Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Stealing 'The Star of Bethlehem'

It's bad enough that we have to deal with atheists taking shots at Christmas let alone misguided believers. Every year someone claims to have figured out what the Star of Bethlehem really was; by which they mean: it wasn't miraculous.  The latest is a lawyer turned amateur astronomer who used a computer program to move the night sky back to its configuration around the time of Jesus birth.  His claim is that the ‘Star’ was really just a grouping of stars and planets which held a particular significance to the Magi.  Not only is this wrong, it is insulting to believers as it rips the supernatural away and reduces the ‘star’ to just an ordinary natural occurrence.  In other words, God had to wait on the universe to send His son instead of commanding the universe to announce His birth.  The premise fails on a number of points:

1) Why would a grouping of stars have a significance for a group of foreign scholars?  The general consensus is that the Magi were Babylonian and most likely adherents to Zoroastrianism.  In that case, they would have been looking for a sign announcing the return of their savior known as the sayoshant.  Whatever the star was, it had to have an arresting power to direct the Magi to Bethlehem.

Traditional image WRONG.
Shepherds did not see the Star
2) The star appeared only to the Magi and no one else as far as we can tell.  Mat. 2:7 "Then Herod privately summoned the wise men and determined from them when the star had appeared."  If others had seen the star it would unnecessary to ask this question.  Note, this also means the shepherds did not see the star-paintings, and carols not with standing.

3) Some claim that the Magi spent two years traveling to find Jesus.  This is nonsense.  Trade routes were well established in those days.  The journey from Babylon to Jerusalem/Bethlehem was about 550 miles.  Caravans averaged between 4 and 8 miles per day. At that rate the magi would have been in Jerusalem in 75 to 150 days if they started immediately.  It is my contention that they did not start immediately as they had to ascertain the meaning of the star, and only when they understood its meaning did they begin their journey.

An additional note regarding the magi.  It is customary to show them on camels or a camel, an elephant and a horse, but only one of these animals is correct.  No magi would ever ride a camel.  That would be like the queen of England riding in a sewer truck.  Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration but not by much.  Magi would have ridden horses; their servants would be on camels.

Scroll down to the bottom of the above link and notice what the magi are riding.
4)There are two curious verses in Mat. 2: 9) When they had heard the king they departed and lo the star whch they saw in the east went before them till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10) When they saw the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 

The words used to describe the intensity of their joy imply near violence or horrendously great.  They were so happy to see the star that perhaps they assaulted each other as athletes sometimes do.  This is remarkable in two respects; 1) it is hardly the manner we would expect of men of their station, and 2) why react that way if the star had been visible continuously.  I believe that the star led them as far as Jerusalem or perhaps only Damascus (as suggested in Flower) and then vanished.  Their reaction is consistent with this idea in that it once again appeared to lead them.

It is my firm belief, based on the above that the Star of Bethlehem was a miraculous sign from God unrelated to planets or comets or stars or anything else of nature.

Additional notes: The number and names of the Magi are not recorded.  My personal belief is that there were 12. 

Anything or anyone who diminishes The Star of Bethlehem via a natural explanation or extension of its visibility to anyone but the magi is stealing The Star by turning it into merely a star and they should be ignored.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Reason for THE Season

Mat (Mature Atheist Turtle) in his front yard speaking with Ary (Christian)

Mat: How do you like my sign?

Ary: Well, there isn't much to it.  I doubt if most people will know who Mithra was or perhaps even the winter solstice.

Mat: You're just afraid that we atheists are doing away with Christmas.  Most businesses now advertise Holiday sales, and decorations and avoid the word Christmas.

Ary:  There has been a backlash about that.  After complaints a number of stores have gone out of their way to make sure that the word Christmas is included in their promotions.

Mat: Yeah, but it's not like it was before.

Ary: Perhaps, but you are leaving out half the globe with your sign.

Mat: How?

Ary:  The Winter Solstice is only in December in the northern hemisphere.  It's the Summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.

Mat: What different does it make?  Jesus wasn't born in December anyway.

Ary: But Christmas isn't about the month of the year or the changing of seasons, it's about the birth of Jesus.

Mat: And Christians don't know when that was so they stole someone else's celebration.

Ary:  It's true that the early church wasn't focused on the birth of Jesus.  They were much more interested in His resurrection.  The whole birth thing smacked of paganism, but as time passed and more and more people became Christians, two things happened.  First, the Christians didn't want to celebrate the pagan holidays and they became interested in Jesus' birthday. 

Mat: Yeah, and they tried to muscle out the Mithras celebrations. 

Saturnalia, escultura en el Jardín Botánico de Bs.As
Usuario:Roberto Fiadone
From Wikimedia Commons freely licensed media file
Ary: No, it was more about maintaining the festive atmosphere common to Saturnalia.  Saturnalia was started about 200 B.C. to raise the spirits of Rome after their defeat by the Carthaginians.  It grew to a multi-day  festival which Romans would not abandon.  It also got a bit out of hand with the drinking and cavorting but while Christmas retained a number of the elements of the celebration common to Saturnalia, it is incorrect to say that it replaced it because Saturnalia ran from December 17th through the 23rd and Christmas in the 25th.

Mat: Close enough to count as far as I am concerned.  Christians stole the Winter Solstice and Saturnalia for their own selfish purposes.

Ary:  Perhaps there is another option.  The Mishna and Talmud describe in Avodah Zara 8a Saturna which occurs before the Winter solstice.  There is another 8 day long celebration after the solstice called Kalenda.  This celebration is said to have originated with Adam as follows:

"GEMARA. Said R. Hanan b. Raba: KALENDA is kept on the eight days following the [winter] equinox. SATURNALIA on the eight days preceding the equinox. As a mnemonic take the verse, Thou hast beset me behind and before.13

Our Rabbis taught:14  When primitive Adam saw the day getting gradually shorter, he said, 'Woe is me, perhaps because I have sinned, the world around me is being darkened and returning to its state of chaos and confusion; this then is the kind of death to which I have been sentenced from Heaven!' So he began keeping an eight days' fast. But as he observed the winter equinox and noted the day getting increasingly longer, he said, 'This is the world's course', and he set forth to keep an eight days' festivity. In the following year he appointed both15  as festivals. Now, he fixed them for the sake of Heaven, but the [heathens] appointed them for the sake of idolatry."
Avodah Zara 8a

So, allow me to summarize.  Your sign is off because it refers to the Winter Solstice (excluding the Southern hemisphere) and Mithra, neither of which is applicable to Christmas.  Further, those who maintain that Christians annexed Saturnalia are off based on the Date of Christmas (December 25, when Saturnalia ended on December 23).  Finally, we have evidence that the Jews believed that Adam (the first man) celebrated a festival around the time of Christmas.  It is possible to make the case that December 25 was chosen to honor that celebration, which the Gamara says was defiled by the pagan.

Mat: Time to Turtle up!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Zombie Apocalypse part 1

[The Walking Dead is a popular television series in its second season in the United States.  The long anticipated zombie apocalyse has happened: How, has not yet been revealed.  The series follows a group of survivors who are trying to avoid becoming zombies themselves.  The interest the Atheist Turtle has in the show is its exploration of the faith of the main characters.  Rick is a deputy sheriff by profession. He is a straight shooter with a well developed sense of right and wrong.  Glenn is a former pizza delivery boy in his early 20's.  He is of asian extraction and is a blank canvass as far as faith goes.  Hershel is a retired veternarian with a strong and apparently unshaken faith it God.  As Rick is searching for a lost child from their group he enters a church.  At the front of the church is a crucifix.  Rick looks at the figure of Jesus and asks for a sign that he is doing the right thing by leading the group.  Shortly afterward Rick's son Carl is accidently shot and nearly dies.  They make their way to Hershel's farm where Hershel operates on Carl and saves his life.]

Maggie (a member of Hershel's family. She finds Glenn alone on the porch)  I'm sorry, were you praying?

Glenn: Yeah, I guess.

Maggie: are you religious?

