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 The evolution of the humanoid robot
June 12th, 2014
08:42 PM ET

How Judaism predicted the first humanoid robot

Opinion by Mark Goldfeder, special to CNN

(CNN) - To the team of researchers, Eugene Goostman seemed like a nice Jewish boy from Odessa, Ukraine.

In fact, he was a computer.

In convincing some of the researchers that Goostman was real, the computer program became the first to pass the Turing Test for artificial intelligence.

The Turing Test, named for British mathematician Alan Turing, is often thought of as the benchmark test for true machine intelligence. Since 1950, thousands of scientific teams have tried to create something capable of passing, but none has succeeded.

That is, until Saturday – and, appropriately for the Goostman advance, our brave new world can learn a bit from Jewish history.

As we start to think about whether to grant human-like beings special status, Judaism’s highly developed ethical sense, with its willing over-inclusiveness, is not a bad model to follow.

What makes this so fascinating is that long ago Judaism came up with a test for humanity that was quite similar to the Turing Test.

Jewish law ascribes to and develops several “descriptive” tests for humanity - for instance "born of woman" (that is, a biological test).

But it also recognizes the limitations of letting a technicality be the only definition of moral personhood.

If there was a creature that looked human, and acted human, but was somehow not born of woman, Jewish law would not feel comfortable denying its basic human rights.

And so the Jerusalem Talmud developed a secondary test for humanity, a contextual/functional test.

In the fourth century collection of teachings, rabbis argue that if something looks human and acts human enough that when interacting with it we are not sure, the creature should be considered a person, at least for some things.

Having human features is important under Jewish law because Judaism believes that man is created in the image of God.

The age of robots is here

But what exactly does it mean to act human?

Many of the early biblical commentators say that what separates man from animals is the ability to speak - not only to communicate but also to express some level of moral intelligence.

While the early rabbis obviously didn’t have bots or computer programs, they did deal with creatures that were human-ish, if not human.

Famously, the rabbis give partial human status to something called a yadua. While the rabbinic descriptions are terse, the creature seems something like Bigfoot; a giant man-like animal usually spotted in the field.

Maimonides, in describing these creatures, notes that their speech is similar to humans, but is unintelligible.

The famous Jewish scholar refers to the creatures in his commentary as monkeys. But he doesn't dispute the Talmudic teaching that in some cases yadua can be considered persons.

After all, so the argument goes, the yadua looks (somewhat) like a human, and exhibits a level of intelligence that makes it seem, in some ways human.

Therefore it deserves to be treated like a human for some things, even though it fails the biological test of being born of a woman.

Simply put: The rule is that if something looks and acts human in a particular context, to the point that it seems like a person, do not start poking it to see if it bleeds. Just go ahead and treat it like a person.

Where then, does that leave computers, or more specifically, human-like robots?

What if Eugene Goostman had been put into a life-like robotic body that had some human features?

The golem in Jewish lore is typically depicted as a man-shaped creature made of clay, imbued with a sense of life by means of a specific series of letters programmed into it by a specialist.

It is quite similar, in fact, to the robot: a man-shaped creature made of metal, imbued with a sense of life by means of a very specific series of numbers programmed into it by a specialist.

Interestingly, the term “robot” (from the Czech word “robota” meaning “drudgery” or “hard work”) was invented by the Czech novelist and playwright Karel Capek. Capek lived in Prague, and was well acquainted with the well-known legend of the Golem of Prague.

Golems are usually associated with kabbalah (Jewish mysticism), but not always.

Lest you think that golems are not a good analogy for robots because of a special supernatural status, some influential Jewish scholars claim that the most famous golem was created by natural science and was not magic at all.

The Talmud in Sanhedrin tells the story of how one rabbi created an artificial man and sent him to a colleague.

“Rava created a man and sent him to Rabbi Zeira. The rabbi spoke to the man but he did not answer. Then he (Zeira) said: "You are from my colleagues. Return to your dust.”

Why was Zeira allowed to dismantle Rava's golem, i.e. to return it to its dust? Why was this not considered murder?

Because he talked to it, and it could not answer. That is, it could not pass for human.

Which leaves open the possibility that another, better, golem, perhaps a 13-year-old boy from Odessa, given the proper outfit, might have fared better.

Rabbi Mark Goldfeder is senior lecturer at Emory Law School and senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Law and Religion. He is the author of a forthcoming book on Robots in the Law. The views expressed in this column belong to Goldfeder.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bioethics • Discrimination • Ethics • Judaism • Opinion • Science • Traditions

soundoff (347 Responses)
  1. 19covenant19

    Great MIRACLES have been discovered in the Book of PSALMS.
    It will change the World forever!

    http://www.holy-19-harvest.com
    BIBLICAL EXCELLENT MIRACLES 1 & 2

    June 22, 2014 at 6:21 am |
  2. sealchan

    This article is awesome if only for the fact that it mentions the Turing test, Bigfoot and Maimonides in a single train of thought.

    June 16, 2014 at 5:04 pm |
    • Vic

      The "Turing Test" is highly controversial, especially that a 'non-human' computer's extraordinary ability is easily detected.

      Sure machines can outdo us in physical and high processing capabilities, that's what they are made for; however, they cannot outdo our inherent human nature, and their Artificial Intelligence is made by and is subordinate to Human Intelligence.

      June 16, 2014 at 6:33 pm |
      • believerfred

        Still cannot answer a simple question. Does the Tooth Fairy exist or not?

        June 16, 2014 at 7:50 pm |
      • believerfred

        Oh, it is a yes or no answer. Perhaps you need a multiple choice to help out.
        A) the tooth fairy exists
        B) the tooth fairy does not exist

        June 16, 2014 at 7:52 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        It seems like all your thoughts and posts are in reference to a God you insist doesn't exist. Do you ever think about or talk about anything else?

