Dinner with my 13-year-old self

I had the good fortune of having a nice talk with my 13-year-old self. We met at an abandoned restaurant; the food and the service were terrible.

My young-self ordered pizza, of course; but some kind of strange…pizza…I guess. Cilantro? Provolone? I don’t know what that is. My older, fatter self assured me it would be fine. And, it would have been…had the restaurant not sucked! The mature-me ordered some Black Bean Dip with Tortillas. They were just bad. How do you serve bad tortilla chips?

Anyway, we wanted to talk about church and religion and stuff. Mini-me was really wondering why I should belong to the church. Or, any church for that matter. After all, I mean, you know, evolution, science, not to mention the horrible boredom! The boredom! Save me from the boredom! Big-me didn’t blame him. It can be boring.

So, I had to remember that I did feel that way at one one time and yet here I am now spending all my time and energy on this church. And, I’m asking him to belong? Why? Am I just being selfish? I “need” him to join, so there’ll be a future? No, it’s much more than that; but how to put it into words? Words for the 13-year-old.

Well, the first item was the inevitable: evolution. I guess it can’t be helped. The Theory of Evolution as taught in our schools seems to contradict the story of Creation in Genesis. When young-me said, in response to my general question as to what problems he has with Christianity with, “you know, like evolution…” – well, I smiled a gigantic smile on the inside. I felt like Michael Jordan must feel with 2 seconds on the buzzer and the ball is passed to him.

“I got this.”

I told him of my love for science and evolution in particular. How that love hasn’t waned since I was his age. How, at first, it seemed like a stumbling block to faith in Christ, but turned out not to be. I told him of the story when I prayed that God would “give me the answer.” That’s right, I wanted an answer.

I got one. An answer, however, that mini-me might not appreciate just yet. I felt it sufficient for now that he trusted that I loved both science and Jesus.

The little guy’s brain moved fast. Enough of this evolution stuff, what about Satan and Hell? Yeah, what about that?

“My Mom thinks everyone goes to Heaven,” he said.

“I know,” said I. She’s a good person.

I wanted so bad to tell him that goodness like that is very hard to find out in the world. I knew no better when I was his age. I thought everybody was good. Why not? Why shouldn’t they be? I felt sad. But, I’m sorry, at thirteen, he’s still got some kid years left and I’m not going to despoil them.

Instead I wondered aloud if he’d ever read the Book of Job. He laughed, “Job?” pronouncing it j-o-b, like going to work job. What do kids care about old names? No one is named Job. Anyway, I told him to get a paraphrase Bible and read Job, he’d like it.

He deduced on his own that if there’s no Hell, then Hitler’s in Heaven. He didn’t like that. I don’t either. See, the crack? We can handle, or prefer, that there be no Hell, but not that there’s no Heaven either. Why, that would be atheistic.

After that came the obligatory Buddhist/reincarnation/nirvana/new-age/i’m not really sure what I saying stuff. I know, I know, I get it…God I’m bored with that stuff.

I think I’ll stick with art. He says he likes art. Why did the artists of yesteryear paint people in such “primitive” ways? Well, that’s how they saw the world. Why did we used to think that the sun rose in the east? Because that’s exactly what it looks like. Why did the writers of Genesis write such a primitive story?

I’ll keep you posted….

Richard Dawkins: The Greatest Show on Earth

Or, so he thinks. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Dawkins. Or, maybe, was a big fan is more accurate. His book The Selfish Gene, published in 1976 had quite an impact on my view of evolution. Nowadays, Dawkins is known more for his anti-religious rants than for his science writings. Why? Well, maybe because he describes religion as a “virus of the mind.” He, of course, is not alone in these sentiments; it’s quite popular these days to make fun of religious people and their faith.

But, this is a book about evolution, right? It was supposed to be and that’s why I read it. It was about evolution, mind you. I’d say a good 90% of it was. I guess he couldn’t help himself the other 10% of the time; bashing dim-witted Christians who believe in the Creation as told in Genesis. I made it through, though, and, for the most part, enjoyed it.

Richard Dawkins knows of what he speaks when it comes to evolution. I already knew that and it’s the only reason I put up with his rants.  Oh, how I wished the book would be more about evolution.When he digs in to the meat of it, it’s really good. When you’re done, you really have a feel for how evolution works; how time progresses during the changes, sometimes slow, sometimes abrupt. It’s really remarkable when you think about it.

He starts his book with a lengthy exposition on dog breeding. Why? Because it’s something that we can all see and understand. We can easily see the difference between breeds of dog, say a Chihuahua and a Great Dane. And, we all know that these vast differences are due only to a few thousand years of selective breeding by humans. And, most of that time, the humans had no knowledge of genetics. They simply “selected” by behavior or physical characteristics. If dogs could change this much in a few thousand years, imagine the changes possible in a few million years.

Another great story Dawkins recounts is that of the “domesticated silver fox.” This is a case where a Soviet scientist bred foxes for tameness. He simply bred together foxes that were nicer than the others and what resulted were foxes that really looked and acted like dogs. Now, keep in mind that we now know that in our dogs there is absolutely no fox genes, only wolf. So, without boring you to death, what this really gets at is just what is a species anyway.

