ann was drawn to plant breeding as a way to serve. When she first became involved in agriculture science there were relatively few women in the field. The numbers of women increased rapidly. Today there are many women in agricultural sciences.

She received a PhD from Iowa State University where she was did research in plant breeding and genetics​. She conducted research and developed teaching skills as associate professor of agronomy at Louisiana State University for 10 years.

In 2014, she became senior advisor for Plant Health Production and Products. Ann was in the National Institute for food and Agriculture.

Plant breeding began in the 1800’s and is increasingly important today. Ann explains, “It is one of the few ways that humans can use new science to cope with many of the challenges that the world faces today: challenges such as population growth and the need for food that is both affordable and good for our health; and, challenges such as variable and extreme weather and climate, and the need to protect the environmental.


Simply defined, plant breeding is the human-aided development of new plant varieties, including new types of seeds that have needed characteristics. The basic steps involve the use of various methods, old and new, to make new, genetically-different plants, and then testing, and selecting among.

When we read about new discoveries in sciences such as biology, nutrition, genetics, micro-biology, information science and computing, soil science, climate science, engineering, robotics, and others, plant breeding is the discipline that brings all of this knowledge together to produce the food that we eat and all the other types of plants that we use. Without plant breeding, most of this new science would remain interesting but theoretical. Plant breeding is one of the major pathways through which science reaches our table and our lives.”

Ann has worked on research and development projects in Congo (formerly Zaire), South America, and Afghanistan.

Ann Marie Thro has written, “As a Christian, I often ask the Lord to help me see where I can be most useful. When I want to ‘star’, I often end up being disappointed, but when I want to “serve”, the Lord has given me very satisfying work and opportunities. I enjoy the role of taking the initiative to look around, see things that need to be done, and get started. Often others then join in and carry on the work.

Seeking to be useful is a role that both men and women can take; yet it fits a woman’s role in every age – ancient and modern. In my own case, as a scientist, this has led me out of research because I found that others were more gifted. I found instead that I have a gift for research coordination. I am grateful to have been able to bring different researchers together into networks and projects. This benefits science and the public by creating opportunities to exchange good ideas, recruit young scientists, and search for funding. These are things that researchers value, but they are often too busy. That’s where I can help, as someone who understands the world of science, seeks to be useful, and enjoys creating connections and looking for opportunities.”

Plant breeding provides practical solutions to real needs. It allows us to share God’s enjoyment and marvel at the world’s plants and wonders of variation. We are living in the most exciting time in agricultural sciences since the rediscovery of Mendel, also a Christian.

Basalt "Ship" Not Noah's Ark


Alice C. Linsley

Claims of the discovery of Noah's Ark have circulated for decades, but none have proven to be legitimate. Based on a common reading of Genesis, the attention has focused on the Ararat mountains (shown below).


Recently, the longstanding claim of the discovery of fossilized Ark material was debunked when it was shown that the supposed Ark in eastern Turkey is a slab of basalt. Read the account here.

A careful reading of Genesis diminishes hope that the ship of Noah will ever be found. The Bible tells us that it was built of gofer or papyrus reeds which would have disintegrated long ago.

Reed boat building
Reed boats of this type can carry up to 50 tons when fully loaded.

Reeds were an readily available in the region of Bor-No (Land of Noah) during Noah's time. Moses's mother placed him in a reed (gofer) basket which is called an "ark" in Exodus 2:3. This is why some Bibles correctly read: "Make yourself an Ark of gofer wood, with reeds make the Ark..." (Schocken Bible, Vol. I, p. 35)

If the ark was constructed of a wood frame with hollow reeds in large bundles it would have had great buoyancy. Thor Heyerdahl learned from the Marsh Arabs that if the reeds are cut in August they retain their buoyancy rather than absorbing water.

Noah lived approximately 2490-2415 BC, when the Sahara experienced a time of wet conditions. His reign coincided with the period of the Old Kingdom of Egypt, a time of great cultural and technological achievement. This places Noah and his sons in relatively recent history, not at the dawn of human existence. Some of the rulers who lived around Noah's time include: Hor-Sanakht, Sekhemkht, Djoser, and Khasekhemwy. These were the "mighty men of old" who built kingdoms, fortified shrine cities (the "high places"), palaces, pyramids and temples. In Genesis 6:9-11, Noah is described as God's favored ruler on earth; "an upright man among his contemporaries."

The Genesis accounts of Noah's flood do not specify a mountain and there is doubt that the word Ararat refers to a mountain chain. That idea is based on a supposition that the Biblical Ararat corresponds to Urartu, the Assyrian name for a kingdom in the region of Lake Van.

This view is based on Jerome's reading of Antiquities of the Jews, in which Josephus wrote:
“the ark rested on the top of a certain mountain in Armenia ... However, the Armenians call this place, αποβατηριον 'The Place of Descent'; for the ark being saved in that place, its remains are shown there by the inhabitants to this day. Now all the writers of barbarian histories make mention of this flood, and of this ark; among whom is Berossus. For when he is describing the circumstances of the flood, he goes on thus: "It is said there is still some part of this ship in Armenia, at the mountain of the Cordyaeans; and that some people carry off pieces of the bitumen, which they take away, and use chiefly as amulets for the averting of mischiefs."  (I.3.5-6, trans. William Whiston)

However, there is another interpretation that aligns with the biblical data about Noah, the Proto-Saharan ruler. The word ararat is from the root RRT in which the T was a mark symbolizing a mountain. The reduplicated R symbolizes a high ranking ruler, even the Creator. This archaic symbolism if preserved in the Old Arabic as ararat, meaning vehemence. The word "vehemence" fits the story of the Creator's vehement disapproval of the sinfulness of Mankind. According to this theory, the mount upon which Noah's ark rested is a metaphorical mountain that represents divine judgement.

Throughout the Bible mountains represent God's interaction with Man. Abraham and Isaac encounter divine grace and provision on Mount Moriah. Moses comes face-to-face with God on Mount Horeb and Mount Sinai.

The motif of mountains as the connection to the Creator and the Heavens is found in many ancient texts. In the Bhagvad Gita, Krishna says, "Among the mountains, I am Meru", that is, the spinal cord of the world. The Vishnu Purana (c. 200 BC) speaks of seven continents ringed by seven oceans. This cosmology was a mirror image of the seven celestail planets/bowls, following the ancient belief "as in the Heavens, so on Earth."

Likely, the association of Noah with Armenia has both a mythological and a historical basis. The word Armenia may be an inaccurate rendering of Har-Meni, meaning Mount Meni. As Noah's territory was Bor-No in the region of Lake Chad we should consider a mountain closer to Lake Chad. David M. Westley, PhD, who served as Director of the African Studies Library at Boston University, reports that "From the center of the Chad Basin to Mount Meni is about 230 miles."