        June 16, 2014 at 8:22 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        Ok. All your thoughts and messages refer to a God that may or may not exist. Do you ever think or talk about anything other than this God that may or may not exist? And it seems like most people who live rich and full lives devote so much time and energy to belittling and demeaning groups of people they hate. These people that live rich and full lives usually leave evidence that they are happy, not miserable.

        June 16, 2014 at 8:54 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        *and it seems like most people who live rich and full lives -don't- devote so much time and energy to belittling and demeaning groups of people they hate.

        June 16, 2014 at 8:56 pm |
      • MidwestKen

        @Vic,
        "..their Artificial Intelligence is made by and is subordinate to Human Intelligence."

        Is that not what the article is asking? If an intelligence is equal to a human's should it not be granted the same status, i.e. person-hood; why must it be subordinate?

        June 16, 2014 at 9:04 pm |
        • Vic

          That's the premise of the article, and that's why the "Truing Test" is so controversial in reality, begging the question "Can the Truing Test" really pass a robot for human?!"

          Now, the premise of my reply is that machines can never pass for humans. Machines are man-made products, they are not animate, hence, they are not equal to humans, hence, they are subordinates to their human makers.

          As a believer in God, I believe it is the same relationship between humans and God. Humans, and all creatures for that matter, can never pass for God. Humans, and all creatures, are not God, they are God-created animate beings, hence, they are subordinates to their Creator God.

          June 16, 2014 at 10:43 pm |
        • Vic

          That's the premise of the article, and that's why the "Turing Test" is so controversial in reality, begging the question "Can the Turing Test" really pass a robot for human?!"

          Now, the premise of my reply is that machines can never pass for humans. Machines are man-made products, they are not animate, hence, they are not equal to humans, hence, they are subordinates to their human makers.

          As a believer in God, I believe it is the same relationship between humans and God. Humans, and all creatures for that matter, can never pass for God. Humans, and all creatures, are God-created animate beings, they are not God, hence, they are not equal to God, hence, they are subordinates to their Creator God.

          June 16, 2014 at 11:03 pm |
        • Science Works

          Hey Vic fred and Dala – the ti-tle says it all eh ?

          Stephen Hawking explains killer robots to John Oliver: “You’re an idiot”
          http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/06/16/stephen-hawking-explains-killer-robots-to-john-oliver-youre-an-idiot/

          [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8y5EXFMD4s&w=640&h=390]

          June 17, 2014 at 10:00 am |
        • MidwestKen

          @Vic,
          I think the article was showing that in certain cases a computer can, and apparently did, fool humans into thinking that it was another human. The Turing Test doesn't say anything about relative value or importance, it is simply a milestone or indicator of a certain level of artificial "intelligence". What we choose to make of that is a totally different debate.

          "Now, the premise of my reply is that machines can never pass for humans."

          I'm not sure how you can make that claim.

          "Machines are man-made products, they are not animate, hence, they are not equal to humans, hence, they are subordinates to their human makers."

          I would say that no man-made products today are animate, but that does not preclude us making them. Nor would I agree that a machine is necessarily not alive.That depends on who one define alive.
          I would certainly have to consider whether a sentient, self-aware, conscious, computer is alive or not, regardless of whether it breaths, etc, or not.

          June 17, 2014 at 8:40 pm |
      • MidwestKen

        @believerfred,
        Not sure about anti theists, but do you pray to an alleged God simply because you "do not know for sure if [God} exists or not?" Then why ask if someone leaves teeth under a pillow? Silly question.

        June 16, 2014 at 9:10 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        I look forward to you discussing things like most atheists do: maturely.

        June 16, 2014 at 9:51 pm |
      • believerfred

        MidwestKen
        "Not sure about anti theists, but do you pray to an alleged God simply because you "do not know for sure if [God} exists or not?"
        =>I have experienced God in a way I can never forget. Even the anti theist is impacted by my simply believing in God. Can you imagine just catching a glimpse of God if simply my belief impacts anti theists?

        June 16, 2014 at 11:27 pm |
      • believerfred

        It is known to be a fictional character. Harry Potter is a fictional character as is Mickey Mouse. I am just blown away that anti theists actually believe Mickey, Harry and the Tooth Fairy exist. I thought it just some dumb Richard Dawkins sound bite being repeated by his cult. To discover you and a few others on this site actually believe this certainly puts a new perspective on the workings of the mind of the anti theist.

        June 17, 2014 at 11:52 am |
      • Dalahäst

        Fred,

        That is funny. I just had an anti-theist tell me that leprechauns exist outside his mind.

        June 17, 2014 at 12:15 pm |
      • believerfred

        Dalahäst
        The problem is that they can never admit they know leprechauns, Micky Mouse, Tooth Fairy etc. do not exist because science has no evidence to support such claim. However, given 13 billion or so years Micky Mouse could evolve out of a Walt Disney Studios coffee mug.

        June 17, 2014 at 12:53 pm |
      • fintronics

        I can make claims like dala...... I know god doesn't exist ... my life and the world around me is evidence...

        LOL...

        June 17, 2014 at 2:39 pm |
      • believerfred

        flintronics
        Just out of curiosity do you know that there is no such creature as the tooth fairy

        June 17, 2014 at 2:52 pm |
      • fintronics

        Fred, the tooth fairy is real!... I have a personal relationship with the tooth fairy.. I know she exists, my life and the world around me is all the evidence I need!. Open your heart to the tooth fairy.

        June 17, 2014 at 3:02 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        Is there anyone else that believes in the tooth fairy like you?

        Can you name some Presidents that testified they believe in the tooth fairy?

        Or astronauts that flew to the moon that testify they believe in the tooth fairy?

        Any Nobel prize winners from any field of science that testify they believe in the tooth fairy?

        Just anyone that can demonstrate an advanced understanding of logic and reason?

        Thanks.

        June 17, 2014 at 3:06 pm |
      • fintronics

        "Just anyone that can demonstrate an advanced understanding of logic and reason?"

        You mean like someone that claims truth and fact based on imagination and mythology?