And, this subject, is exactly what the debate between evolutionists and creationists is all about. Dawkins would be far better served by educating us on this subject more and stomping on our souls less.

1986

halleyscomet1986.jpgThe year was 1986. We lived in a little apartment on Michigan Ave. up in the Compton Heights area. We only lived their six months before we found the place on Dover Pl. A lot happened in that six months of my live, though. We got pregnant and then lost it. You can’t help wondering what could’ve been, you know? Second, the Challenger Accident. I was devastated by that. Especially thinking about all the school kids watching. And third, Halley’s Comet. I went out and bought a little reflector telescope and jimmy-rigged a camera mount to it. A friend from work, who was an amateur photographer, thought he could handle the camera/film part of the job if I could handle the spotting/tracking part of it. So, we went out into the wild flat plains outside of Columbia Illinois and set up. Did I mention we were amateurs? Also when I say I was “tracking” it, I mean I was literally tracking it; with hand controls. What that means is after painstakingly setting up an equatorial mount to align with the axis of the earth, I had to watch through the viewfinder and very, very slowly turn hand-held knobs to follow/compensate for the rotation of the earth throughout the time of the exposure. I think this one picture, the only one that turned out at all, was a 5 or 6 minute exposure. (We took dozens and dozens of pictures.) And, just so you know, the comet is the little fuzzy gray thing, upper middle. The other things are what stars look like if you leave the shutter open for 6 minutes and let a human try to track them.

Intelligently Designed Discussion

I see “Intelligent Design” theory has been in the news lately. (If you don’t know what that is, here’s a quick link for you.) A school teacher in my Sunday-school class asked my opinion as she was upset by all the hooplah. You see, she’s a Christian, yet she believes evolution to be true and that it should be taught in biology class. I told her that I didn’t personally take much stock in Intelligent Design theory, and that I didn’t define it as science. It’s a fine philosophy, one that I don’t need a scientist to explain to me. I see intelligent design every time I open my eyes, but, that’s just me. I do, however, support the dialogue that has ensued in the public arena. That’s because, for too long, (and as I’ve stated before) the anti-religious people have gotten their way. I came across an article that, for the most part, says it the way I see it; except the author is an agnostic and I’m a Christian. But, we both believe there’s a middle ground to be had and for that, I commend him.

In the ongoing struggle between evolution and creationism, says philosopher
of science Michael Ruse, Darwinians may be their own worst enemy…read more

Global Jurassic Sphere

It’s pretty long, but if you’re interested in Science, and particularly “Global Warming” please read this speech by Michael Crichton. It got me thinking because at Science Camp each year, I use the Drake Equation mentioned in the piece as an example of how science sometimes really works. The kids always get a laugh when I say “Scientists estimate this to be somewhere between zero and 100%.” I’ve since regretted teaching them that real scientists sometimes really say things like this. Then, the rest of the week if I ask them something like, “how far away would you say that is?” They’d respond proudly, “I’d say it was somewhere between zero and 1 zillion kilometers” And, I’d say, “Yes, that’s right.”

I actually agree with most of what Crichton says in this piece. Except that it seems to me obvious that the kind of science he is complaining about, the kind he says is not science at all, is, in fact, the kind of science we get. This is one of the chief lessons of Science Camp; that Science is a cultural endeavor, strewn with the artifacts of our belief systems, fears and desires.

Is there such a thing as “pure science?” What we might call “Truth” or “Reality?” Something immune from postmodern relativism? Isn’t gravity “true?” Well…if you haven’t noticed yet, this gets into some philosophical areas. Dare I say, Religious areas? Go ahead, ask me what I think, I dare you.

A lazy day

I spent most of the day in my pajamas. It was great. I kept thinking about all the critics of the bloggers during the Dan Rather thing when the Main Stream Media guys kept calling the bloggers “just some guys in their pajamas.” The only problem with that is, those guys were actually doing something while wearing pajamas and today, I did absolutely nothing. The weather was fairly warm so I sat out on the neighbor’s porch for an hour or so, then it got a little chilly so we went in. A portent of my warm-weather-life; sitting out front watching the world go by.

I did have a nice long phone conversation with my sister Lisa today. She’s in California just outside of Sacramento in a little town called Roseville. Her husband Rory and son Ryder were off at a skateboard park so she called. Annette had just sent her some photos and she said she’d sent Mom a DVD of photos and we should get one soon. Pretty exciting stuff, eh? Well it’s either this or I start lecturing on Neo-Darwinism.

OK, you asked for it. I’m writing an essay on Darwinism and here’s an excerpt:

The Peppered Moth Story: The story that everybody learns in school. And guess what? It’s a horrible example of Natural Selection! Yet, if you were to ask anybody to give you an example of “Evolution in progress,” they would undoubtedly recite the Peppered Moth Story. You know the one where the moths changed color to adapt to the soot on the trees so the birds couldn’t see them and were therefore fit for survival. Yeah, that one. Thing is, the pictures we all saw in our school books were staged with dead moths pinned to a tree and these moths don’t hang out on the side of trees in the first place. And birds see mostly with ultra-violet light and probably don’t see the colors we see. Yet the moth’s color is directly correlated to the rise and fall of the soot in the air. So what’s going on? Well it seems the moths are changing color because of the soot in the air, but “Natural Selection” has little to do with it. What’s the lesson? Chalk one up for the Neo-Darwinists: Evolutionary change is pushed ahead by many complex things, but Natural Selection is not one of the big ones. And every year that goes by, it drops further down the list.