Glenn:  No, not really.  I guess I just figure that we could all use some prayer now.  What about you?  Do you think prayer helps?

Maggie: I have to figure that with everything that has happened, there had to have been a lot of prayers which went unaswered.  But, yeah, I still pray.

[During break in show]

Mat (sarcastically): I suppose you are going to tell me that every prayer gets answered - Yes, No, or not now.

Ary: Suppose I did say that?

Mat: That answer only satisfies the sheep.  They are too stupid to question things rationally  That answer is a cop-out.  It's a way to justify whatever happens and leave god in control.

Ary: you realize it's just a television show don't you?  It isn't real.

Mat: Neither is god.

Ary (smiles):  What caused the Zombie Apocalypse?

Mat: In the show?

Ary:  Yes.

Mat: We don't know.  Probably a chemical weapon gone awry.

Ary: So, something humans have done.

Mat: probably.

Ary: And you think it shows that God either doesn't exist, or doesn't care that He doesn't do something in answer to prayers.

Mat: or  he is not powerful enough to do anything.

Ary: How many of the prayers do you suppose were from people who don't believe in God? Should He have answered them?

Mat: Why not?

Ary: Why would He? So they can turn their back on Him again until they are in another disaster?

Mat: What about his believers; why doesn't he answer their prayers?

Ary: I can't really answer for God, but suppose I was Him, how do I decide whose prayer(s) to answer?

Mat: By answer you mean - intervene in a positive way not the yes, no or not yet?

Ary: Right.  I grant their wish.

Mat (sarcastically):  I guess based on merit.  The best person's prayer is granted first.

Ary: There are two problems with that. First, God isn't in the wish granting business.  Remember, we said they were the wishes of the individual.  God has His plan for our lives and if some one is making wishes which oppose that plan He is not going to go along with it.

Mat: Even if it means being chewed on by a zombie?

Ary: Zombie, cancer, heart attack.  We are going to die from something eventually.  In this case we did it it was up to us.
Mat: Up to us?  I didn't vote for zombies.

Ary: Actually you did.  From the beginning we have been trying to replace God, to become Him - We've had three chances: Garden, Ark, and Nativity.  In each case we had a chance to live life according to His plan but we rejected it.

Mat: So it's our fault?

Ary: No, it's your fault.

Mat starts to object

Ary: And my fault.  Each of us individually makes the choice to honor God or not.  And, by the way, God doesn't play favorites; one believer is not more worthy than another.

to be continued.

doesn't play favorites.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Logical Proof That God Exists

(Atheists frequently confront believers with a demand for proof that God exists.  The demand is presented with a smug assumption that it cannot be met.  However, that assumption is not correct.  It rests on multiple levels of assumptions which are flawed and therefore must collapse.  The destructive blow can be initiated using something called The Ontological Argument for the Existence of God.  Now, don't let  your eyes glaze over, there is nothing mysterious about this.  In fact, you can rephrase it to read: "Logical proof that God exists."  In the following discussion, some scary logical symbols are going to show up.  They are included for accuracy and so you can impress your friends.  Print the image out then show your friends and explain how they prove God exists.)

Atheist Bus
Ariane Sherine, Richard Dawkins and
 Polly Toynbee
(Photo: Leon Neal/Agence
 France-Presse — Getty Images)
 Mat (Mature Atheist Turtle handing a newspaper with a picture of the bus and thee people standing in front to Ary): I see the Atheist Bus is out again.

Ary: For the life of me I never understand why you are so proud of that thing.

Mat: Because it takes a stand for atheism and shoves it right in the face of believers.

Ary: But the sign says, "There Probably is no god."  What probability is that exactly; 10%, 20%, 50%; I guess as long is you dont' exceed 49.99% the sign is accurate.

Mat: That isn't the point. It isn't up to us to prove there is no god, it's up to you to prove that there is, and you can't do that, can you?

Ary: As a matter of fact, I can.

Mat: So do it!

Gödel's Ontological Proof for God
Ary (hands a card with symbols on it to Mat): Here, look this over.

Mat:  What is this crap?  It looks like a bunch of gibberish to me.

Ary: It's Kurt Gödel's Ontological proof for God

Mat: Ugh, some idiot believer comes up with a bunch of symbols no one
can understand ... I'm not impressed. 

Ary: Well, first of all, Kurt Gödel is not some idiot, he was one of the greatest mathematicians and logicians of the 20th Century.  He was also not necessarily a believer in God.  He spent decades of his life secretly working on this proof and only showed it to a friend of his when he thought he was dying.  He didn't want to be ridiculed by you atheists.

Mat: Yeah, I've heard of the ontological argument for god.  Anselm started it but it's been shown to be flawed and no one accepts it now.

Ary: That's not correct.  It was started by Anselm in the 11th century, and his proof did have weaknesses, but since then it has been improved by; René Descartes, Gottfried Leibniz (the guy who invented calculus), Norman Malcolm, Charles Hartshorne, Alvin Plantinga and more recently Kurt Gödel.

Mat: So what, all I see is a bunch of symbols, what does it mean?
Ary:  God can either necessarily exist, or necessarily not exist.
If God is an all-powerful being, and
he exists,
he necessarily exists in all possible worlds.
If he doesn't exist,
he necessarily doesn't exist in any possible worlds.
It is not possible to say that God does not exist in any possible world.
No matter how slim the chance is, God might exist.
That means that God can't necessarily not exist.
Since the choices are either God necessarily does exist, or
necessarily doesn't, and
we have eliminated the possibility that he necessarily doesn't,
the only possibility left is that he necessarily does."

Mat: All that comes from those symbols?

Ary: Those symbols are just sentences for logicians.  They eliminate the language barrier. 

Mat: I still don't see it.  Richard Dawkins is one of the greatest minds of our lifetime and he doesn't believe in god.

Ary: I can't speak for Mr. Dawkins but the sign on the bus he is promoting actually proves God exists.

Mat:  How, it says "probably doesn't exist."

Ary: Exactly, remember the statement above that if it was possible for God to exist, no matter how slim the chance, then God must exist?  When they put 'probably' on the side of the bus they allowed for the possibility that God exists and according to Gödel's proof that satisfies the condition and therefore, by the statement on the side of the atheist bus, God exists.

Mat (stares at the proof and the bus picture): I need to 'turtle up'.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"I want Tim Tebow to fail!"

Tim Tebow while at U of F
Tim Tebow was a star football player with the University of Florida Gators from 2006-2009.  He was awarded the Heisman trophy as the best quarterback in the nation twice during his time at U of F.

Scene:  Sunday afternoon at a Sports Themed Restaurant just before kickoff.  Ary (a preacher) is seated alone at a table as Mat (mature atheist turtle approaches accompanied by another man.)

Mat: Ary, mind if we join you?

Ary: Not at all, have a seat.

Mat (sitting): Ary, this is a fried on mine - Jeff.

Ary: Nice to meet you Jeff.

Jeff: Likewise.  Game start yet?

Ary: Just flipped the coin

(Waitress brings Ary's order.  He bows his head and asks a silent blessing on the food.)

Jeff: I hope we don't see them doing that at the game.
Ary: Doing what?

Jeff: Praying.  I hate that.  It has no place at a football game.

Ary: Why not?
Jeff: Because it makes no sense.  Look, suppose there are Christians on Team A and just before the game they get together and pray; what are they going to pray for? A win right?  Meanwhile, the Christians on Team B get together and pray for victory too.  So which team's prayers get answered?

Ary:  Well, they also pray for a safe game.
Jeff: And then they go and try to hurt each other.  It's hypocritical.
Ary: But it doesn't hurt you in any way does it?
Jeff:  Yes it does, for example that guy Tim Tebow at Gainesville, he really irks me.  Not only is he a Christian but he's constantly shoving it in my face.  Anytime he's interviewed he thanks god and he puts bible verses on his eye black.

Ary: Relax, he's graduating.
Jeff: Yes, but he's going to the NFL.  (Jeff thinks for a moment) You know what? I want Tim Tebow to fail in the NFL. I want him to be drafted late, report to training camp, throw a bunch of crappy passes and be cut from the team. I want him to fail in the NFL, because a famous Tim Tebow is a dangerous Tim Tebow.