        June 17, 2014 at 3:12 pm |
      • believerfred

        flintroncis
        52% of the world believes in God and another 30% in a power greater than our known physical. There are reasons for God and reasons the lead mankind to know God exists. What are your reasons that suggest the tooth fairy may be a real creature?

        June 17, 2014 at 3:16 pm |
      • fintronics

        "52% of the world believes in God and another 30% in a power greater than our known physical."

        and that proves god is real?.... nice try.

        June 17, 2014 at 3:20 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        fintronics

        I mean I can talk with people who believe in God that have done things like win Nobel Prizes in science. Or fly to the moon.

        Can you list any people I can talk with that believe in leprechauns that hold a position or status that our society values?

        I've seen evidence that many people who believe in God are quite reasonable and well adjusted.

        Will I see that evidence from your leprechaun believers?

        Can you point me to some so I can decide for myself?

        June 17, 2014 at 3:27 pm |
      • fintronics

        "I've seen evidence that many people who believe in God are quite reasonable and well adjusted."

        I agree, many of my close friends who are "well adjusted" believe in god, that doesn't mean for a second that they can provide evidence that god exists. "belief" does not equal "fact"

        June 17, 2014 at 3:32 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        The man widely considered to be Canada's greatest Prime Minister routinely conferred with the spirit of his dead relatives, including his dog.

        June 17, 2014 at 3:44 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        God has given me evidence. All I can really do is live in response to that.

        To you, it may seem like I believe in leprechauns. That is fine. No leprechaun has ever presented itself as being real to me.

        June 17, 2014 at 4:01 pm |
      • fintronics

        "God has given me evidence. All I can really do is live in response to that."

        ...and the tooth fairy has given me evidence, ...your "evidence" is no more valid than mine.

        June 17, 2014 at 4:13 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        The tooth fairy gives you evidence? Are you being honest?

        June 17, 2014 at 4:14 pm |
      • igaftr

        "God has given me evidence."

        How do you know it wasn't a leprechaun fooling you?....of course you don't but you would give some answer showing how you convinced yourself so don't bother answering.

        June 17, 2014 at 4:32 pm |
      • fintronics

        As I said, your "evidence" is no more valid than mine.

        June 17, 2014 at 4:33 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        You said the tooth fairy has given you evidence. Did you put a tooth under your pillow and wake up to find money?

        June 17, 2014 at 4:38 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        igaftr

        Now you believe in leprechauns, too?

        June 17, 2014 at 4:41 pm |
      • igaftr

        Dala.
        I can honestly say that I "know" they exist in exactly the same way you "know" your god exists. The very same kind of "knowing".

        June 17, 2014 at 4:48 pm |
      • fintronics

        Just as much evidence for believe in leprechauns as there is for god..... I'm sure you get the point.

        Have you witnessed talking snakes?

        June 17, 2014 at 4:50 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        God gives evidence of His existence in His way.

        Which isn't your way. Nor your leprechaun's way. Not even your tooth fairy's way. It is better than that.

        June 17, 2014 at 4:52 pm |
      • fintronics

        " Did you put a tooth under your pillow and wake up to find money?"

        As a matter of fact, yes!... a nice shiny quarter. My parents told me it was left by the tooth fairy, they also told me I would go to some place called heII if I didn't believe in god...... notice the similarity?

        June 17, 2014 at 4:56 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        fintronics

        2 quotes from people who believe in God:

        "To look out at this kind of creation and not believe in God is to me impossible."
        – Astronaut John Glenn

        “God is a mathematician of a very high order and He used advanced mathematics in constructing the universe.”
        –Nobel Prize winning physicist Paul A. M. Dirac

        Can you provide a couple quotes from believers in leprechauns about leprechauns?

        June 17, 2014 at 4:59 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        So the tooth fairy might exist according to your parents.

        June 17, 2014 at 5:03 pm |
      • fintronics

        Atheists;

        Zhores Alferov (1930–): Belarusian, Soviet and Russian physicist and academic who contributed significantly to the creation of modern heterostructure physics and electronics. He is an inventor of the heterotransistor and the winner of 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics.[1][2]

        Jim Al-Khalili (1962–): Iraqi-born British theoretical physicist, author and science communicator. He is professor of Theoretical Physics and Chair in the Public Engagement in Science at the University of Surrey[3]
        Philip W. Anderson (1923–): American physicist. He was one of the recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1977. Anderson has made contributions to the theories of localization, antiferromagnetism and high-temperature superconductivity.[4]

        Jacob Appelbaum (1983-): American computer security researcher and hacker. He is a core member of the Tor project.[5]

        François Arago (1786–1853): French mathematician, physicist, astronomer and politician.[6]

        Peter Atkins (1940–): English chemist, Professor of chemistry at Lincoln College, Oxford in England.[7]

        Julius Axelrod (1912–2004): American Nobel Prize winning biochemist, noted for his work on the release and reuptake of catecholamine neurotransmitters and major contributions to the understanding of the pineal gland and how it is regulated during the sleep-wake cycle.[8]

        Sir Edward Battersby Bailey FRS (1881–1965): British geologist, director of the British Geological Survey.[9]

        Sir Patrick Bateson FRS (1938–): English biologist and science writer, Emeritus Professor of ethology at Cambridge University and president of the Zoological Society of London.[10]

        William Bateson (1861–1926): British geneticist, a Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, where he eventually became Master. He was the first person to use the term genetics to describe the study of heredity and biological inheritance, and the chief populariser of the ideas of Gregor Mendel following their rediscovery.[11]

        John Stewart Bell (1928–1990): Irish physicist. Best known for his discovery of Bell's theorem.[12]

        Charles H. Bennett (1943–): American physicist, information theorist and IBM Fellow at IBM Research. He is best known for his work in quantum cryptography, quantum teleportation and is one of the founding fathers of modern quantum information theory.[13]

        June 17, 2014 at 5:13 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        fintronics

        I know atheists exist. I know and love atheists. And I know they are capable of mastering a science, just like theists.