Relatively Speaking

The term “relativism” gets thrown around too much these days. In the days following the election, relativism, as it relates to “values,” was blamed for the liberals’ loss. I think that’s what some of them would like to think, but I, for one, don’t buy it. This election was about security and terrorism and not much more.

Generally speaking we mean relativism to describe the lack of any absolute truth in reality. To generalize even more, I mean it to describe a large number of Americans who’s grandparents believed in God and had a very clear notion of right and wrong, but they no longer do. Scientism and pantheism have crept into the psyche of modern Americans and Truth has become a quaint idea that only unenlightened folks hold on to. If your Grandmother believes the Bible is Truth, well that’s fine, she’s old and they didn’t know any better in her day. Today, we know things that they didn’t know back then; right?

Yes, that’s right; we “know” things now. Like the fact that there is no absolute truth. But wait, are we absolutely sure there’s no absolutes?As the great philosopher Moe Howard once said, “Only fools are positive.”

The key out of this semantic mess is to state the quite rational argument that there exists this absolute Truth outside of us. It is not us; it is not of us; it is not in us. It exists with or without us. It is reasonable to conclude that we cannot fully grasp it. Herein lies a chasm between modern man and reason: modern man always says, “we cannot grasp it…yet.” But history, myth, poetry and reason all say, “we cannot grasp it.”

Gordo wins the X-Prize

Gordon Cooper, last of the Mercury 7 to lift into space passed away Monday at the age of 77. He was among a group from a day gone by when the space race meant a life or death competition with the U.S.S.R. For those of you who lived through it, (I was just a kid) you may remember him as the “cocky” one. His famous line, immortalized in the book and the movie “The Right Stuff” was, when asked, “who’s the best test pilot you’ve ever met?”, he responded, “You’re lookin’ at him.”

How fitting that the day after he died, SpaceShipOne wins the $10 Million X Prize by making a 2nd trip into space, thereby (some think) launching space tourism. What’s so special about this SpaceShipOne? After all, it flew, just barely, into space and then came right back down. Gordon Cooper did that 40 years ago!

Well, again I didn’t get picked for a jury this week. They thanked us and sent us home. I don’t think they like me; I’ve reported for jury duty at least six times and I’ve been on exactly one jury. I did meet a very nice guy while there and managed to spend the better part of Monday and Tuesday with him. Though quite a bit younger than me, we never ran out of things to talk about, though most of it was Church and Bible stuff. I went to lunch with him and his wife on Monday and she was just as nice as he was. They have a baby due December 26! We exchanged emails and I hope to see them both again sometime.

The Cardinals beat up on the Dodgers this afternoon. I don’t think they’ll give us any trouble; it’s the Astros we have to look out for.

The Vice-Presidential Debates just finished and it was pretty much what I expected. Cheney was his usual staid, even toned self and Edwards came out swinging and in his closing argument, I mean statement, I felt like I was on a jury. That kind of made up for not being able to serve on a real jury so I felt better. I don’t think this debate will have any effect on the race at all, and as I mentioned in an earlier entry, the race has tightened up with Bush ahead by a few points.

Two Thursday Nights

It somehow seems fitting that I just noticed that there were two entries called Thursday Night on my Blog. They’re both basically the same entry; I tried to publish it late on Thursday night, but the Blogger server was down or slow and I didn’t think it got published. I printed out what I’d written and went down early Friday morning to publish it and changed the date/time to show Thursday night. Like a time warp it was. Well, obviously, it did get published along with the second one. Oh, well.

And, to wrap up Science Camp:

It’s the next Tuesday night now, and I’m at home at the computer. It’s past midnight as usual and Annette and I just got back from our 2 mile walk/run. (Yes, we’re running a little now too.) For me, this was one of the best Camps ever. Mostly because I’m not depressed to be back. I’m usually fighting depression and grief after I get back. This year, as I mentioned in one of the entries from last week, I knew that I had to remove myself from the picture. In secular terms I had to get my ego out of the way. In Christian terms, I had to put others before me. The philosopher Jesus said, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” I like the way Mark puts it, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

Science Camp is all about balancing a secular world-view with open minded skepticism. Kids today get years and years of secular naturalism taught to them as if it’s the only world-view there is.

As to the answer to #4: I’ve written in a previous entry about my conversation with God concerning the Evolution/Creation debate. He was not impressed with the parameters I’d set for the argument. His answer to me was, “I love you and everything you need, you’ll have.”

I choose to believe the Bible. I also believe that God has given me a unique set of tools to help others with this problem. This is why I am prompting and facilitating discussion far more often than I am answering questions.