Ary: Dangerous, how on earth is Tim Tebow being famous dangerous?
Jeff: He doesn’t play football merely for the joy of the game. He plays football because he wants to spread the word of Jesus Christ. But not merely spread it. He wants me to accept it and, if I don’t embrace it, he wants me to think again about embracing it. And, if I still don’t embrace it, he wants you to think again. And again. And again. If, in the end, I'm still not sold, I will burn in hell. Christians who accept Jesus will spend an eternity in bliss. Those who don’t are doomed... Tim Tebow scares me.

Ary: (Looking at his iced tea while stirring it): Are you sure that it is Tim Tebow you are afraid of?  He is just expressing his faith. 
Jeff: You call it faith. I call it f***ing insanity.  You think everyone has a right to believe what they want … faith is admirable … you’ve gotta respect his feelings. Well, bulls***. I do not have to respect this sort of damaging craziness, where a group of people go to foreign, oft-Third World nations and convert the so-thought-of “savages” ie: those who don’t know Christ.  Tebow's family is involve with that and it makes me sick.  Not just me, I have a friend Jason Fagone wrote an excellent piece on Tebow.  He agrees that we need to stop embracing this dogmatic lunacy merely because it comes from the mouth of a supposed “good guy” jock. I don’t care how nice Tim Tebow is. If he’s in an ad for Focus on the Family; if he believes homosexuality is sinful and women are here to serve their men and Jews and Muslims and agnostics and the rest of us are sinful, well, to hell with him.

Ary: You are way off base.  Tim Tebow isn't singling out the world for being sinful, he is singling out the lost.  If  you were to ask him, Tim would tell you that he is a sinner too.
Jeff: Who cares? I live a good life, and any god who can't accept me doing my best is a god I don't want any part of.

Ary: That's not what Tim stands for.  Do you remember the BCS Championship game last year (2009)? Tim had John 3:16 on his eye black.  That verse tell you that your acceptance by God isn't based on what you do, its based on your relationship with Jesus.  How is that dangerous?
Jeff: I remember.  Google says that during and after that game 94 million* people searched John 3:16.  But the NCAA is going to ban messages in eyeblack from now on.  People call it the "Tebow Rule".

Ary: He seems to have a lot of rules named after him.  On several occasions separate and apart from the eye black issue, Tebow has caused "The Man" to change the way he conducts business as usual. For instance,  The "Tim Tebow Bill" in Alabama allows home-schooled students equal access to high school sponsored sports and activities. Kentucky has a similar "Tebow Bill" pending. And, the NCAA went out of its way last year to allow Tebow and Florida boosters to raise money for a Tebow affiliated orphanage in the Philippines.  I would like you to name one person who has been harmed by Tim Tebow.

(Jeff is silent)

Ary: I think you are angry at Tim Tebow because you are lo...
Jeff: (interrupting) Hush, here's the kickoff.

Jeff Pearlman is a writer for Sports Illustrated and other sports publications. The Jeff statements were adapted from http://www.jeffpearlman.com/i-want-tim-tebow-to-fail/

*Updated 10/27/11:  Some skepticism has been expressed regarding the 94 million people figure cited above.  The Atheist Turtle is committed to be factually accurate so that figure was double checked before the blog was posted but since then we have made additional inquiries and would like to note the following:
1) The American Humanist Association (an atheist organization) reports the 94 million figure without questioning it.  Of all reports they should have found fault with it if incorrect.


2) A blog called the TimTeBlog cites the 94 million figure being off by an order of magnitude but does not identify the source of the error claim.  It should be noted that even it was off by an order of magnitude, 9.4 million searches would still represent an incredible result from Tim's eye black.


Bethany House Publishers. "NCAA Football Committee OKs Ban on 'Eye Black' Notes". Christianpost.com. http://www.christianpost.com/article/20100212/ncaa-football-committee-oks-ban-on-eye-black-notes/index.html. Retrieved 2010-05-24. 

"NCAA trying to ban messages on eye black under the 'Tebow Rule'". Palmbeachpost.com. http://www.palmbeachpost.com/sports/gators/ncaa-trying-to-ban-messages-on-eye-black-232356.html. Retrieved 2010-05-24. 

"Tebow draws more attention for eye-black messages – Swamp Things – Gators Blog – Orlando Sentinel". Blogs.orlandosentinel.com. http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/sports_college_uf/2009/09/tebow-draws-more-attention-for-eyeblack-messages.html. Retrieved 2010-05-24. 

"NCAA bans wedge, eye black". Tulsa World. 2010-04-16.

http://www.tulsaworld.com/sportsextra/article.aspx?subjectid=231&articleid=20100416_231_B3_INDIAN106579. Retrieved 2010-05-24. 

"NCAA Bans Eye Black With Messages". Huffingtonpost.com. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/16/ncaa-bans-eye-black-with_n_541201.html. Retrieved 2010-05-24. 


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Have You Ever Seen A Miracle?/Watch Out for Flying Pigs

A livingroom

Mat (Mature Atheist Turtle)
Ary (Christian Preacher)

Mat: Do you think god would ever make a pig fly
Ary: Why would He?

Mat: Because, if I ever saw a pig fly I would believe in god.
Ary: (laughs)  That's all it would take?  He actually did once, but the landing wasn't so good.  Anyway, I thought you said that miracles are impossible.

Mat:  I did, and they are.  Think about it.  If god created the universe, that means he established the laws that govern it, so, if he does something that violates one of his laws then his laws are not unbreakable, so he can't be god.
Ary: I don't see any connection between your premise and conclusion.  Why does God violating one of His laws invalidate His existence?
Mat: Because he wasn't powerful enough to create a law which couldn't be broken.  Gotcha!

Ary: Give me an example.
Mat: Sure: 2 Kings 6:1-7
"1 Now the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “Behold now, the place before you where we are living is too limited for us. 2 Please let us go to the Jordan, and each of us take from there a beam, and let us make a place there for ourselves where we may live.” So he said, “Go.” 3 Then one said, “Please be willing to go with your servants.” And he answered, “I shall go.” 4 So he went with them; and when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. 5 But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Alas, my master! For it was borrowed.” 6 Then the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” And when he showed him the place, he cut off a stick, and threw it in there, and made the iron float. 7 And he said, “Take it up for yourself.” So he put out his hand and took it."

Didn't happen.  Iron is more dense that water and an axe head would not have floated.

Ary: Why are you so sure?
Mat: Archimedes, he discovered the law of buoyancy.  "When a solid body is partially or completely immersed in water, the apparent loss in weight will be equal to the weight of the displaced liquid."*

* Read more: How to Calculate Buoyancy | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_2101130_calculate-buoyancy.html#ixzz1boTmMF8p

Ary: So it's Archimedes' law right?
Mat: Right, it's a scientific principle.

Ary:  But what limits God's ability to over rule Archimedes?
Mat: Because he would be violating the law.
Ary: I thought you said it was a principle.
Mat: Law, principle, it's the same thing.  God can't just go around ignoring science.
Ary: Says who?
Mat (getting visibly excited and loud): Me, that's who. If god did that we would be able to predict how things behave.

Ary: God doesn't do it very often so our ability to predict and study is still intact and, just because Archimedes, or Newton, or Gauss, or Hook, or Maxwell, or anyone else identifies a 'law' or principle does not limit God from doing whatever He wants to.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

From Russia with Love/Florida Baptist Health Center

I have recently seen several pageviews from Russia and wanted to post something to honor their interest.  I hope that the below post will accomplish that goal.  The bottom section of this post, and indeed the bulk of it is a remembrance of “Pop” Wolfson an immigrant to the United States from Lituania.  He came to America penniless but left an enduring legacy which continues to help children and their families today.  I urge everyone to read the remembrance.