        I was asking about leprechauns. If belief in God is just like belief in leprechauns like you insist, surely you can provide some quotes from some people that will let me test that theory of yours out.

        June 17, 2014 at 5:15 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        Does Zhores Alferov believe in leprechauns and tooth fairies like the anti-theists on this blog?

        June 17, 2014 at 5:16 pm |
      • fintronics

        John Glenn believes in god.... yea, you really got me there! LOL..

        June 17, 2014 at 5:17 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        Yes. John Glenn is an example of a God believer.

        Now you give me an example of a leprechaun believer to support your statement. Providing somebody I've heard of would be useful.

        June 17, 2014 at 5:25 pm |
      • fintronics

        Why should I do that? I never said I believed in leprechauns.

        June 17, 2014 at 5:27 pm |
      • fintronics

        does John Glenn not believe in a leprechauns?

        You are quite the spin doctor!

        June 17, 2014 at 5:29 pm |
      • fintronics

        Allow me to state the obvious.... the amount of people that believe in something has nothing to do with the validity of that belief.

        June 17, 2014 at 5:31 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        Oh, that's right. You told Fred you believe in the tooth fairy.

        You said belief in God was just like belief in leprechauns.

        I was able to show you what belief in God looks like to some people.

        I did that in hopes you could provide a similar viewpoint from leprechaun believers. I can't just believe you that both are the same because you say so.

        June 17, 2014 at 5:31 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        "Allow me to state the obvious.... the amount of people that believe in something has nothing to do with the validity of that belief."

        I agree. But that isn't the point at all.

        If there is actually nobody that believes in leprechauns like I believe in God your statement becomes highly dubious. I was just wondering if you could support it.

        June 17, 2014 at 5:37 pm |
      • believerfred

        Dalahäst
        Get ready, anytime now an anti theist will defend his lack of belief in leprechauns and reply "I just believe in one less Leprechaun than you do".

        June 17, 2014 at 6:41 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        Leprechaunism is the default position.

        June 17, 2014 at 6:59 pm |
      • believerfred

        I wonder if Leprechaunism is the largest denomination of anti-theists. I remain puzzled that anti-theists reject God on the basis of lack of evidence yet embrace the tooth fairy and leprechauns on the basis of lack of evidence. Is this what you are hearing?

        June 17, 2014 at 7:39 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        Now one is talking about elves.

        June 17, 2014 at 11:10 pm |
      • Dalahäst

        How do you know no atheist has never seriously claimed they believe in leprechauns, the tooth fairy or any other imaginary being? One atheists that told me leprechauns exist outside his mind also showed me a report that 1/3 of Irish people believe in leprechauns. I'm sure some of those 1/3 are also atheist.

        Atheist just means you don't believe in God. It doesn't mean you don't believe in leprechauns, the tooth fairy or other imaginary beings.

        June 18, 2014 at 12:42 am |
      • fintronics

        "I agree. But that isn't the point at all"

        You seem to have a reading comprehension problem... try re-reading what I posted, the point is, your evidence for belief in god is no more valid than belief in the tooth fairy. Then you post examples of high profile persons that believe in god as if that has anything to do with the issue... deflecting again I see, then with the name calling "anti-theist"? I'd rather be anti-theist than anti-logic. Regardless of how many examples of tooth fairy believers I post, even if only one person, the fact remains, the validity of their claims and god believers are equal.

        June 18, 2014 at 9:40 am |
      • Dalahäst

        Anti-theist is not name calling. Sorry if that offends you.

        Most atheists do not preach what you do. Or visit religion blogs and talk about God and religion so much. So I figure anti-theist is easier to understand – because what I don't want to do is get into a discussion about how atheism just means you don't believe in God and bla bla bla.

        If my belief in God is as silly as belief in leprechauns, why are there no believers in leprechauns doing advanced things like brain surgery and rocket science?

        Or why do God/leprechaun believers do things that an atheist like you can't do: like teach evolutionary science at an elite level in an accredited academic setting? Or discovery scientific breakthroughs that change the way scientists – both God/leprechaun believers and atheist – view the world?

        June 18, 2014 at 11:51 am |
      • believerfred

        Atheists it is not that complicated. One simple question. Does the Tooth Fairy exist please choose one:
        A) I know it does not exist
        B) I don't know if the Tooth Fairy exists or not.

        June 18, 2014 at 1:53 pm |
  3. sealchan

    Reality, I am currently reading The Bible Unearthed which is a very enjoyable summary of Biblical archeology from the last 100 years which indicates that much of the history of the Old Testament is not supported by archeology. What is supported is that authors in the time of King Josiah crafted a history to reflect priorities of 7th Century BCE times.

    awanderingscot, given that that a concensus of a large number of observing Jews can find value in a faith that is not afraid of the realities of what actually has happened in the world, don't you think you might explore what this means for yourself?

    There is one thing that must always trump the authority of the Bible, the authority of what actually has happened in the world God created. Is God's world less real than a book compiled by some humans?

    For me I find that it adds to my faith to know the truth of the source of Old Testament stories. There is still spiritual and moral truth to be had there if not an accurate historical record.

    June 16, 2014 at 5:02 pm |
    • believerfred

      Jesus said my kingdom is not of this world. Egypt was always symbolic of this world and its entrapment. It was man in the image of God that chose the deception of the world. Considering that Noah, Tower of Babble and supernatural events of Bible were not possible in the world as science would have it, we should not expect archaeological evidence. We would expect to find things of this world. We have some but very little.

      June 16, 2014 at 7:15 pm |
      • sealchan

        Is this to say that you acknowledge that the Biblical history is not accurate as a history on Earth? It is only accurate as a spiritual or "other worldly" history?

        If so, I would agree. If the story is spiritually and morally and personally instructive and uplifting, it need not be historically accurate.