Josephus also quoted Nicolas of Damascus in his ninety-sixth book, where he wrote: "There is a great mountain in Armenia, over Minyas [a word for mountain], called Baris, upon which it is reported that many who fled at the time of the Deluge were saved; and that one who was carried in an ark came on shore upon the top of it; and that the remains of the timber were a great while preserved." In the Greek we find Minyas and Meni in connection to the mount upon which the Ark was said to rest.

Noah's reign in Central Africa must have been one of great prosperity. There was abundant fishing and hunting. The climate sustained vineyards (Genesis 9:20).  An oracle concerning Noah states, “This one shall bring us relief from our work and the toil of our hands.” (Genesis 5:29)

The dispersion of peoples from Noah's homeland has been verified by DNA studies. YDNA R1b is found in the region of Lake Chad and the Upper Nile, Southern Europe, France, and the British Isles. This dispersion took place beginning about 18,000 years ago, long before Noah's time.

The dark red spot in Central Africa is Noah' homeland.

Haplogroup R1b, also known as haplogroup R-M343, is the most frequently occurring Y chromosome haplogroup in Western Europe, some parts of Russia (the Bashkir minority), Central Asia (e.g. Turkmenistan) and in the region of Lake Chad, Noah's territory.

This is the Haplogroup of Abraham's Proto-Saharan ancestors who dispersed widely and are known by different names in ancient history: Kushites, Kushan, Annu, Saka, Hittites, etc. Among them was a caste of ruler-priests known in ancient texts as 'Apiru, Hapiru, Habiru or Hebrew.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Erasmus: One of Europe's Greatest Thinkers


Portrait of Erasmus

Jesse Butterworth, Grade 8

Desiderius Erasmus was born on October 27, 1469 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. His father, Roger Gerard, was a priest and his mother, Margaret, was the daughter of a physician. He was christened with the name Desiderius Erasmus.

Erasmus of Rotterdam was a famous and influential scholar, and one of Europe's greatest thinkers. Erasmus was the main figure of the early Christian humanist movement. Much of his life's work went into improving the understanding and translations of Biblical and early Christian texts.

During the Renaissance, humanism took various expressions. Some deeply religious humanists, such as Erasmus, stressed the dignity of man and both heavenly and earthly rewards. Other humanists were scoffers of religion who resisted Church authority. Erasmus was unusual in that he opposed corruption in the Church and yet stayed loyal to Catholicism.

Erasmus rose to be a leading intellectual figure of the early Northern Renaissance. His sayings became famous. "The Adages of Erasmus" is a compendium of wisdom sayings. Niccolo Sagundino wrote about the Adages:
“I can hardly say what a sweet nectar as honey I sip from your delightful Adages, rich source of nectar as they are. What lovely flowers of every mind I gather thence like a honey-bee….to their perusal I have devoted two hours a day.”
Erasmus read and wrote in Dutch, German, English, classical Greek, and Latin. He used his ability for language to advance education. Erasmus wrote books of spiritual counsel in Latin. Several were translated and reprinted in other languages.

Erasmus's interpretation guides that appeared as prefaces to the 1516 and 1518 editions of the New Testament are his most significant contribution to the Church. His translation of the New Testament in Greek clarified the meaning of many texts.

Erasmus was a man of action and a moderate temperament. He said, "If you keep thinking about what you want to do or what you hope will happen, you don't do it, and it won't happen.” He also wrote, "There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.”

Erasmus challenged Luther's doctrine of total depravity, saying that it robs humanity of the dignity that remains even after the Fall. That dignity comes from the image of God (Imago Dei) that cannot be completely erased from human nature.

While Luther's theology started with the depravity of man, Erasmus started with the goodness of the teacher and the student, making Christ’s teachings the objective of all learning. Luther held that since the Fall of Adam and Eve man’s will is not free to choose or even desire God, and that we lost our humanity. Luther believed that it is only through Christ that people regain their full humanity and he thought that Erasmus made too little of this point. Luther wrote, “I am afraid, however, that he [Erasmus] does not advance the cause of Christ and the grace of God sufficiently.... Human things weight more with him than the divine.”

For Erasmus, the Bible and the many aspects of Classical culture were necessary for a person to be educated or refined. This is reflected in Erasmus’ definition of education: "The task of fashioning the young is made up of many parts, the first and consequently the most important part of which consists of implanting the seeds of piety in the tender heart; the second in instilling a love for, and thorough knowledge of, the liberal arts; the third in giving instructions in the duties of life; the fourth in training in good manners right from the very earliest years.”

Erasmus believed that classical antiquity showed the best method for teaching. He wrote, “I would not want you to imbibe pagan morals together with pagan writings. On the other hand, you will find many things there which are conducive to a holy life, and the good precepts of a pagan author should not be rejected...”

To Erasmus, “a man without education has no humanity at all; that man’s life is a fleeting thing; that youth is an easy prey to sin; that adulthood is afflicted with numerous cares; and that old age, which few are permitted to reach, is barren and sterile...”

He believed that teachers cultivate the soil in which the seeds for a good life are sown by nature. He wrote: “The seeds that nature has implanted in us to attain this goal are bursting with life; the only thing that is required, in addition to this natural inclination, is the effort of a dedicated teacher.”



Erasmus died on July 12, 1536 in Basel, Switzerland. He was buried at the Basel Münster Cathedral.

Related reading: Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus; Erasmus: A Moderate Voice in a Turbulent Time

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Erasmus: A Moderate Voice in a Turbulent Time



Connor Weist, Grade 7

Erasmus was born in 1446 in Rotterdam, Netherlands, at the time of the Black Death. His mother, Margaret, was the daughter of a physician. She was left to care for her two children when her husband traveled to Italy to become a copyist.

His mother sent him and his older brother to the Cathedral school in Deventer. There he studied under the Brothers of the Common Life. This is where he began to follow God.

His mother and father died nine years later leaving him and his brother to the care of their paternal uncles.

Erasmus decided to join the Augustinian order and he entered the monastery. He joined the Augustinians because he wanted to travel, gain academic elbow room, and have put behind the barbarians who discouraged him. In 1492, he was ordained priest being Secretary to the Bishop at Cambric. The Bishop sent Erasmus to Paris to study theology. He hated being in Paris. His dorms stank of urine and it wasn’t comfortable being there. The food was horrible too. He also disliked the disciplinary system saying it was too brutal. Soon after, he began a writing career  which took him all over Europe.

In 1499, he went to England where he met Thomas More, his life long friend. Erasmus and More favored moderate dialogue and religious tolerance. They had a different style of arguing than the fiery Martin Luther. Erasmus hated the bickering on the both sides because he thought it very un-Christian.

On the same trip to England, Erasmus heard John Colet teach from the Bible. This was different from what he had studied in Paris. Colet encouraged Erasmus to become a primitive theologian who stupid Scripture.


Erasmus devoted himself to the Greek language, in which the New Testament was written. He wrote to Colet ‘I cannot tell you dear Colet, how I hurry on with all rails set to holy literature. How I dislike everything that holds me back.”

Erasmus, Wycliffe, Tyndale and Luther are considered the great Bible translators of the Middle Ages.