Road Trip
North bound I-95 approaching Jacksonville, Florida
Mat (Mature Atheist Turtle) and Ary (Christian Pastor)

Mat: The new militant atheists are giving no quarter to Christians and I love it.  Finally, someone is saying that the world would be better off without the evil of religion especially the disease which is Christianity.  It has caused nothing but heartache and misery throughout its history.

Ary: Your timing is amazing.

Mat: what do you mean?

Ary::  You see that building (pointing right)?

Mat:What about it?

Ary: What does the sign say?

Mat: Baptist Medical Center, why?

Ary: You heard of Baptists before?

Mat: Yeah, so what?

Ary: Let’s get a closer look while I tell you about this facility. (Exits I-95 and drives to BMC entrance)

The Baptist Medical Center, part of Baptist Health, is a network of five hospitals, affiliated with 34 primary care offices located throughout Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia. All Baptist Hospitals have the MAGNET designation, the highest honor a health care organization can receive for excellence in patient care.

For more than 50 years, Baptist Health has provided residents of Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia with care. The original Baptist Memorial Hospital in downtown Jacksonville was opened in the 1940s, and is the flagship hospital for Baptist Health.

In the early 1990s the hospital's name was changed to Baptist Medical Center Downtown. The facility is a tertiary referral hospital in downtown Jacksonville on the south bank of the St. Johns River next to Interstate 95. Baptist Downtown provides services in cardiology, oncology (including gynecological), women's health (including obstetrics, gynecology and a Women's Resource Center), orthopedics, pediatrics, ophthalmology, emergency care (including Life Flights air ambulance, a children's emergency center and hyperbaric medicine), intensive care medicine, bloodless surgery, pulmonary services (including an adult/pediatric sleep disorders lab), pastoral care, radiology, rehabilitation and psychiatry/psychology. They also have the following regional referral centers: Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute (located in the Reid Medical Building) and Baptist Cancer Institute (located in the Edna Williams Cancer Center).

Associated with Baptist Health is the Wolfson Children’s Hospital. Named among the top three children's hospitals in Florida by Child magazine (2007), Wolfson Children's Hospital, a part of Baptist Health in Jacksonville, is the regional pediatric referral hospital serving children throughout Northeast Florida, Southeast Georgia and beyond.  Because children have special health care needs, everything about Wolfson  is designed just for them and their loved ones.

One of only two children's hospitals in Florida to receive Magnet™ status, Wolfson is nationally recognized for excellence in patient care. Wolfson and Baptist Health were named one of the "100 Best Places to Work" by Modern Healthcare magazine. The staff work collaboratively with pediatric physicians from Nemours Children's Clinic, the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville, Brooks Rehabilitation, Mayo Clinic and the Northeast Florida Pediatric Society. These partnerships provide our patients with access to physicians in every specialty and subspecialty of children's medicine. They also have resulted in the creation of programs with services more comprehensive than those available at any single institution, such as the joint adult/pediatric bone marrow transplant program developed by Baptist Health, Wolfson, Nemours and Mayo.

Wolfson Children's Hospital plays an important role in training America’s next generation of pediatric professionals, serving as the main teaching facility for the University of Florida/Jacksonville Pediatric Residency Training Program. Wolfson is also affiliated with a number of premier nursing programs, including those at the University of North Florida, Jacksonville University, Florida Community College at Jacksonville, St. Johns River Community College, University of Florida, Florida State University, University of Central Florida and Keiser University.

In 1946 ‘Pop’ Wolfson wrote a letter to his sons indicating that he wanted to leave a substantial sum of money to found a children’s hospital. That letter and a $500,000 donation from the Wolfson Family Foundation sparked the creation of Wolfson Children's Hospital. Nine years after the letter's writing, in September of 1955, Wolfson Memorial Children's Hospital opened as a 50-bed wing in what was then called Baptist Memorial Hospital. The hospital grew incrementally during its early years, but a picture of what it would eventually become emerged in 1971, when Northeast Florida's pediatric physicians decided that a consolidated center of excellence would be the best way to serve the region's children and families.

Thus began a 20-plus-year period of dynamic growth fueled by Baptist Health’s dedication to developing the region’s center for pediatric health care. The culmination of Mr. Wolfson’s vision and Baptist’s commitment was the 1993 construction of a new building that has become one of Jacksonville's most distinctive architectural pieces. Nearly all of the services that have become hallmarks of Wolfson's guiding philosophy were developed during this time, including its: Pediatric Intensive Care Unit; Children's Emergency Center; and its specialized programs, such as pediatric oncology, radiology, pathology and research.

‘Pop’ Wolfson’s generosity combined with that of Baptist Health and the generosity of the Southern Baptists led to this world class consortium of hospitals which continues to grow.

Mat: So what?

Ary:: Well, it doesn’t say Rationalist's Medical Center on the building. Christians around the world have built hospitals similar to this one to provide facilities to care for people.  Smug authors who wish for a world without Christianity would do well to remember that.  And remember, Wolfson Children's Hospital is the result of a Jewish foundation working with a Christian organization imagine that.  Do you suppose all the children and families WCH and the Baptist Health organization have helped wish religion did not exist?

Mat: I have nothing more to say.

Ary: Time to Turtle Up is it?

Pop...A Very Rare Man
by Karen Read Wolfson

It must have been cold, bitterly cold for the thin clothing that hung on his slight arms and legs, but the times were hard. It must have seemed terrifying because of the push toward Russification deep into the Baltic countries by Czar Alexander III. Programs, eviction, abuse -- increased anti-Semitic behavior was a smoke screen for the smoldering revolutionary forces lying wait in the Lithuanian heartland. Often, along with the
fear, he must have felt exhaustion...because he was only nine.

Such an enormous sense of responsibility for Jennie and Lillian, his sisters, and his mother, Dora, and later, his step-brother Louis, must have followed him each day. Morris David Wolfson, now fatherless, worked as a cemetery watchman in his small Lithuanian village, Posville. In those days, the only birth and death records were the inscriptions on headstones, so the elders had them guarded. The year was 1888, and it would be another eight years before Morris, a conscript with the Russian army, would escape and find passage to the United States. The times were hard, but courage and hope were the mettle of this young immigrant.

Around July 15, 1896, a Jew who had faced the rigors of the five week steerage crossing stepped off the ship at Baltimore, and Morris, without money or possessions, was clothed in the pride of having come to this country. America was heaven; it was paradise to him, and in his heart, he never forgot this moment, this opportunity which forged the rest of his life.

Morris' older sister, Jennie Friedman, who lived in Baltimore, had managed to immigrate a few years earlier; thus she was the one who helped Morris leave Europe. In addition to peddling, he soon found work in a tailor's shop pressing clothes. By 1905, he had married Sarah Goldberg, and on September 9, 1907, they welcomed the birth of their first child, Irene (Renee), and on August 15, 1909, Samuel William. Poverty stalked the young Wolfson family of four, so Morris worked at any odd jobs he could find.

Physically, "Pop," as he was later called, was extremely powerful, though standing only 5'9". Going from one gym to another, earning a little money for his family, Pop was paid to wrestle with the great American Free-style Champion, Frank Gotch. He'd never wrestled before, but stories are that he held his own in the ring, and that was really something in those days.

Still grappling with a pauper's existence and wanting to escape the sweatshop, Morris took the advice of a friend, a landsman, and moved his family to St. Louis, Missouri, where he thought that peddling watermelons and ice would enable him to support his growing family, for on January 28, 1912, Louis Elwood was born.

The success of selling seasonal fruits and ice was affected by the cold weather, so Morris, responding to the encouragement and financial assistance of another friend from the Old Country, moved to a warmer climate, to Jacksonville, Florida. Forced to leave Sarah and the three children behind until he had money for their travel, Morris, often starving himself, somehow saved the meager earnings from peddling and reunited his family around l9l3.

Morris' struggle to make enough to feed his family continued in Jacksonville, especially with Edith's birth on September 9, 1914. Strong-minded and determined, Morris sought to expand his peddling business with his step-brother Louis, who had now come to America with Lillian and Dora. Edith Wolfson Edwards recalls the purchase of their first horse and flatbed wagon. "My dad examined the horse before they bought it. It was a
healthy specimen; they even counted the teeth. The next day when they got up, the horse was dead. They had all their money in it."