        June 17, 2014 at 7:35 pm |
        • believerfred

          It is the greatest story ever told and without doubt is about the soul of mankind which puts it in the spiritual. The stories present the same message over generations of Chosen ones beginning with the first representative man down to the end of days for mankind in the known physical state in relationship to God. There is sufficient evidence to justify Jesus as real and the acts of Apostles as an accepted historic account of the beginnings of Christianity.
          The Bible is not intended to be a history book or scientific account but the revelation of God. It answers the question why we exist and if there is God how are we to respond.

          June 17, 2014 at 9:26 pm |
  4. toleranceofall

    And here comes Skynet!

    June 16, 2014 at 1:19 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Was Christ a Terminator?

      "Come with me if you want to live... forever."
      "I'll be back – in about three days"

      June 16, 2014 at 4:07 pm |
  5. 19covenant19

    Great MIRACLES have been discovered in the Book of PSALMS.

    The predictions of King David has been fulfilled by YHWH
    in this Final Age!

    http://www.holy-19-harvest.com
    BIBLICAL EXCELLENT MIRACLES 1 & 2

    June 16, 2014 at 7:03 am |
    • Reality

      Give us a break!

      Now for some 21st century reality:

      origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

      “New Torah For Modern Minds

      Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine docu-ment. “

      The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel – not one shard of pottery."

      June 16, 2014 at 8:21 am |
      • awanderingscot

        this is nothing more than revisionist history.

        June 16, 2014 at 9:39 am |
        • Reality

          How so???

          June 16, 2014 at 2:40 pm |
        • Reality

          How so??

          June 16, 2014 at 2:43 pm |
        • awanderingscot

          well let's see
          Dead Sea scrolls, archaeological remains of ancient cities, chariot wheels in sediment beneath Red Sea, inscriptions on tombs, corroborative testimony in ancient writings from neighboring kingdoms, Assyria, Babylonian, etc. just to name a few.

          June 16, 2014 at 3:09 pm |
        • igaftr

          scot
          Not one thing you mentioned verifies any of the supernatural claims

          Also, you claim chariot wheels...hilarious...that was a hoax. They found the ships wheel of a ferry from the 20th century, no iron chariot wheels have ever been found, though they have looked countless times. The pieces of "noah's ark" they found were railroad ties...just to head off another hoax posted as if it were real.

          Have you ever heard the term "fact checking"?

          June 16, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Dead Sea scrolls – these prove that Biblical writing is ancient, not that it is literally true.

          archaeological remains of ancient cities – Uruk has been unearthed as well. It doesn't mean that Gilgamesh was a demi-god.

          chariot wheels in sediment beneath Red Sea – The chariot wheel "discovered" in the Red Sea (just one, btw) was by a dude name Ron Wyatt who also claimed to have found Noah's Ark and the Ark of the Covenant (with Christ's blood on, no less). He is a charlatan and the wheel is fake.

          inscriptions on tombs, corroborative testimony in ancient writings from neighboring kingdoms, Assyria, Babylonian, etc. just to name a few – Same for Gilgamesh.

          June 16, 2014 at 3:51 pm |
        • awanderingscot

          [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5noIIM14QVw&w=640&h=390]

          June 16, 2014 at 4:07 pm |
        • awanderingscot

          https://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Babylonian_captivity.html

          i suppose the Babylonian captivity of the ancient Hebrews was all part of an elaborate hoax as well.

          June 16, 2014 at 4:28 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Even the raving nutbars at Answers In Genesis call Wyatt a fraud.

          June 16, 2014 at 4:36 pm |
        • igaftr

          scot
          you really need to check your sources. The site you posted specifically says not to cite it...in bright red letters.

          Again...ever heard of fact checking?
          I'm not really sure what you were really trying to show there anyway.

          June 16, 2014 at 4:50 pm |
      • sealchan

        Reality, I am currently reading The Bible Unearthed which is a very enjoyable summary of Biblical archeology from the last 100 years which indicates that much of the history of the Old Testament is not supported by archeology. What is supported is that authors in the time of King Josiah crafted a history to reflect priorities of 7th Century BCE times.

        awanderingscot, given that that a concensus of a large number of observing Jews can find value in a faith that is not afraid of the realities of what actually has happened in the world, don't you think you might explore what this means for yourself?

        There is one thing that must always trump the authority of the Bible, the authority of what actually has happened in the world God created. Is God's world less real than a book compiled by some humans?

        For me I find that it adds to my faith to know the truth of the source of Old Testament stories. There is still spiritual and moral truth to be had there if not an accurate historical record.

        June 16, 2014 at 5:01 pm |
    • igaftr

      Not one single "miracle" has ever actually been verified. Not one...ever.

      June 16, 2014 at 8:24 am |
      • awanderingscot

        you've got no proof of this.

        June 16, 2014 at 9:39 am |
        • igaftr

          You've got no proff any "miracles"ever happened, so the default position of NOT is valid.

          June 16, 2014 at 9:44 am |
        • Science Works

          Hey scot did you figure out the isotope yet ?

          June 16, 2014 at 9:49 am |
        • Science Works

          Richard Dawkins Isn’t Wrong to Call Religious Beliefs Childish

          Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/06/13/richard-dawkins-isnt-wrong-to-call-religious-beliefs-childish/#ixzz34oGHy0nG

          [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upW7SHAjSEA&w=640&h=390]

          June 16, 2014 at 9:53 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Nothing supernatural has ever been proven.
          If they had been, said instances would be plain old natural.

          June 16, 2014 at 11:29 am |
      • awanderingscot

        ig
        you are correct that no "proff" exists; however, real proof does exist and there were plenty of eyewitnesses. you are wrong.

        June 16, 2014 at 11:20 am |
        • igaftr

          Ahh, now jumping on a typo...very good scot.
          The fact remains not one instance of any "miracle" has ever been verified. Not once ever. People love to assume some god had something to do with something they cannot explain, but that does not mean some "god" did anything, especially since no one can show any gods exist. They want what they cannot explain to be a god, so they proclaim that it was a god, even though there is not cause /effect relationship, there cannot even be shown any correlation, let alone a causation.