Erasmus translated the New Testament in the original Greek language. The Bible had notes of his own Latin traditions. Erasmus’ Bible corrected over 600 errors from Jerome’s Vulgate (Latin).

Erasmus wrote the Bible so everyone could understand it. Two of the most noteworthy praises came from Pope Leo X and Martin Luther, a German monk who had launched the Protestant Reformation.

 Erasmus became famous for his writings. In 1530, 10-20% of books had Erasmus’ byline. Erasmus wrote to ‘correct the errors of those whose religion is usually composed of ceremonies and observations of a material sort and neglect the thing to conduce piety.”

He became famous for his satire of monastic and ecclesiastic corruption and miracles performed by images. His attack on the church's corruption caught Luther’s attention And Luther tried to win him to the Lutheran cause. Luther attacked Erasmus and said Erasmus would die in the wild, not enter the Promised Land.

Erasmus found that he liked the German language. He told Leo X the German language was a mighty trumpet of the Gospels truth. At the same time, he stopped printing Luther’s writings because he didn’t want his efforts tangled with the reformers.

For four years, Erasmus moderated both sides. However, he remained a Roman Catholic. His position between both sides didn’t please anyone. He wrote, "I only wish now I am old, I be allowed to see the results of efforts, but both sides approached and seek me. Some say that I am with Luther because I don’t attack him. Some say I am a coward who has forsaken the gospel for not being with him.”

Erasmus died in 15396. He was most known for his translation of the Bible and his correction of some linguistic problems in translation.

Related reading: Erasmus; Erasmus: One of Europe's Greatest Thinkers

Kepler: Celebrating God Through Astronomy


I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses. –Johannes Kepler

Jake Bowersox, Grade 7

Johannes Kepler was a famous mathematician and astronomer who formulated the three laws of planetary motion. He thought of himself as a mathematician and a historian.

Kepler was born on 27 December 1571 in  Germany. As a child Johannes was often sick. His hands were crippled and his eyesight was impaired after he contracted smallpox. His mother Katharina Guldenmann was a herbalist who helped her father manage an inn. Katharina was accused of practicing witchcraft and was imprisoned for fourteen months. Throughout her trial, Kepler was said to be by her side.

Kepler's father Heinrich died while was fighting as a mercenary in Holland when Johannes was only 5 years old.

Many noted that Johannes was especially gifted in mathematics from a young age. His mother inspired him by taking him out at night to show him interesting things in the heavens, including a comet and a lunar eclipse. He saw a comet when he was six and a lunar eclipse when he was nine. He remembered for his lifetime the experience of seeing the moon turn red (“blood moon”) during an eclipse.

Kepler was a man who thought of science and religion as working together. He was a pious Lutheran whose writings include theology. He said, “God is the beginning and end of scientific research and striving.”

"I wanted to become a theologian," he wrote. "For a long time I was restless. Now, however, behold how through my effort God is being celebrated in astronomy."

Kepler said, "We astronomers are priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature."

He wanted to go into ministry and sought ordination after seminary, but instead he went to University of Tübingen where he studied Greek, Hebrew, geocentric astronomy, and mathematics. In his first year there Kepler received excellent grades for everything except mathematics.

Kepler taught math at a seminary school in Graz, Austria and was assistant to the court mathematician for Emperor Rudolph II. In 1600 he moved to Prague to research with Tycho Brahe. From Tycho's death in 1601 until the ouster of Emperor Rudolph II in 1612, Kepler was Europe's most respected mathematician. 

Kepler married Barbara Muller in 1597. She was a widow with a young daughter. In the first year of their marriage, they had two daughters who died in infancy. Three more children followed, but Barbara’s health was failing and she died in 1612.

In 1613, Kepler married 24 year old Susanna Reuttinger. The first three children born from this marriage died in infancy.


Kepler's contribution to Science

He invented a better version of the refracting telescope. He used Tycho Brahe's Tables to prove the Laws of Planetary Motion. 

Law of Ellipses

Kepler's first law - also known as the law of ellipses - says that planets orbit the sun in an oval path called an ellipse. The path the planets orbit the sun is an ellipse, with the the sun in the middle.

The Law of Equal Areas

Kepler's second law - also known as the law of equal areas - describes the speed at which any given planet will move while orbiting the sun. The speed at which any planet moves through space is constantly changing. A planet moves fastest when it is closest to the sun and slowest when it is furthest from the sun. An imaginary line drawn from the center of the sun to the center of the planet will sweep out equal areas in equal intervals of time.

The Law of Harmonies

Kepler's third law - also known as the law of harmonies - compares the orbital period and radius of orbit of a planet to those of other planets. Unlike Kepler's first and second laws that describe the motion characteristics of a single planet, the third law makes a comparison between the motion characteristics of different planets. The ratio of the squares of the periods of any two planets is equal to the ratio of the cubes of their average distances from the sun.

Kepler died on 5 November 1630. He should be remembered and honored as a scientist through whose efforts God is celebrated in astronomy. He built on the work of two earlier Christians: Copernicus and Galileo.

Related reading: Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Extraordinary Life of Hildegard of Bingen

Statue of Hildegard in Bingen’s Museum am Strom
(Photo credit: Bob Sessions)


Ashton Wooten
Grade 8

Hildegard of Bingen was a well-known female scientist and Christian mystic. She also was a Benedictine abbess and a prolific writer. She was born in 1098 in West Franconia in Germany to a noble family. Hildegard was the youngest of ten children.

When she was 8 years old, her parents offered her to the Benedictine monastery at the Disibodenburg. It was a custom that the tenth child to be offered as a tithe to God.

At the monastery her mentor was a wise woman named Jutta. She taught Hildegard how to read and write. Hildegard was with her until she was 18. Hildegard, Jutta, and some other women formed a Benedictine covenant.

When Jutta died in 1136 Hildegard became abbess. Her duties as abbess involved the spiritual formation and supervision of nuns, nursing, illuminating manuscripts, and travel in Germany and France. Benedict XVI proclaimed her a “doctor” of the church.

When she was the abbess, she decided to move the convent to Rupertsburg. She separated the women’s ministry from the men’s. The abbot opposed this decision, but the new convent was founded in 1150. The Rupertsburg convent grew to as much as 50 women. Most of the women came from very wealthy backgrounds.

She began having visions at age 3. A monk helped her write out her visions. She also had a remarkable vision when she was 42 years old. She wrote 3 great volumes of visionary theology: Dendermonde, Ghent, and Riesenkodex. All of these writings were later translated into English. A monk helped her write out her visions. She also wrote two treaties. They were called Physica and Causae et Curae. Another thing she wrote was The Book of the Merits of Life.

She also wrote theological, botanical, and medicinal texts. Also, she wrote 77 poems during her lifetime. She also wrote a musical morality play called Ordo Virtutum. Most of her hymns have been performed and recorded by Sequentia.

She rebuked church leaders for spiritual abuse. She criticized the abuses of the Roman Catholic church before Martin Luther. She did several controversial speaking tours around the Rhineland.