For most Eastern European immigrants, hard labor and persistence were the keys to life, but one also had to have that elusive force...luck! Striking out with the flatbed wagon, Morris met his first taste of real fortune. In downtown Jacksonville, next to the YWCA, a lady in a large, two-story, red brick house sold Morris the entire contents of her attic, which he promptly resold. Thus, each day was spent buying and reselling discards, a natural calling for a man with a sincere love for and interest in people. Gradually, other recyclable items worked their way onto his wagon, and eventually he opened a small business on Davis Street where large bins held the glass, rags, and newspaper that he resold to dealers. Since Sarah had a basic elementary school education (quite unusual for a woman at that time), she would go down to the business every other day to do the bookkeeping. Morris, not unlike other immigrants, could neither read nor write English well and never had any formal education. Versed in Russian, German, and Yiddish, he kept abreast of the times by reading The Jewish Daily Forward, the news Bible of the immigrant, written in Yiddish and published in New York. The strength of his business acumen lay in his amazing retentive memory; he kept a full set of books in his head, often challenging the bookkeeper, Mr. Gavin.

Later, his daughter Edith taught him to write his name so that he could participate in writing checks and signing business contracts with his sons. Learning the English language was a goal he pursued much of his life.

As the Davis Street business grew, so did the Wolfson family; Saul was born December 8, 1916, and Cecil on August 15, 1919. Sarah's management of the business accounts along with six children under the age of twelve was just as much a wonder as the building up of a rags and bottles business into a successful enterprise based on peddling in the early 1900s.

April 16, 1917, at age 38, Morris David Wolfson became a naturalized citizen of the United States. The impassioned respect and gratitude that he felt for this country, plus his innate belief that this was a place where ALL Americans were equal, were attitudes that dominated and influenced his life and the lives of his children. He was intolerant of prejudice. Louis Wolfson recalls, "He always developed a good relationship with any race or color of man, and that was unusual for a Jew coming from a foreign country. Later on in the business, Sam and I would be worried about the creditors at the bank, and Pop would be back talking to and concerned about a Black man who had some problems...Pop was a very rare man."

Times were changing in the country, and Morris eventually started picking up metals and scrap iron along with the rags, glass, and paper. In our nation, this was a time of burgeoning prosperity and spectacular growth with new businesses, so the opening of M. Wolfson & Co. on Myrtle Avenue was no exception. The United States government encouraged foreign trade relations following WWI (1914-1918), with petroleum, raw materials, and scrap iron being chief in demand in the Orient.

To Morris, honesty and fairness were paramount in his life. His word was his bond. By this time, many men were selling him scrap iron, which would be loaded on the huge ships in the Jacksonville port. To maintain this type of business, Morris would borrow money against his receipts, then repay the bank immediately as he was paid. "He had a wonderful reputation. He always had confidence in himself, and other people had confidence in him... He always did business on a handshake," Edith remembers.

The older boys, who were now in junior high or high school, helped with the business. "We all looked up to him, respected him, and loved him. In those days, there were no hours. You worked morning to night, Saturday, Sunday, until you got the job done," recalls Saul. No matter how successful he later became, the image of Pop standing in the scrap iron and metal yard, wearing his overalls, is the image of the humble, unassuming man he was. He loved people and, according to Mrs. Monteen C. Tomberlin, who worked for Louis and Pop from the time she was sixteen, "Everybody who knew him, liked him, and most people loved him."

"He wasn't a person to flaunt anything," remembers Cecil. "He was a very modest individual. He would take care of just about anything that he was capable of doing for someone. It didn't make any difference who the person was... He would be right there to give to the best of his ability. My father always instilled in us that if we were successful, to share our good fortune with others and to be tolerant of others... He conveyed to us
the Golden Rule, to treat others the way we would like to be treated ourselves."

Along with modest business success in the 1920's, came three more children: Percy in 1922, Sylvia on June 19, 1924, and Nathan, the baby, June 20, 1929. There was a large, community swimming pool in Springfield. After going in the pool, Percy developed some type of bronchial illness; his death from pneumonia at age one left its tragic mark on Sarah and Morris.

The Great Depression slammed into Jacksonville around 1930 with M. Wolfson & Co. a victim along with everyone else. Huge supply ships filled with two or three thousand tons of scrap iron were idle, and the metal, once worth around $30 a ton, now had lost 90 percent of its value. Irene was married, but with no money to attend college, Edith and Sam worked along side of Pop, while Louis, at Pop's insistence, attended Georgia on a football scholarship sending home most of his money each month to help with the six children. Severe shoulder injuries ended Louis' athletic career, and he, turning down a job with Coca-Cola, returned to Jacksonville the end of the 1931 school year to help his struggling family.

The Depression was a time of anguish and despair; Morris lost everything and, following his usual practice of borrowing against receipts, faced a huge debt at Barnett Bank. Owing $135,000, creditors and friends urged Morris to file bankruptcy. "I saw my father cry when Percy died, and the only other time was when the Barnett Bank wanted him to file bankruptcy," remembers Lou. For the immigrant who had struggled so hard and whose word and handshake were his bond, for the man who believed that if you owed another man money, you paid it back, for the man whose reputation and his family's reputation meant everything, bankruptcy was not an option. According to Saul, Morris said, "I will not walk away," and he vowed, as long as he had his health, to work until he and his sons had retired the debt, even if it took ten to fifteen years.

The mid-30s was a time of restructuring for the young Wolfson family, along with the rest of the nation.

Again, in 1932, luck found her way to M. Wolfson & Co. when Sam and Lou paid $275 to Penney Farms, a retirement community south of Jacksonville, to haul off all scrap and unused materials that were not attached to the buildings...railroad tracks, lead pipes, brass fittings, plumbing supplies. With a ready smile on his face, Lou still recalls Pop and Sam saying, "Where'd you get this? It can't be possible," when Lou and Jack Surasky, a friend, pulled into the yard with the first truck load. With a $5,000 loan from Mr. Harold Hirsch, Sr. and $5000 borrowed against the cash value of their father's insurance policy, Sam and Lou opened Florida Pipe and Supply in 1932 as an outlet to sell the new plumbing and mill supplies they'd bought at Penney Farms. The resale value of the $275 purchase repaid the bank debt by 1937, and Morris was the happiest man in the world.

With the aggression of Japan in Southeast Asia and the rise of Hitler and Mussolini in the late 1930s, the world found itself in a second world war. The United States entered with Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Only a few months later was Nathan's June 1942, bar mitzvah, and then Sam, Saul, and Cecil went off to war. Lou, with a steel plate in his shoulder, stayed at home with their many families to look after and a business to run with Pop.

Good fortune came again as all of Sarah and Morris' sons came home, but Edith's husband, Maurice, died fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. Nathan recalls his father's sensitivity to this loss, "He asked me to take a ride. We did, and Pop sobbed."

For Morris, family had always been the center of his existence. According to Saul, "The sun rose on his wife and children." Every Sunday the family would go on an outing with a picnic, perhaps to the beach, Green Cove Springs, Valdosta, or Avondale. On one Sunday ride, Cecil, a toddler, was bounced right out of the open Buick. Edith and Lou recall people hollering, "You've lost the baby! You've lost the baby!"

Looking back, they saw Cecil stunned but sitting in the middle of the road. Morris stopped the car, picked him up, checked him over, and then off they went. Laughter-filled Sunday rides were like holidays; they framed the closeness that all the children felt growing up. Sam and Lou, Saul and Cecil, Sylvia and Nathan seemed to be the paired players, with Edith often being the care giver since Renee had married very young. The children experienced strong family ties, sharing with one another, and, as Lou expresses, "...making any sacrifice for each other." Cecil recalls that "there wasn't the selfishness that seems to exist today in a lot of families."