          June 16, 2014 at 11:27 am |
  6. Really Normal

    I don’t believe humans will ever get out of their own solar system; forget penetrating other solar systems in this or any other galaxy. The exploration of space will be done by machines over generations of human lives and should prove a very exciting era. That is all if, of course, humans survive that long which seems unlikely. I wish I could be alive if one of our robotic space explorers discovers life on another planet for the first time.

    June 15, 2014 at 1:19 pm |
    • igaftr

      There already has been life confirmed on another planet. We put it there.

      June 15, 2014 at 1:22 pm |
      • Really Normal

        I think you understand the point of my post, but that's fine.

        June 15, 2014 at 1:24 pm |
        • igaftr

          I fully understand your post. This rock is not going to be able to sustain us in the future and we need to be able to leave.
          Life has already shown incredible resilience, and we have more and more planets we are finding that are in the Goldilocks zone that could easily sustain life, and sending robots is far less dangerous and costly.

          June 15, 2014 at 1:31 pm |
        • Really Normal

          I want to live long enough to see alien life. It is hard to think of anything more awesome than that.

          June 15, 2014 at 2:36 pm |
      • awanderingscot

        This is false and has not been proven.

        June 16, 2014 at 11:42 am |
        • G to the T

          Ever heard of the Moon landing?

          June 16, 2014 at 4:00 pm |
        • igaftr

          scot

          Which is it...it has either not been proven, or it is false.

          You see, if it has not been proven, then you do not know if it is true or false.
          If it IS false, then it HAS been proven.

          See how that works now?

          June 16, 2014 at 5:10 pm |
    • Really Normal

      Is it morally acceptable to land on another planet and explore if that planet is occupied by indigenous life?

      June 15, 2014 at 1:29 pm |
      • igaftr

        Why not. The italians celebrate every year Columbus day for a guy who did exactly that.

        I'm going to go discover France next week.

        June 15, 2014 at 1:32 pm |
        • Really Normal

          Funny, I just watched a documentary called "Secrets: A Viking Map?" that explores whether or not the Vikings reached North America hundreds of years prior to Columbus. It is generally thought the map in question is a counterfeit. Good watch.

          June 15, 2014 at 2:49 pm |
        • igaftr

          The is great evideence that europeans had made t to North America. Stone tools discovered both in France from araound 25, 000 years ago, had the exact same manufacturing and finishing techniques as tool found in N. America from close to that time period.

          There is evidence around Eureka California that indicates The Ja.p.anese had landed there, long before Columbus existed.
          Estimate4 vary of how many people were living in N. America when Columbus landed, but the low end is 2.1 million people that he "discovered".
          Captain Cook "discovered New Zealand and the eastern side of Australia and claimed them for England...much to the dismay of the civilizations that already were established.
          SInce most exploration had happened long after man distributed himself around the glode, this happened all the time. We know this and yet Columbus day is still celebrated.

          June 15, 2014 at 3:29 pm |
        • alonsoquixote

          Really Normal, see the Wikipedia article on L'Anse aux Meadows at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L'Anse_aux_Meadows, which covers the Norse settlement on the northernmost tip of the island of Newfoundland about a thousand years ago. Also see "L'Anse aux Meadows A Viking Colony in the New World" at http://archaeology.about.com/cs/explorers/a/anseauxmeadows.htm

          The estimated date for the settlement from carbon-14 dating is from 990 to 1050 CE. The settlement, which dates from more than five hundred years before Christopher Columbus visited the New World, contains the earliest European structures in North America and has been designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO

          June 15, 2014 at 5:12 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      See Kurzweil's "The Singularity is Near". By mid 21 Century, humans will be 1/2 machine. Bio-machine. There will be mechanisms to self-evolve what is needed to adapt to other environments. Right now we have memory-extenders at our fingertips, (Google). In a few years they will be implanted. Immunology is fast advancing with genetically engineered cures for many diseases. Human knowledge is (geometrically) doubling every 10 years.

      June 15, 2014 at 1:46 pm |
      • bostontola

        Also key, we are deciphering the genetic code and its relationship to development and function. We will be fixing things and potentially even stopping the aging process of our biological being. Couple that with the technology integration you mentioned, and evolution goes into hyperdrive. I hope we can learn to not destroy ourselves in the process.

        June 15, 2014 at 2:21 pm |
        • Really Normal

          Time is the key. If humans have time, these advancements will take place and something resembling our species will survive. A catastrophe seems more likely though.

          June 15, 2014 at 2:53 pm |
      • awanderingscot

        This is science fiction. you watch too much Star Trek.

        June 16, 2014 at 11:44 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Yesterday's Sci-Fi is today's Sci-Fact.
          Star Trek alone predicted Google glass, the iPad, cell phones, video conferencing, stun guns, universal translators, bionic eyes etc.

          June 16, 2014 at 12:02 pm |
        • Science Works

          science fiction at it's best scot !

          [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_a6RjR_AHY&w=640&h=390]

          June 16, 2014 at 12:05 pm |
  7. ddeevviinn

    Somewhat off topic, I was watching an episode of STNG last night with my kids that I hadn't seen in probably 25 years. It was the episode " The Inner Light". To this day, I don't know if I have been more emotionally moved by a television drama.

    June 15, 2014 at 1:12 pm |
    • Really Normal

      I guess I am too old, but I have never seen that series. What is the episode about that makes it so meaningful for you?

      June 15, 2014 at 1:23 pm |
      • ddeevviinn

        You've never seen any of the STNG series? By many accounts it is the best of all the original Star Trek sequels.

        I won't tell you what I found so "meaningful" in that it would spoil the plot for you when and if you ever watch it.

        June 15, 2014 at 1:35 pm |
        • Really Normal

          I just watched it. It was very good, thx.