Hildegard died the day before her 81st birthday in 1179. She died in Rupertsburg. She was buried in her convent church. The convent church where she was buried was destroyed by the Swedes in 1632. There is a shrine dedicated to her in Einbigen, Hessen Germany.

People also have created a pilgrim trail in honor of Hildegard. Hildegard's legacy lives on in the nearby Hildegard Forum, founded by the Sisters of the Cross that sponsor workshops and classes inspired by Hildegard’s teachings.

Hildegard is considered to be the founder of scientific history in Germany. She was called Sybil of the Rhine. She was known for keeping records of experiments with herbs and other plants. She suffered from migraines and that is how she discovered the healing properties of many plants. She discovered the healing properties of many plants. She studied phyto-medicine which is medicine made from plants and herbs. She also discovered plants that calm the nerves such as lemon balm, passion flower, catnip, and Valerian.

Even thought she was a strong woman, Hildegard considered herself a poor weak woman. She was extremely humble. She should be remembered for all of her discoveries and her writings. She pioneered herbal medicines that laid the basis for some of the medicines that we have today.

Related reading: Hildegard von Bingen's Life of Service

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Producing Your Video


Watch this set of videos for information on how to set up a You Tube account and make a You Tube video.


5 things you should do to make videos with your phone look and sound good




Here are some basic instructions:

http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-YouTube-Video

Instead of using You Tube you might want to try Magisto. This is user-friendly, but costs money. It is designed for business use, but students could use it also.


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Agnes Giberne: A Lover of Science


"Look at that dim star, shining through a powerful telescope with faint and glimmering light. We are told that in all probability the tiny ray left its home long before the time of Adam.
There is a strange solemnity in the thought. Hundreds of years ago - thousands of years ago - some say, even tens or hundreds of thousands of years ago! It carries us out of the little present into the unknown ages of a past eternity."--Agnes Giberne (The Story of the Sun, Moon, and Stars, p. 104, published in 1898)

Agnes Giberne was born in 1845 in the state of Karnataka, India, where her father was in military service. Major Charles Giberne was directly descended from the nobleman Jean De Giberne who migrated to England in the seventeenth century. Agnes acquired her interest in science and the natural world from her father.

Agnes acquired her literary interest from her mother, Lydia Mary Wilson. She began to pen stories at age 7. She was a prolific British author who wrote fiction with religious themes and science books for children. Most of her writing was done before 1910.

From Giberne's book Sun, Moon and Stars
In the nineteenth century it was unusual for a woman to be involved in astronomy. Yet, Giberne became one of the most popular astronomy writers of her time. Through her writings she was able to present basic astronomy to children and women in the Victorian Age.

She was interested in many branches of science. In 1890, she became a founding member of the British Astronomical Association. In addition to astronomy, she also wrote on geology, oceanography, and meteorology. 

Her book Sun, Moon and Stars: Astronomy for Beginners was first published in 1879. The foreword was written by Charles Pritchard, a professor of Astronomy at Oxford University. The book was printed in several edition and sold 24,000 copies in its first 20 years. She wrote a sequel titled Radiant Suns (1894).

These were but two of many books written by Giberne in which she made science accessible to children and beginners. Other volumes include The Starry SkiesThe World's Foundations (Geology for Beginners), This Wonderful Universe, and The Upward Gaze.


Artist's impression of midnight on Saturn
from Giberne's book Sun, Moon and Stars. (Wikipedia)


Agnes was a devout Anglican. She wrote with the catechism in mind. Some of her smaller works were written for the Religious Tract Society.

Agnes Giberne's prayer is quoted in over 100 books published in the early 20th century:
Gracious Saviour, gentle Shepherd,
Children all are dear to Thee;
Gathered with Thine arms and carried
In Thy bosom may we be;
Sweetly, fondly, safely tended,
From all want and danger free.
Tender Shepherd, never leave us
From Thy fold to go astray;
By Thy look of love directed
May we walk the narrow way;
Thus direct us, and protect us,
Lest we fall an easy prey.‎

Agnes lived most of her life at 25 Lushington Road in Eastbourne, United Kingdom. This was a popular seaside town often visited by Lewis Carroll (Charles L. Dodgson) who stayed at 7 Lushington Road, not far from where Agnes lived until her death on 20 August 1939, at age 93.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Galileo’s Extraordinary Scientific and Mathematical Journey




"A man does not attain the status of Galileo merely because he is persecuted; he must be right." -- Stephen Jay Gould


Nathan Calvino, Grade 7

Galileo was a scientist and mathematician who believed that the sun is at the center of our solar system. He believed that Copernicus was correct in his description of the universe. From an early age Galileo showed his scientific skills. At age nineteen, he discovered the isochronism of a pendulum while observing the swinging of a lamp hanging from the ceiling of a church. He noticed that "it took the same amount of time for one complete swing" whether the swing was significant or not. By age twenty-two, Galileo had invented the hydrostatic balance.

Galileo was foremost a mathematician. He said “Mathematics is the alphabet with which God has written the universe.” He had this in common with Copernicus. Another thing that Galileo and Copernicus had in common was their Christian faith. Galileo once said “I do not feel obligated to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

Galileo said “I think that in the discussion of natural problems we ought to begin not with the Scriptures, but with experiments, and demonstrations.” He believed that correct interpretation of the Bible agrees with observed fact. He viewed Nature as a book written in the language of mathematics. This book of Nature and the Bible are in agreement, but they serve different purposes. He said the "Bible teaches men how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go."

Galileo was born on February 15, 1564 in Pisa, Italy. He was the first of six children born to Vincenzo Galileo and Guilia Ammannati. Galileo’s father was a well-known musician and music theorist.

In 1572, when Galileo was eight years old, his family moved to Florence. However, Galileo remained in Pisa and lived with Muzio Tedaldi, a relative of Galileo’s mother. At age 10, Galileo joined his family in Florence and began his formal education at the Camaldolese Monastery. Galileo found the monastic life attractive and he became a novice, but his father wanted his son to become a medical doctor.

In 1581 Galileo was sent by his father back to Pisa to live with Muzio Tedaldi and Galileo was enrolled in the University of Pisa for a medical degree. Galileo left the university in 1585, without a degree.

After Galileo left the University of Pisa he continued the study mathematics. He got a teaching post at the University of Pisa in 1589. There he conducted experiments with falling objects and produced his manuscript On Motion.

His father died in 1591. In 1592, his contract with the university was not renewed. He quickly found a position at the University of Padua, teaching geometry, mechanics, and astronomy. Galileo invented the thermometer in 1593 and the compass in 1597.

In 1604, he published The Operation of Geometrical and Military Compass. In the same year, Galileo refined his theories on motion and falling objects and developed the universal law of acceleration. He began to express openly his support of the Copernican theory.

Galileo made a telescope of his own and in the fall of 1609, he turned his telescope toward the heavens. In March of 1610, Galileo published The Starry Messenger. In 1612, he published Discourse on Boarders of Water. In 1613, he published his observations of sunspots.