Being the youngest, Sylvia and Nathan enjoyed the days when Pop was at home more. "He took pride in his home and loved to piddle in the kitchen. When we'd come down for breakfast, Pop would have made oatmeal or cream of wheat, scrambled eggs, toast, and freshly squeezed orange juice," recollects Sylvia Wolfson Degen. After breakfast, Nate recalls Pop taking him to school in his Lincoln Zephyr. He remembers a man who loved all men, and who, perhaps, seemed most at home playing checkers with Henry and Adam
in the scrap yard or fishing off the pier with his cronies. "You have to be taught to hate, and we never had any of that," reflects Nathan.

Although Edith feels that he really kept the children in line with love, Pop was strict, especially with Sam and Lou. "He was the patriarch of the family," recalls Monteen Tomberlin. "When Pop talked, they'd listen. He'd even reprimand his 'giant' sons. Most of the time, Pop was right; he had much wisdom. He was a figure that commanded respect. Underneath, he was the softest, sweetest man in the whole world. Those great big
guys just loved him better than anything."

In his 60s, Morris looked back over the years of his life, from Lithuania to Florida, and felt that he was a man indebted to this country and its people. His natural love for all children, his need to help others as he had been helped, his belief in the importance of children's health care, and his desire to leave a legacy to his own family all contributed to his vision to build a children's clinic. In Lou's opinion, Percy's death also had a major effect on Pop's desire to do something for the children of Jacksonville.

These feelings and goals were expressed in Morris' l946 letter to his sons, two years prior to his death. Since Morris was not fluent in English, Mrs. Tomberlin, still Lou's personal secretary, helped Pop express himself after he had thought for months and months about the contents of the message. Although his wife Sarah was very supportive of the idea of a children's clinic, the dream was purely Pop's vision and his effort to repay the country which had given him so much.

Morris had hoped to see the children's hospital in his lifetime; however, in 1947, he experienced renal and congestive heart problems, which caused his death a year later. While in Riverside Hospital, Cecil recalls how he and his brothers took shifts staying with their father, two at a time, around the clock. When his health didn't improve, Morris went by Pullman car to Johns Hopkins for further treatment. His health continued to deteriorate, and, since Pop wouldn't stay in bed, he was taken to Seton Hall, another hospital in Baltimore.

He died September 27, 1948.

Always a fighter for the "little man," Morris, with some of his friends, helped establish Etz Chaim Orthodox Temple. Although Morris worshipped in the Conservative synagogue, he saw the need for the older Orthodox Jews to have a place to pray. It was the custom for the more affluent congregants to have the seats during worship; therefore, the poorer, older men, who lived each day just to pray, had no place to go.

After Pop's death, the four older boys went to Etz Chaim every day, morning and night, for eleven months to minyan services. "We couldn't read the prayer books," recalls Cecil, "but the congregation would put their arms around Sam, Lou, Saul, and me. The people took a loving to us, even though we were the only one sthere who were very young and very American looking. The older people accepted us because of the love they had for our father."

It would be until September 27, 1951, before the Wolfson Family Foundation was formed to carry out Morris' wishes. Through Mr. Bert Reid, a friend of Lou's from University of Georgia days, a client of Mr. Joe Glickstein, Sr. (who was the Wolfson family attorney and knew about Morris' letter), and a member of the Baptist Hospital Association (the body charged with raising funds for a new hospital), a contact was made to the Wolfson family. All of the right elements came together: the city had a need for a new hospital, the Southern Baptist Hospital Board desired a new hospital, and Morris Wolfson's children wanted to carry out the wishes of their father. The initial gift of the foundation, which was announced in December 1, 1951, was to help construct a pediatric wing, Wolfson Memorial Children's Hospital, at the Baptist Memorial Hospital scheduled to open in 1955.

Morris Wolfson's inheritance to his children was the role model of a man who shared what he had; worked hard to do the best job he could, and saw all men and women as equal. It is from this legacy that a small family foundation was created to provide children's health care, as well as to recognize and affirm the needs and rights of all people. The new Wolfson Memorial Children's Hospital, which opened September 13, 1955, would be a place for all children to be admitted and treated without regard to creed, religion, race or financial position. Love and affection, devotion and respect, good fortune and opportunity have enabled Morris' children to honor their father's request - to fulfill his dream.

Information for this article is based on the recollections of Edith Wolfson Edwards, Sylvia Wolfson Degen, Cecil, Louis, Nathan, and Saul Wolfson, Mrs. Monteen C. Tomberlin, and Mr. Mack Crenshaw, Sr. December, 1992.

Wolfson's Children's Hospital
Baptist Health Center

Monday, September 19, 2011

It's as Easy as ABC/123

Louis-Philippe King of the French
If anyone is up for a puzzler:

"The July Monarchy (French: la monarchie de Juillet), officially the Kingdom of France (French: Royaume de France), was a period of liberal constitutional monarchy in France under King Louis-Philippe starting with the July Revolution (or Three Glorious Days) of 1830 and ending with the Revolution of 1848. It began with the overthrow of the conservative government of Charles X and his senior line of the House of Bourbon. Louis-Philippe, a member of the traditionally more liberal Orléans branch of the House of Bourbon, proclaimed himself roi des Français ("King of the French") rather than roi de France ("King of France"), emphasizing the popular origins of his reign. The new regime's ideal was explicated by Louis-Philippe's famous statement in January 1831: "We will attempt to remain in a juste milieu (the just middle), in an equal distance from the excesses of popular power and the abuses of royal power."

The Chamber of Deputies of 1830 was composed of 402 members divided into two parties; One, strongly supported the revolution of July was nicknamed La queue de Robespierre the smaller party was nicknamed Les honnetes gens. The party supporting the revolution won the vote. The question is, what was the vote?

All the data you need to answer the question is contained in the above paragraph.

No cheating or googling.

The Turtle posted this in a book talk discussion site once, but no one was able to solve it.  That is odd as this is not as difficult as it may appear and you may find a clue in an unexpected place.
What does this have to do with Apologetics?  You'll see.

Hawking Lies - Telling Jokes - Or Being Rude?: Curiosity: Did God Create the Universe?

Stephen Hawking

Chris (An atheist) Do you really intend to go through with posting this?

Ary (Preacher):  I'm conflicted but I think I should.

Chris: Why?

Ary: Because it's true and it clears up misinformation at best and outright deception at worst.

Chris:  I don't understand how it does anything and why you think there is a problem in the first place.

Ary: Even if there is no deception or misinformation it is poor manners, it's rude and he should be called on it.

Chris: Rude? Now you've completely lost me.  How is Hawking rude.

Example #1
Ary: Listen to this (reading):
"Throughout the 1970s I had been mainly studying black holes, but in 1981 my interest in questions about the origin and fate of the universe was reawakened when I attended a conference on cosmology organized by the Jesuits in the Vatican. The Catholic Church had made a bad mistake with Galileo when it tried to lay down the law on a question of science, declaring that the sun went round the earth.* Now, centuries later, it had decided to invite a number of experts to advise it on cosmology. At the end of the conference the participants were granted an audience with the Pope. He told us that it was all right to study the evolution of the universe after the big bang, but we should not inquire into the big bang itself because that was the moment of Creation and therefore the work of God. I was glad then that he did not know the subject of the talk I had just given at the conference – the possibility that space-time was finite but had no boundary, which means that it had no beginning, no moment of Creation. I had no desire to share the fate of Galileo, with whom I feel a strong sense of identity, partly because of the coincidence of having been born exactly 300 years after his death!

Stephen W. Hawkings; A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (New York: Bantam Books, April, 1988), p. 116.
* The story of Galileo and the Church is also distorted but that will be the subject of a different post.

Example #2

Stephen Hawking (from his website - lectures): Although the singularity theorems of Penrose and myself, predicted that the universe had a beginning, they didn't say how it had begun.  The equations of General Relativity would break down at the singularity.  Thus Einstein's theory cannot predict how the universe will begin, but only how it will evolve once it has begun.  There are two attitudes one can take to the results of Penrose and myself.  One is that God chose how the universe began for reasons we could not understand. This was the view of Pope John Paul. At a conference on cosmology in the Vatican, the Pope told the delegates that it was OK to study the universe after it began, but they should not inquire into the beginning itself, because that was the moment of creation, and the work of God. I was glad he didn't realize I had presented a paper at the conference suggesting how the universe began. I didn't fancy the thought of being handed over to the Inquisition, like Galileo.  