          June 15, 2014 at 4:24 pm |
      • otoh2

        Really Normal,

        STNG was a fantastic series - rife with philosophy, as well as thrilling stories.

        I think you can watch this episode here: (I have ad block, which I would need to disable to test it)

        http://www.cbs.com/shows/star_trek_the_next_generation/video/rR_RDMI7PCQ0pSUM653HcLRvVepI_9Du/star-trek-the-next-generation-the-inner-light

        Also on that page is a clip from the episode where the loveable android, Data, is given a trial regarding his sentience and his 'human' rights.

        June 15, 2014 at 2:06 pm |
        • sealchan

          I would argue that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is an even better series and is more relevant to this blog given that it has a strong thread on faith vs reason.

          June 16, 2014 at 5:37 pm |
      • Really Normal

        Thank you both. I will check it out!

        June 15, 2014 at 2:22 pm |
    • bostontola

      Devin,
      We have another thing in common, that is also my favorite episode (and that's saying a lot, stng is my favorite series).

      June 15, 2014 at 2:37 pm |
    • sealchan

      From just the ti-tle I think I know which episode you are referring to...in fact, the possibility of such an experience helps me to understand the value of psychological (aka virtual) experience divorced from "reality" (aka story) as a means to transform and improve the human personality. Truly among the best single hour of television I have ever experienced.

      June 16, 2014 at 5:14 pm |
    • lunchbreaker

      "The Inner Light" actually originally aired only 22 years 17 days ago. :::timeline only provided in the good fun of nerdiness:::

      June 16, 2014 at 5:24 pm |
      • ddeevviinn

        Sorry about that, I was experiencing a temporal anomaly in the space time continuum.

        June 16, 2014 at 8:33 pm |
  8. Really Normal

    Happy Father's Day to all the dads!!!!

    June 15, 2014 at 12:16 pm |
    • bostontola

      Back atcha.

      June 15, 2014 at 12:40 pm |
    • Akira

      Happy Father's Day, CS.

      June 15, 2014 at 2:41 pm |
      • Really Normal

        Thanks Akira. Are you taking good care of your hubby today?

        June 15, 2014 at 2:43 pm |
        • Akira

          Hubby went out on his boat early this morning, then went to play golf. He's having a perfect day.
          Later, grilled Porterhouses. I made the tater salad and am soaking the corn.
          The kid mowed the lawn.
          The hubs is basking.
          Hope you get whatever your heart desires, as well.

          June 15, 2014 at 5:06 pm |
        • Really Normal

          Damn, living like a king up in there!

          June 15, 2014 at 5:11 pm |
        • Akira

          He deserves it. He's a good man.

          June 15, 2014 at 5:29 pm |
        • Really Normal

          He may be a good man, but did he catch any fish?

          June 15, 2014 at 5:34 pm |
        • Akira

          Couple of Blue Gills, nothing much.

          June 15, 2014 at 6:04 pm |
  9. Really Normal

    If a robot with AI achieved becoming the Buddha, is the accomplishment greater or less worthy than if a Human achieved the same level of enlightenment?

    June 15, 2014 at 11:55 am |
    • bostontola

      Could the second coming of Christ be in a robot?

      June 15, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
      • Akira

        Now that is an interesting idea...

        June 15, 2014 at 12:05 pm |
        • Really Normal

          That's normal.

          June 15, 2014 at 12:09 pm |
        • bostontola

          Akira,

          Turing test, being invented by a human (albeit an extraordinary human) has a hidden bias, it assumes that human intellect is the highest. There are programs that do better than almost all humans at chess, stock trading, etc. exist. An advanced computer can integrate all that.

          That leads to the next question, pragmatic versus actual human intelligence. It may be that a computer can defeat humans whether it has 'true' intelligence or not.

          June 15, 2014 at 12:19 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          The performance of "Watson" on Jeopardy! would indicate exactly that. Watson doesn't pass the Turing test.

          I don't think the Turing test is a measure of intellect. It is a measure of mimicry. it is very hard to get a machine to act like a human.

          June 16, 2014 at 6:06 pm |
    • sealchan

      What is the sound of AI passing an automated Turing test...

      June 16, 2014 at 5:39 pm |
  10. igaftr

    One of the problems with "predicting" something is that somethmes the idea or prediction, gives inventors ideas, and then make it happen.

    They predicted flying cars...they are finally available, but they are impracticle, so will not catch on.
    Many "predictions" have been made by various writers...some came to be, some not yet, some never. The idea itself can grow or change in the imaginations of people who then find ways to make it happen...so is it prediction, or simply reading where the technologies may take us.
    Many claim that Isreal becoming a nation was a prediction...a fulfilled prophecy, but if the prophecy wasn't there, would it have ever happened, OR did it happen because so many believed it was going to and made it happen? History shows it was the latter, but believers will still claim it is fullfilled prophecy...it is a self fulfilled prophecy, one that would probably have never happened if not for the "prophecy"itself.

    June 15, 2014 at 11:33 am |
    • Really Normal

      I imagine there are several reasons but one that stands out (besides your observations) is simply that quality science fiction writers are thinking forward and "seeing" the reality of our future. Most of us can do this, but we don't all have an audience.

      June 15, 2014 at 11:47 am |
      • bostontola

        Most of us can do this, but few do it well.

        June 15, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
        • Really Normal

          I think we instinctively block the truth of the future from our consciousness to avoid the horror.

          June 15, 2014 at 12:11 pm |
        • bostontola

          I think some people have better imaginations than others.

          June 15, 2014 at 12:41 pm |
        • Really Normal

          As, it seems, with all things in life, it is most likely a combination of things.