In 1616, Galileo was ordered by the Pope not to teach or defend the Copernican theory of a heliocentric universe. He obeyed the order for several years, partly to make life easier, and partly because he was a devoted Catholic.

Cardinal Maffeo Barberini was chosen to be the Pope in 1623. He was known as Pope Urban VIII and he was one of Galileo’s friends. Galileo received permission to write about both the Ptolemaic and the Copernican systems as long as he didn’t promote the Copernican theory.

In 1632, Galileo published the Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World System, his most important writing. The Church summoned him to Rome for a hearing that lasted from September 1632 to July 1633. Galileo was treated with respect and was never imprisoned. However, in the end he was convicted of heresy and he was put under house arrest for the remainder of his life. These years were productive as he wrote many manuscripts. However, by 1638 he was blind and in ill health.

Galileo died on January 8, 1642 in Arcetri, near Florence, Italy after suffering from fever and heart palpitations. His will indicated that he wished to be buried beside his father in the family tomb in the Basilica of Santa Croce. However, his relatives feared that this would provoke opposition from the Church, so his body was concealed. His body was later placed in a fine tomb in 1737 by the civil authorities against the wishes of many in the Church.

350 years after Galileo's death, on October 30, 1992, Pope John Paul II formally closed a 13-year investigation into the Church's condemnation of Galileo in an address given to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Paul Cardinal Poupard, the head of the investigation, said “We today know that Galileo was right in adopting the Copernican astronomical theory."

Galileo should be remembered and honored as an early pioneer in astronomy. Some of his discoveries include:

· that falling objects accelerate at a fixed rate in a vacuum

· that a pendulum can be used to measure time

· that a cannonball travels in a curve called a parabola

· that the planet Jupiter has moons revolving around it

· that the planet Venus has phases just like our moon

On October 18, 1989 the space probe Galileo, named after Galileo Galilei, was launched to study the planet Jupiter. The space probe orbited Jupiter 35 times then in 2003 was driven into Jupiter, deliberately destroyed to avoid contaminating Jupiter’s moon with any of Earth’s bacteria. The probe took close-ups on Jupiter’s rings and found evidence that its icy moons might hold atmosphere.


Related reading: Galileo's Struggle and Vindication

Resources for STEM Teachers




There are more and more good STEM resources available to teachers. Here is a website with the titles and prices of some of those resources:

There are STEM engineering projects, projects involving Algebra; projects related to Native American building technologies, Christmas STEM challenges, and much more.

Related reading: Technology and STEM Education Curriculum




Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Two Great Men of the High Middle Ages


Alice C. Linsley




1466-1536:  Erasmus, Christian Humanist

1483-1546:  Martin Luther, Fiery Reformer



INTRODUCTION

The Medieval Period is divided into the Early and Late Middle Ages. The earlier period is largely concerned with reconciliation of Christian theology and Greek philosophy. The synthesis of Greek philosophy and Christian theology reached its climax in the 11th century (called the “High Middle Ages”). In the Late Middle Ages, ethics was tied to Scholasticism and the universities. Scholasticism influenced the development of Renaissance humanism in the 16th century. During the late Middle Ages the Jesuits established over 200 universities.

The Middle Ages are sometime termed “the Dark Ages.” This label was first applied by 17th century Humanists who regarded the entire period as mired in superstition and useless debate. Today the Middle Ages are recognized as a time of extraordinary creativity and innovation. Objects that we take for granted were invented in the Middle Ages: clocks, eye glasses, buttons, forks, gunpowder and the telescope.

Great cathedrals and monasteries were constructed. These fostered exceptional words of art in stained glass, icons, paintings, sculpture, and illuminated manuscripts. Great musical works were composed for use in the cathedrals and monasteries.

Universities were established in Italy, Spain, Germany, France and England. Three of these remain the oldest in continuous operation universities in Europe: The University of Bologna, Italy (founded 1088), the University of Salamanca, Spain (founded 1134), and the University of Oxford, England (founded 1167). The universities fostered learning in philosophy, math, science, literature, and theology. They produced the most learned men of Europe, among them: Erasmus, Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, John Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, and Rene Descartes.

It was also an age chivalry, one of the more remarkable features of the Middle Ages. Chivalry refers to the knightly system and the virtues of loyalty and courage that characterized its followers. Chivalry directed knights and squires to honor and serve their lords and to protect ladies and maidens. Often romantic love developed between the knight and his lady. After 1600 AD tales of chivalry and romance went out of fashion, and Miguel de Cervantes satirized the genre in his famous novel Don Quixote.

This early centuries of this period were termed “the Dark Ages” by 17th century Humanists who regarded the collapse of Rome and Greece as a great tragedy. Today the Middle Ages are recognized as a time of extraordinary creativity and intellectual brilliance. This was a time of innovation during which many objects that we take for granted were invented, such as clocks, gunpowder, spectacles, buttons, forks and the telescope.
The gradual collapse of the Roman Empire left a political vacuum in Europe. The potential for chaos was prevented largely by the Roman Catholic Church which had a hierarchical structure similar to a military chain of command. After the 12th century there were many challenges to the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. These challenges reached a peak in the 15th century.


Erasmus Seeking Reform Within the Church

The Dutch scholar Erasmus was one thinker who challenged the Church’s corruption. He was a moderate and refined voice during a time of religious conflict and violence. The English scholar John Colet said, "The name of Erasmus will never perish." Sir Thomas More wrote, "Erasmus has published volumes more full of wisdom than any which Europe has seen for ages."

Erasmus advocated referring to the Bible for guidance on how to live a good life, and study of classical Greek and Roman writings for guidance on how to achieve an orderly civilization. He integrated Renaissance humanism and Christian theology and proposed significant educational reforms.

After living in Rome for three years where he observed clergy corruption, Erasmus wrote of his contempt for their immoral and unethical practices in the Praise of Folly. He wrote a satire in which Pope Julius and St. Peter discuss Julius’ entry into heaven. Erasmus believed that Pope Julius was a hypocrite, preaching peace while he “stirs up the world with tempests of war for the sake of his authority over a small town.”

Although Erasmus criticized the Papacy, he remained a Catholic and was committed to a Catholic understanding of free will, which many Reformers rejected in favor of the doctrine of predestination. This angered leading Reformers, such as Martin Luther.

Erasmus was sympathetic with some points of Luther’s criticism of the Church, stating that, “It is clear that many of the reforms for which Luther calls are urgently needed.” So it was said that “Erasmus laid the egg that Luther hatched.” Erasmus respected Luther and Luther admired Erasmus' superior learning, urging him to join the Lutheran movement. Erasmus declined, believing that his life’s purpose was as a leader in the movement for humanistic scholarship and as a translator of the Bible. If he were to influence the reform of the Church it would be as a scholar. 