Example #3

[Full Youtube version of Discovery Channel's show Curiosity: Did God Create the Universe?]
The show opens with a misleading premise -  It shows the Vikings watching a solar eclipse and becoming fearful that a wolf god was eating the Sun.  They respond with the only counter measure their primitive minds can devise, by making noise to scare it away.  They succeed and the sun returns as the narrator, a stand in for Hawking with a slightly officious British accent, intones that the sun would have come back anyway; that gods were invented by primitive minds fearful of natural but unexplainable phenomena.  My objection is that the whole thing is misleading.   The question the show poses is – Did God not gods Create the Universe?  God is the God of the Judeo-Christian religion not some polytheistic wolf god.  I know this because the references to religion during the balance of the show are all about the Christian Church, and not just any church, the Roman Catholic Church.   The Atheist Turtle is not a Catholic, but he doesn't like misinformation. The Catholic Church is not polytheistic and does not worship a wolf god who eats the Sun.  Showing the Vikings is a cheap but subtle attempt to alter the perception of the viewer.  I think it was blatantly unfair.  What the show should have opened with was a scene of the Israelites in the wilderness being led by God in the form of a pillar of cloud or fire.  The show’s graphics budget  could certainly have allowed something impressive.  One more point, God as known by Jews and Christians is not a God of eclipses, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc.  But that does not play well for the show as they want to emphasize the point they make at 16m 05s “Each new discovery further removed the need for a God.”
If the Viking scene was the only misleading part of the video it would be bad enough but we already called them out for the Pope John XXI lie* and now we find another one.  Pope John Paul II never said what Hawking attributes to him.

*See post: Logic Works by Barbara
At 16m 52s Hawking states, “In 1985* I attended a conference on cosmology at the Vatican in Rome.  The gathering of scientists had an audience with Pope John Paul II.  He told us that it was okay to study the workings of the universe but that we should not ask questions about its origins for that was the work of God. I am glad to say that I for one haven’t followed his advice.  I can’t simply switch off my curiosity.  I believe it’s a cosmologist’s duty to try to work out where the universe came from."
*I try to include a written reference to backup videos but in this case I was unable to validate the page in The Grand Design but notice that this is a nearly identical reference to a conference on cosmology at the Vatican in the Hawking book A Brief History of Time.  The problem is that reference, on the first page of Chapter 8 refers to a conference in 1981.
Hawking misrepresents what the Pope said.  Here is Pope John Paul II’s address:
(The pink text here and below are the full text of Pope John Paul II's addresses.  The blog continues below.)
Saturday, 6 July 1985
Dear Friends,
Pope John Paul II*
1. Offer very cordial greetings to the participants in the Vatican Conference on Cosmology. In this year which marks the Fiftieth Anniversary of scientific research at the Specola Vaticana, I would like to take this occasion to extend my heartfelt congratulations and best wishes to Father Coyne and the entire staff of the Observatory. Please know that your diligent work, especially in the field of astrophysics, together with your ecclesial dedication, bears splendid witness to the Church’s profound interest in the world of science and particularly in the men and women engaged in scientific research.
I warmly greet the observational astronomers and the theorists in gravitational physics and cosmology who have accepted the invitation to take part in this important meeting. It is a joy to welcome you today, together with the members of your families.
2. Through the natural sciences, and cosmology in particular, we have become much more aware of our true physical position within the universe, within physical reality - in space and in time. We are struck very forcibly by our smallness and apparent insignificance, and even more by our vulnerability in such a vast and seemingly hostile environment. Yet this universe of ours, this galaxy in which our sun is situated and this planet on which we live, is our home. And all of it in some way or other serves to support us, nourish us, fascinate us, inspire us, taking us out of ourselves and forcing us to look far beyond the limits of our unaided vision. What we discover through our study of nature and of the universe in all its immensity and rich variety serves on the one hand to emphasize our fragile condition and our littleness, and on the other hand to manifest clearly our greatness and superiority in the midst of all creation - the profoundly exalted position we enjoy in being able to search, to imagine and to discover so much. We are made in the image and likeness of God. Thus, we are capable of knowing and understanding more and more about the universe and all that it contains. We can reach out and grasp its inner workings and designs, plumbing its depths with questioning reverence and with awestruck imagination.
3. This Conference, I have been told, has as one of its principal focuses the determination of the inherent limitations of cosmology’s competency and its observational verifiability - the limits in principle and in practice of the scientific verification of its theoretical products. With a gradual and constant growth in humble self-knowledge, we are able to avoid the extremes of an inflated evaluation of our own abilities and capacities or a disparagingly narrow and superficial one. And that is true of any disciple or field of study. A sound appreciation of both our limitations and strong points enables us to plan our projects carefully, to maintain proper relationships with the material, personal and divine realities, and to become ever more sensitive to all the valuable information which is available to us through modern science.
4. The more we know about physical reality, about the history and structure of the universe, about the fundamental make-up of matter and the processes and patterns which at the roots of the material world, the more we can appreciate the immensity of the mystery of God, the more we are in a position to grasp the mystery of ourselves - our origin and our destiny. For creation, as we have come to know it, speaks to us in fragmentary yet very true reflections of the God who created it and maintains it in existence. Of course, that picture must always remain tantalizingly incomplete. For certain aspects of our lives rise above and move beyond the material dimension and, while having deep roots in the material, surpass the understanding which the natural sciences are capable of providing. They draw our attention to the realm of the Spirit. The human creations of art and poetry, our longing for justice and peace and for wholeness, indeed all genuine human experience, lead us to recognize that there is an interiority in the universe and particularly in human life, an interiority which cannot simply be reduced to the features of reality which the physical and natural sciences are concerned with. There are certainly important and essential contributions to be made by the sciences, directly and indirectly, to these more interior or spiritual characteristics of reality. Indeed such contributions must be made, but their investigation and study demands other complementary methods and disciplines such as those provided by the arts, the humanities, philosophy and theology. These in turn must become aware of their own essential competencies and limitations.
5. Much of what modern astronomy and cosmology investigate does not find direct application via technology. Yet it makes a vitally important contribution. For it helps us, at the very least, to put ourselves and everything else into a larger perspective, encouraging us to move beyond our own narrow and selfish concerns. Our view of ourselvesput ourselves and everything else into a larger perspective, encouraging us to move beyond our own narrow and selfish concerns. Our view of ourselves, of God and of the universe is radically different from that of people in the Middle Ages. We see ourselves situated in a much larger context - in a much more vast and much more intricately, even delicately, complex world and universe.
For the first time we have seen ourselves from outside - from the Moon, and from other vantage points in our solar system. And with that startling perspective, we realize that we must be more responsible for ourselves, our neighbours, our institutions, and our planet, whatever may be our nation, religion or political stance. We realize ever more deeply our smallness and our frailty, but at the same time our grandeur. We feel more inclined to say together with the Psalmist of the Old Testament: “The heavens proclaim the glory of God and the firmament shows forth the work of his hands” (Ps. 19 (18), 1.
© Copyright 1985 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
* I chose this picture as it is so unique.  It seems like the Pope is joking with someone.

And here is the address by Pope John Paul II to the 1981 conference:

Cosmology and Fundamental Physics
Pope John Paul II

Discourse of His Holiness Pope John Paul II given on 3rd October 1981 at the Solemn Audience granted to the Plenary Session and participants in the Study Week dedicated to "Cosmology and Fundamental Physics" with members of two Work Groups who had discussed "Perspectives of Immunization against Parasitic Diseases" and "Effects Resulting from an Atomic Bombing".
Mr. President,
Members of the Academy,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. The programme of work which your President has presented, and with which I was already acquainted before this meeting, demonstrates the great vitality of your Academy, its interest in the most acute problems of modern science and its interest in the service of humanity. On the occasion of a previous solemn session I have already had the opportunity to tell you how highly the Church esteems pure science: it is "a good, worthy of being loved, for it is knowledge and therefore perfection of man in his intelligence ... It must be honoured for its own sake, as an integral part of culture" (Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 10 November 1979).