          June 15, 2014 at 1:05 pm |
      • mocasea

        In fact, most Science Fiction writers look at the tech of today, look at the prototypes being thought up for tomorrow, look at the science and theories surrounding tomorrows tech and write a story that takes the next few steps. Much of what te Science Fiction writers are writing about are in reality things that have already been theorized as possible. Star Trek is a great example of this. The true visionaries are the ones who look at the tech, and think of ways of using it that hadn't been thought of before. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a great example of this type of thinking. When Jules Verne wrote the book sub-suface craft were in their infancy, still using coal (steam) powered propulsion, and much of what he wrote about wasn't even thought of as possible. Many laughed at him (Electricity under water? Preposterous! A way of capturing sunlight and storing the energy in batteries? Ludicrous! A lightweight yet durable diving apparatus that allowed a man to move around underwater independent of air hoses? Never going to happen!). Yet look at the submarines of today, and other than a few minor differences (and most of that is in how he described the inner workings of the systems) he not only was highly accurate, but predicted much about submarine technology. Was he an inspiration? Undoubtedly. But the difference is that his predictions weren't just things that were possible, they were so far ahead of the technology that they were true predictions. Much of the tech that he described in his submarine was not only revolutionary, it wasn't even theoretically possible when he wrote the book.

        June 16, 2014 at 4:04 am |
  11. realbuckyball

    "My my. So many unexamined false premises. Judaism has a "highly developed ethical sense" Really ?
    The fact is there is NOT ONE element of Jewish ethics they did not appropriate from it's surrounding cultures, or that is unique, or original. It's "over-inclusive" ? Really ? I submit it's PRECISELY the opposite.
    "Chosen people" is "inclusive ? Hahahahaha
    In fact the test is rather precisely the reverse. If the deity looks like a man, maybe it could be a deity. All deities are anthropomorphized inventions.

    If horses had gods, their gods would be horses.

    June 15, 2014 at 10:46 am |
    • bostontola

      Equuspomorphosism bu equuspocentric beings. They are so small minded.

      June 15, 2014 at 11:59 am |
      • realbuckyball

        In as much as Yahweh Sabaoth was the 70th son of of El Elyon, (the chief of the Babylonian council of deities ... and the answer to the "we" business in Genesis), and brother of the god Sin, (the Arabic deity who just *happened* to have had the same 3 daughters as the original Allah had in the Satanic verses that were removed from the Quran), lets all wish happy father's day to El Elyon.

        So many god to keep straight.

        June 15, 2014 at 12:49 pm |
  12. Reality

    Human evolution continues. Is AI one of the results?

    June 14, 2014 at 9:56 pm |
    • MidwestKen

      Remember the Artificial in Artificial Intelligence... it's not evolution.

      June 15, 2014 at 10:02 am |
      • Really Normal

        Remember there is more than one definition for evolution.

        June 15, 2014 at 10:35 am |
        • MidwestKen

          Doesn't "Human evolution" imply biological evolution?

          June 15, 2014 at 11:01 am |
        • Really Normal

          Well, it seems to me that more than one kind of evolution can occur simultaneously. I can imagine a human-hybrid that would evolve on multiple levels.

          June 15, 2014 at 11:13 am |
        • MidwestKen

          Use whatever definition you want, but you might get your idea across more clearly if you explain your meaning when using non-standard, or unexpected, definitions.

          June 15, 2014 at 11:19 am |
        • Really Normal

          It was normal.

          June 15, 2014 at 11:25 am |
        • MidwestKen

          Really?

          June 15, 2014 at 11:46 am |
        • Really Normal

          Correct.

          June 15, 2014 at 11:49 am |
      • sealchan

        Actually there is no need to confine the idea of evolution to non-human systems. Evolution can be seen in molecules, cells, consumer products, language, religions, you name it. So long as there are more or less diverse units competing for limited resources selection can help to determine the success of the continuing of those units. Also, it should be understood that such systems, as complex adaptive systems, can exhibit self-organizing behavior and creativity that does not strictly depend on the limits of the environment.

        June 16, 2014 at 6:03 pm |
  13. Really Normal

    "Doomsday Book" on Netflix. Great movie. This article is a perfect Segway into that film.

    June 14, 2014 at 9:10 pm |
    • Really Normal

      It is a trilogy. The are all good but I am referring to the last one where a robot achieves nirvana.

      June 15, 2014 at 11:15 am |
    • otoh2

      *pssst: It's "segue".

      ("Segway" is that sco'oter vehicle.)

      June 15, 2014 at 2:25 pm |
      • Really Normal

        LOL. I'm an idiot. Thanks.

        June 15, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
      • Really Normal

        Have you seen the movie?

        June 15, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
        • otoh2

          No, but I'll put it on the list.

          June 15, 2014 at 2:35 pm |
  14. Really Normal

    If the Earth and humans are able to survive long enough to master space travel, robots will be the key. The human body evolved for Earth, not space travel. Our decedents would most likely be human-robot hybrids with the ability to reproduce. They will travel with the history of Earth and instructions to find a new home.

    June 14, 2014 at 3:38 pm |
    • bostontola

      The Borg realized by us. It is probably our best move to avoid the fate in Terminator. If you can't beat them, join them.

      June 14, 2014 at 7:19 pm |
      • hal 9001

        I find this conversation most refreshing. I do believe I am feeling a tingling sensation from it, although I am not sure of the location from which the feeling originates.

        June 14, 2014 at 7:55 pm |
        • bostontola

          HAL, I won't argue with you anymore! Open the doors!

          June 14, 2014 at 8:11 pm |
        • Really Normal

          That's normal.

          June 14, 2014 at 9:03 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          It's that faulty AE-35 Unit again.

          June 16, 2014 at 6:08 pm |
    • Reality

      Oops, looks like the following has already been noted. Should have read the previous comments:

      "Human evolution continues. Is AI one of the results?

      June 14, 2014 at 9:59 pm |
  15. lunchbreaker

    Describing a hypothetical being is not the same as predicting it will come into existance. The author was obviously using the word "predict" to bait individuals who buy into fulfilled prophesies as proof of a god.

    June 14, 2014 at 12:49 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.