Unfortunately, when Erasmus hesitated to support the Lutheran movement, Luther accused him of either cowardice or a lack of purpose. Erasmus believed that the reforms he valued could be achieved within the existing structure of the Roman Catholic Church. His attempts to remain neutral during this time of unrest caused both Catholics and Protestants to accuse him of siding with the other. Erasmus wrote, “I detest dissension because it goes both against the teachings of Christ and against a secret inclination of nature. I doubt that either side in the dispute can be suppressed without grave loss.”


Erasmus and Luther Debate the Question of Free Will

In 1524, Erasmus wrote a treatise in which he dealt with the Lutheran notion of the bondage of the will to sin. He systematically set out the weaknesses of Martin Luther’s Augustinian view in his De libero arbitrio diatribe sive collatio(The Freedom of the Will). In response, Luther wrote On the Bondage of the Will which directly attacks Erasmus, going so far as to claim that Erasmus was not a Christian.

To Erasmus, the Bible and the Classics were two sides of the same coin, thus he strove to combine them. This is reflected in Erasmus’ definition of education: "The task of fashioning the young is made up of many parts, the first and consequently the most important part of which consists of implanting the seeds of piety in the tender heart; the second in instilling a love for, and thorough knowledge of, the liberal arts; the third in giving instructions in the duties of life; the fourth in training in good manners right from the very earliest years.”

To Erasmus, “a man without education has no humanity at all; that man’s life is a fleeting thing; that youth is an easy prey to sin; that adulthood is afflicted with numerous cares; and that old age, which few are permitted to reach, is barren and sterile...” He believed that the seeds for a good life are in us ‘by nature’, and teachers are to cultivate these seeds. He wrote: “The seeds that nature has implanted in us to attain this goal are bursting with life; the only thing that is required, in addition to this natural inclination, is the effort of a dedicated teacher.”

While Luther began his theology with the depravity of man, Erasmus started with the goodness of the teacher and the student, making Christ’s teachings the objective of all learning. To Erasmus, classical antiquity showed the best method for teaching. He wrote, “I would not want you to imbibe pagan morals together with pagan writings. On the other hand, you will find many things there which are conducive to a holy life, and the good precepts of a pagan author should not be rejected...” Luther held that since the Fall of Adam and Eve man’s will is not free to choose or even desire God, and that we lost our humanity. Luther believed that it is only through Christ that people regain their full humanity and he thought that Erasmus made too little of this point: “I am afraid, however, that he [Erasmus] does not advance the cause of Christ and the grace of God sufficiently.... Human things weight more with him than the divine.”

Luther countered Erasmus’ belief in the freedom of the will, saying: “Free will after the fall exists in name only, and as long as it does what it is able to do it commits a mortal sin... The person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him adds sin to sin.”

This question of whether humans have free will to elect the Good continues to be debated throughout the history of Ethics, but the Lutheran view of utter depravity and bondage of the will receives less consideration as we move into the modern and post-modern periods. In fact, his position will be completely rejected by most philosophers from the mid 1700s to the present.

Luther maintained that God teaches us about justification, focusing on the inner man for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. Human instruction prepares us to live in the finite earthly kingdom, but divine revelation prepares us to live in the eternal Kingdom of God. This is the basis of Luther’s Two-Kingdoms Theory, the earthly kingdom being separate from and subordinate to the Kingdom of God. Luther recognized that what happens on earth is important for eternal life. He saw education as a means to protect children from the devil’s attempts to take them away from God and as a way to teach them how to live wisely in the earthly kingdom.

Because he believed that the human will is held in bondage by sin, Luther saw education as a way to fight the devil: “Let this, then, my dear sirs and friends, be the first consideration to influence you, namely, that herein we are fighting against the devil as the most dangerous and subtle enemy of all.” It also means that the government has responsibility to promote the spiritual welfare of its citizens, while not neglecting its temporal responsibilities.


Related reading:  Ethics of the Middle Ages; Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus

Galileo’s Struggle and Vindication




Gavin Hoots, Grade 7

Galileo was a brilliant astronomer whose discoveries caused him great distress. He was also a man of Christian faith. Ironically, his greatest detractors were educated men in the Church, some of whom were Inquisition judges. Galileo was tried by the Inquisition after his book was published in 1632. The book was titled Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. The controversy was over Galileo’s heliocentric cosmology, a conception of the solar system that contradicted the cosmology of Aristotle that was taught in the Catholic universities.

Galileo was born in 1564 in Pisa, Italy. He was the first of six children born to wealthy parents. His father, Vicenzo Galilei, was a lutist and a music theorist who encouraged his son to think about the world in mathematical terms, directing his son towards quantitative description of the results, or basically, the scientific method of experimentation and observation.

Galileo started his formal education in 1574 at the Camaldolese Monastery in Florence. Galileo found the monastic life attractive and he became a novice, but his father wanted his son to become a medical doctor. In 1581 Vincenzo sent Galileo back to Pisa where Galileo studied for a medical degree, but due to financial difficulties he left before earning his degree.

Galileo continued to study mathematics, supporting himself through minor teaching positions. During this time he began his study of objects in motion which he would continue for 20 years. This research led to the publication of The Little Balance, a treatise that brought him fame and gained him a teaching position at the University of Pisa in 1589. Soon after, he took a position at the University of Padua. This was fortunate for him, as his father died in 1591, leaving Galileo with responsibility to take care of his younger brother Michelangelo.

Galileo taught at the University of Padua for 18 years. His lectures were entertaining and drew large numbers of students, further increasing his fame and wealth.

In 1604 Galileo published The Operations of the Geometrical and Military Compass. He was 40 years old. That same year he refined his theory on motion and falling objects and came up with the universal law of acceleration. Before Galileo scientists thought that force causes speed, but Galileo showed that force causes acceleration. Galileo reached the conclusion that bodies fall on the earth at a constant acceleration, and that gravity, which causes all bodies to fall, is a constant force. In other words, a constant force like gravity does not lead to constant speed but to constant acceleration.

Galileo built his first telescope in 1609 after learning how Dutch eyeglass makers had built a simple telescope. He showed his apparatus to some merchants who recognized that it would be useful for spotting ships. The merchants paid him to manufacture several telescopes. In1610 Galileo used his telescope to observe the stars and planets. With the telescope he made discoveries that caused him to question Aristotle’s cosmology. He saw mountains and valleys that indicate changes on the moon. He observed the motion of four of Jupiter's moons. He also observed the phases of Venus, which could be explained only by the motion of Venus around the sun, not the Earth. He published his discoveries in a small volume titled The Starry Messenger.

Galileo understood the implications of his discoveries in physics and astronomy. He wrote,

“My purpose is to set forth a very new science dealing with a very ancient subject. There is, in nature, perhaps nothing older than motion, concerning which the books written by philosophers are neither few nor small; nevertheless, I have discovered some properties of it that are worth knowing that have not hitherto been either observed or demonstrated. Some superficial observations have been made, as for instance, that the natural motion of a heavy falling body is continuously accelerated; but to just what extent this acceleration occurs has not yet been announced... Other facts, not few in number or less worth knowing I have succeeded in proving; and, what I consider more important, there have been opened up to this vast and most excellent science, of which my work is merely the beginning, ways and means by which other minds more acute than mine will explore its remote corners.”