Before speaking of the questions which you have already discussed during these days and those which you now propose to study, permit me to express my warm thanks to your illustrious President, Professor Carlos Chagas, for the congratulations which he kindly expressed in the name of your whole Assembly for my having regained my physical strength, thanks to the merciful Providence of God and the skill of the doctors who have cared for me. And I am pleased to avail myself of the occasion to express my particular gratitude to the Members of the Academy who from all parts of the world have sent me their good wishes and assured me of their prayers.

2. During this Study Week, you are dealing with the subject of "Cosmology and Fundamental Physics", with the participation of scholars from the whole world, from as far away as North and South America and Europe and China. This subject is linked to themes already dealt with by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the course of its prestigious history. Here I wish to speak of the session on microseisms, stellar clusters, cosmic radiation and galactic nuclei, sessions' which have taken place under the presidency of Father Gemelli, Monsignor Lemaitre and also Father O'Connell, to whom I address my most fervent good wishes and whom I pray the Lord to assist in his infirmity.

Cosmogony and cosmology have always aroused great interest among peoples and religions. The Bible itself speaks to us of the origin of the universe and its make-up, not in order to provide us with a scientific treatise, but in order to state the correct relationships of man with God and with the universe. Sacred Scripture wishes simply to declare that the world was created by God, and in order to teach this truth it expresses itself in the terms of the cosmology in use at the time of the writer. The Sacred Book likewise wishes to tell men that the world was not created as the seat of the gods, as was taught by other cosmogonies and cosmologies, but was rather created for the service of man and the glory of God. Any other teaching about the origin and make-up of the universe is alien to the intentions of the Bible, which does not wish to teach how heaven was made but how one goes to heaven.

Any scientific hypothesis on the origin of the world, such as the hypothesis of a primitive atom from which derived the whole of the physical universe, leaves open the problem concerning the universe's beginning. Science cannot of itself solve this question: there is needed that human knowledge that rises above physics and astrophysics and which is called metaphysics; there is needed above all the knowledge that comes from God's revelation. Thirty years ago, on 22 November 1951, my predecessor Pope Pius XII, speaking about the problem of the origin of the universe at the Study Week on the subject of microseisms organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, expressed himself as follows: "In vain would one expect a reply from the sciences of nature, which on the contrary frankly declare that they find themselves faced by an insoluble enigma. It is equally certain that the human mind versed in philosophical meditation penetrates the problem more deeply. One cannot deny that a mind which is enlightened and enriched by modern scientific knowledge and which calmly considers this problem is led to break the circle of matter which is totally independent and autonomous—as being either uncreated or having created itself—and to rise to a creating Mind. With the same clear and critical gaze with which it examines and judges the facts, it discerns and recognizes there the work of creative Omnipotence, whose strength raised up by the powerful fiat uttered billions of years ago by the creating Mind, has spread through the universe, calling into existence, in a gesture of generous love, matter teeming with energy".

3. Members of the Academy, I am very pleased with the theme that you have chosen for your Plenary Session beginning on this very day: "The Impact of Molecular Biology on Society". I realize the advantages that result—and can still result—from the study and applications of molecular biology, supplemented by other disciplines such as genetics and its technological application in agriculture and industry, and also, as is envisaged, for the treatment of various illnesses, some of a hereditary character.

I have firm confidence in the world scientific community, and in a very special way in the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and I am certain that thanks to them biological progress and research, as also all other forms of scientific research and its technological application, will be carried out in full respect for the norms of morality, safeguarding human dignity, freedom and equality It is necessary that science should always be accompanied and controlled by the wisdom that belongs to the permanent spiritual heritage of humanity and that takes its inspiration from the design of God implanted in creation before being subsequently proclaimed by his Word.

Reflection that is inspired by science and by the wisdom of the world scientific community must enlighten humanity regarding the consequences—good and bad—of scientific research, and especially of that research which concerns man, so that, on the one hand, there will be no fixation on anticultural positions that retard the progress of humanity, and that on the other hand there will be no attack on man's most precious possession: the dignity of his person, destined to true progress in the unity of his physical, intellectual and spiritual well-being.

4. There is another subject which, during these days, has occupied the thoughts of some of you, eminent scholars from different parts of the world who have been brought together by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences: the question of parasitic diseases, diseases which strike the poorest countries of the world and are a serious obstacle to the development of man in the harmonious framework of his physical, economic and spiritual well-being. The efforts to eliminate, as far as possible, the serious harm caused by parasitic diseases to a considerable part of humanity are inseparable from the efforts which should be made for the socioeconomic development of those same peoples. Human beings normally need a basic minimum of health and material goods in order to be able to live in a manner worthy of their human and divine vocation. It is for this reason that Jesus turned with infinite love to the sick and infirm, and that he miraculously cured some of the diseases about which you have been concerned in these past days. May the Lord inspire and assist the work of the scientists and doctors who dedicate their research and profession to the study and treatment of human infirmities, especially those which are the most grave and humiliating

5. In addition to the question of parasitic diseases, the Academy has been studying the question of a scourge of catastrophic dimensions and gravity that could attack the health of humanity if a nuclear conflict were to break out. Over and above the death of a considerable part of the world's population, a nuclear conflict could have incalculable effects on the health of the present and future generations.

The multi-disciplinary study which you are preparing to undertake cannot fail to be for the Heads of State a reminder of their tremendous responsibilities, and arouse in all humanity an ever more intense desire which comes from the most profound depths of the human heart, and also from the message of Christ who came to bring peace to people of good will.

By virtue of my universal mission, I wish to make myself once more the spokesman of the human right to justice and peace, and of the will of God who wishes all people to be saved. And I renew the appeal that I made at Hiroshima on February 25 of this year: "Let us pledge ourselves to peace through justice; let us now take a solemn decision, that war will never be tolerated or sought as a means of resolving differences; let us promise our fellow human beings that we will work untiringly for disarmament and the banishing of all nuclear weapons; let us replace violence and hate with confidence and caring".

6. Among the efforts to be made in order to secure the peace of humanity, there is the effort to ensure for all peoples the energy needed for their peaceful development. The Academy concerned itself with this problem during its Study Week last year. I am happy to be able to award today the Pius XI Gold Medal to a scientist who has contributed in an outstanding way, by his research in the field of photo-chemistry, to the utilization of solar energy: Professor Jean-Marie Lehn of the College de France and the University of Strasbourg, and I express to him my most cordial congratulations.

To all of you, I offer my sincere compliments on the work which you are doing in scientific research. I pray that Almighty God will bless you, your families, your loved ones, your collaborators, and the whole of humanity, for whom in diverse yet converging ways you and I are carrying out the mission which has been entrusted to us by God.

From Discourses of the Popes from Pius XI to John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences 1936-1986 (Vatican City: Pontifica Academia Scientiarum, 1986), 161-164.

Provided Courtesy of:
Eternal Word Television Network
5817 Old Leeds Road
Irondale, AL 35210


It is obvious that there is no admonition not to study origins.  Why the falsehood by Hawking?

I believe it to be a coping mechanism developed in order to deal with the Vatican.  Despite the 'history' science has had with it the Vatican it remains a uniquely prestigious institution, otherwise why attend a conference on science held there.  There is a cache attached to the Vatican and saying one attended anything there improves one's resume.  That brings me to the rude factor.  If one has objections to an institution one should not attend the conference, not go and then later publicly belittle it.  It is possible that Hawking was joking but if so courtesy would have been to step out of the joke once made and publicly thank the Vatican for hosting the conference.  Any thank you seems missing from the report, instead the joke and accusation seem to crop up over and over .  Perhaps the temptation  is too great to resist but succumbing to it did not serve Hawking well. He appears to be an ungrateful guest.  Perhaps next time he should stay home.