Galileo did not see a conflict between science and the Bible. He believed that both served God and made truth more evident to Humankind. He wrote, "God is known by nature in his works, and by doctrine in his revealed word."

In a 1615 letter to Madame Christina, the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, Galileo wrote, “I think in the first place that it is very pious to say and prudent to affirm that the Holy Bible can never speak untruth—whenever its true meaning is understood.”

Pope Paul V ordered the Inquisition to look into Galileo’s work. The Inquisition ruled against him in 1616.

One of Galileo’s friends, Cardinal Maffeo Barberini, was chosen to be the Pope in 1623. Galileo went to see him, but Urban VIII did not lift the injunction against him. Galileo received permission to write about both the Ptolemaic and the Copernican systems. He did exactly that in his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems which was published in 1632. It was regarded as a literary and philosophical masterpiece, but it clearly favored the Copernican cosmology and this lead to further problems with the Church hierarchy.

Again, Galileo was called before the Inquisition in 1633. This time he was forced to renounce his findings and promised never again to write about the Copernican system. He was 70 years old and placed under house arrest. Galileo died on January 8, 1642, after suffering from a fever and heart palpitations.

Galileo’s final work was a volume that detailed his 30 years of work in physics. The book was titled Dialogue Concerning Two New Sciences and many scholars consider it his greatest work. This was written while he lived under house arrest. It was printed in Holland in 1638, but by this time Galileo had become blind from a combination of cataracts and glaucoma.

In 1758, the Roman Catholic Church lifted the ban on writings that supported the Copernican cosmology. By 1835 the heliocentric understanding of the solar system was accepted and taught in Catholic universities.

In 1981 a commission of the Church began to look into Galileo's case, and 11 years later the commission acknowledged that Galileo's judges had erred in their assessment. In 1992 Pope John Paul II acknowledged that the church was wrong to condemn Galileo.


Related reading: Galileo's Christian Faith


Monday, November 28, 2016

What Data Collectors Know About You



We live in an era of increasing automation. Machines help us not only with manual labor but also with intellectual tasks, such as curating the news we read and calculating the best driving directions. But as machines make more decisions for us, it is increasingly important to understand the algorithms that produce their judgments.

We’ve spent the year investigating algorithms, from how they’ve been used to predict future criminals to Amazon’s use of them to advantage itself over competitors.

All too often, these algorithms are a black box: It’s impossible for outsiders to know what’s going inside them. Today we’re launching a series of experiments to help give you the power to see inside.

Read it all here.


Note the Chrome plugin is gone. 

In reality, people are not as predictable as data collectors hope. We never fit neatly into buckets conforming to their expected market segments.

Electromagnetic Anomalies and the Tomb of Jesus


Alice C. Linsley

Recently several news reports have appeared about work being done at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. According to a tradition that dates to the time of Emperor Constantine (306-337 AD) this is where Jesus was buried and where He rose from the dead. The tomb is enclosed by the 18th-century shrine called the Edicule (Aedicule).

The locations of Jesus' crucifixion (marked by a cross) and his burial,
according to a 4th century tradition

In this report it is evident that Roman Catholics want to use the electromagnetic anomaly of the Jerusalem area to validate the claim that the Shroud of Turin once covered Jesus' body. However, electromagnetic anomalies are found all over Earth's surface and one place they are found is in the area where they are working. The red spots on this map show where those electromagnetic anomalies are located.



I'm still waiting for an objective source to verify that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is where Jesus was buried. Descriptions of the site do not align with the data of Scripture.

In Jesus' time and long before His time, burials were done outside the city. That is why Jerusalem is surrounded by tombs. Some are monumental and some are more simple. Many are rock-cut tombs, such as the one in which Jesus' body rested, as described in the Gospels.

On the trail of Jesus' ancestral burial grounds

In the ancient world mining and tomb construction were the work of ruler-priests. Joseph was engaged in both. That is why he is associated with the oldest tunnel mines in Cornwall, England. Joseph had business and probably family connections in Cornwall. The Cornish say that he visited the Ding Dong mining operation. Eusebius of Caesarea (260–340 AD) may have been referring to this in Demonstratio Evangelica when he reports that some of Jesus' earliest disciples "have crossed the Ocean and reached the Isles of Britain." Since a qualification for membership in the Sanhedrin was facility with multiple languages, Joseph would have been able to communicate with the people of Britain.

Given that tunnel mining and rock-cut tomb building require the same skill sets, it is not surprising that these were done by the same people. There is no reason to doubt the historicity of Joseph Arimathea's connection to Cornwall. As a metal tradesman and a mining expert it would have been natural for him to visit there. From the time of the earliest pharaohs mining and rock-cut tombs were the work of ruler-priests. 

Joseph was a descendant of the priest line of Matthew, as indicated by Ar (ruler)-Matthea. Variant spellings of Matthew include Mateus, Matthan, Matthias, Matt-hat and Mattaniah. Mattaniah means “gift of God” and is a name found among priests in I Chronicles. These names are also found among Mary's male ancestors. That means that Joseph Ar-Mathea was related to Mary, Jesus' mother. Mark 15:43 tells us that "Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council [Sanhedrin], who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body."

Membership in the Sanhedrin required proof of one's ruler-priest ancestry. Mary's noble ancestry was acknowledged by those who sought to defame her. It is certain that Mary was of the ruler-priest class/caste because even those who hated her admit this. Sanhedrin 106a says: “She who was the descendant of princes and governors played the harlot with carpenters.”

Only priests belonging to prominent families were members of the Sanhedrin, the Beth Din HaGadol (The Great Court). A prominent family was one whose lineages could be traced back to Horite ruler-priests (what Jews call their "Horim"). The Sanhedrin is the successor to the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah or "Men of the Great Assembly" founded by Ezra c. 520 BC. The Sanhedrin to which Joseh and Nicodemus belonged was the body of the Second Temple (BC 520 - AD 70). Joseph of Arimathea was called bouleutēs which means "honorable counselor."

The tomb in which Joseph buried Jesus was one he had prepared for his own use. No body had ever been laid there. Mark 15: 46 gives this description:

Joseph bought a linen cloth, took down the body of Jesus, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb.

The Jewish laws of purity required that tombs be outside the Old City. This requirement to avoid contact with the dead pertained especially to ruler-priests who served in the Temple and in the Sanhedrin. The Red Heifer Bridge made it possible for the priests to cross the Kidron Valley without coming into contact with the graves and tombs. 

The rock-cut tombs of members of the Sanhedrin usually had monumental facades carved with floral and geometric designs. One such design was the 6-prong rosette, a solar image, such as those on these burial objects.

This solar rosette appears on this marker stone at Banias in Northern Israel. 


The same solar mark (merkava?) is found on the Magdala Stone


Ossuary of Miriam, daughter of the priest Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus)

Given the prominence of Joseph's ruler-priest family, it is likely that his ancestral burial grounds were in the Kidron Valley, located between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives. Tomb inscriptions here prove that these were the tombs of the ruler-priest families and most date to the 1st century BC.

Tomb of a ruler-priest family in the Kidron valley
Joel 3:12 says that God will judge the nations from the Valley of Jehoshep-hat, a part of the Kidron valley. The royal tag hat is found in the names of these rulers: Amenem-hat, Hat-shepsut, Merytre-Hat-shepsut, and in the name of one of Israel’s great rulers, Yehoshep-hat/Jehoshep-hat (Matthew 1:8). Yehoshep is a variant of Yosef/Joseph. One of Yehoshep-hat’s sons was Shephatiah or Shep-hat (II Chron. 21:2).

Jerusalem is surrounded by tombs since the Jews would not bury their dead inside the city walls. There are tombs to the west in the Hinnom Valley, tombs to the south where the Hinnom and Kidron Valleys meet, tombs to the north of today’s Old City walls and tombs in the Kidron Valley. It is said that Messiah will appear here in the Kidron Valley to raise the dead. It makes sense that the general resurrection would begin where Jesus' resurrection took place.

The Kidron Valley is on the east side of Jerusalem, a good distance from the northwest quarter of the Old City where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is located. It seems more likely that the ancestral burial ground of the Matthean priests is in the Kidron Valley rather than in the Christian quarter of the Old City.

Francis Bacon: Seeker of Truth


 Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

“I have taken all knowledge to be my province”--Sir Francis Bacon

Jesse Pome'
Grade 8


Francis Bacon is one of the most remarkable men of the English Renaissance. He was involved in government, science, philosophy and literature. He is regarded by many as the father of the scientific method. He anticipated the invention of televisions, airplanes, submarines, and lasers in his work New Atlantis which describes a society governed by scientists.

Bacon was born in London, England January 22, 1561 to Anne Bacon and Nicholas Bacon. His father was the keeper of the Great Seal for Elizabeth I. 

As a child, Francis Bacon always had an interest in science. In those days, most science was based on Aristotle’s thought and categories. Bacon favored the new Renaissance humanism over Aristotelian thought and he challenged the Scholasticism of the universities.

His method of investigating natural phenomena involved inductive reasoning, in contrast to deductive reasoning, which had dominated science since Aristotle. 

Bacon introduced an inductive method of testing and refining hypotheses by observing, measuring, and experimenting. An Aristotelian might deduce that water is necessary for life since it is evident that organisms cannot survive without water. Bacon would test the hypothesis by experimenting. The results of those experiments lead to more informed conclusions.

Many Aristotelian ideas, such as the geocentric universe, had been overturned, but the Aristotelian methodology was still being used. According to this method, scientific truth could be reached through debate by clever men who discussed a subject at length. Bacon challenged this, arguing that truth required observed evidence from the real world.

Bacon attended Trinity College at 12 years and was there from in April 1573 to 1575. The following year, he enrolled in Gray’s Inn in London.  Bacon held the position of Treasurer at Gray's Inn, Dean of the Chapel, and he developed plays called “Masques” and “Devices” which were performed in the dining hall.

He described his tutors at Gray's Inn as "men of sharp wits, shut up in their cells with a few authors, chiefly Aristotle, their dictator."

In 1577 Bacon went to work under Sir Amyas Paulet, the British ambassador to France. When his father died on February 20, 1579 Bacon left France and sought the help of his uncle, Lord Burghley, to find a government post. When his uncle did not help him, Francis began a political career in the House of Commons. He also resumed his studies in Gray's Inn. He lived at Number 1 Gray's Inn Square for many years.

In 1603, he married Alice Barnham (1592–1650). After her father's death, Alice was brought up in the family of Sir John Pakington, who was a great favorite of Queen Elizabeth. Bacon's letters mention young Alice beginning in July 1603. He describes her as "an Alderman's daughter, an handsome maiden to my liking." They were married 10 May 1606 at St Marylebone's Chapel, a suburb to the North of London. Alice was 14 and Francis was 45.

In 1607, Bacon became a solicitor general and in 1610, he became attorney general. In 1616, he joined Privy Council, and went on to become Lord Chancellor, the same position as his father.

Unfortunately, Bacon was set up by his enemies and was found guilty of accepting a bribe.  He was fined 40,000 pounds and was sentenced to the tower of London. After that, by God’s grace, his sentence was reduced, and his fine was lifted. He decided to set aside his political ambitions and he finally retired. 

Instead of political work, he decided to focus on philosophy of science. In doing this, he hoped to alter the face of natural philosophy. During his work, he pioneered the the scientific method, a new way of conducting research. 

Bacon wrote many books on this new way of doing science and recorded his experiments. He showed that the senses can be fooled and that appearances can be deceptive. Yet more than any other thinker of his time, he urged that the senses be used in a methodical way to discover the nature of heat, light, wind, motion, the tides, the stars, and even the human being. The future belongs to "Those who aspire not to guess and divine," he wrote, "but to discover and to know... who propose to examine and dissect the nature of this very world itself, to go to facts themselves for everything."

Bacon was a Christian. He had a great deal to say about the Faith. He wrote that, "Knowledge is the rich storehouse for the glory of the Creator and the relief of man's estate." 

Bacon believed that God acts through a chain of causes, rather than directly. He thought that atheism was a product of not looking deeply into the chain of causes:

It is true that a little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion; for while the mind of man looketh upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest in them, and go no further; but when it beholdeth the chain of them confederate, and linked together, it must needs fly to Providence and Deity. (From The Works of Francis Bacon: The Wisdom of the Ancients and Other Essays, Black's Readers Service Company, 1932, p.53)

Statue on the tomb of Sir Francis Bacon

Sadly, after exposing himself to the elements Francis Bacon developed bronchitis and became extremely sick. He died in 1626, leaving a great legacy of scientific inquiry. He was buried at the Church of St. Michael, St. Albans in the United Kingdom. The Latin inscription on the base of his memorial reads (in translation): 

"Francis Bacon, first Baron Verulam and Viscount St. Albans, better known as the Light of Knowledge and the Law of Eloquence, used to sit thus. In the year of Our Lord 1626, in the sixty-sixth year of his age, after he had unravelled every secret of the natural world and of the world of man, he fulfilled the decree of nature that whatosever things have been joined together must be sundered."

In his will, he included this final prayer: "When I thought most of peace and honor, thy hand [was] heavy on me, and hath humbled me, according to thy former loving kindness. … Just are thy judgments upon my sins. … Be merciful unto me for my Savior's sake, and receive me into thy bosom."

Francis Bacon should be remembered and honored as an example of a Christian who advanced science by insisting that truth is proven by doing empirical research; that knowledge is derived from sense-experience. Bacon saw himself an advocate for science and though he contributed little to any particular field of empirical science, his legacy is a lasting one.