Category Archives: science

Time Keeps on Slipping…into the Future

Posted by Mike

“Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping–into the future.” It seems obvious, doesn’t it? But somehow, expressed that way,Ashs-coursebook-cover-2010.JPG it makes us take another look at time. What on earth is it? We know that it’s happening, but what is it really? Like so many things that we take for granted, we have trouble when we try to narrow down and define what time is. Time is just – well – Time! We can measure its passage, can’t we? Of course. With clocks. But what do clocks do? They are a somewhat artificial way of measuring Time! We humans have made up the concepts seconds, minutes, hours….They are not real, but quite arbitrary ways of helping us to organize this thing that we call time. We can also observe change and the sequence of events occurring in the world as some kind of process. And this brings us very close to something important in our definition. That is–experience. Time is something that we experience and that we can observe, and it relates to sequential events and changes. If we didn’t have time, we likely wouldn’t have events or change; but we really don’t know that, because we do have this thing we call time, and we can’t really know what the universe would be like without it–but my opinion is that there would be nothing there!

Maybe you think I’m belaboring my point—the issue of what time is. What is it? It is basically that time is experiential; it is subjective. It is not tangible, but an intangible, and that it can only be noted through experience, through observation, and through measurements, which don’t clearly define it, but which enable us to present objective examples of its existence and presence.

So many of the things that we talk about as if they are real are like time. They are constructs that have no objective reality that we can see or touch or hear, but we objectify them using examples that are clear and concrete, which if varied and numerous give us a pretty clear picture of what we are talking about. For example, if we were trying to define the construct “love,” we would begin to build up a good idea of what it is from concrete examples of physical affection and caring, events that we can observe – the events themselves and their consequences. Then we would have a fairly clear picture of what love is. That’s the way it actually is with all constructs; we have to bring them down to concrete observables—events that we can see, hear, touch. It’s in the real world that we live and breathe, and it’s from these real things that we can construct the meanings of the intangibles – things like love, and courage, and God, and patience, and war, and peace – and time. In our definitions of all of what we call reality, at bottom we must return to clear observation—shared observations among us all. With our shared observations and agreements, we have notions of what we are talking about. At the more abstract levels we often can agree; but as we become more and more concrete, it might be surprising how much we differ on the significant details. In general, most of us can agree on Time – especially that it keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping – into the future!

Bristol Bus Station clocks.jpg

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The Revolution of Pi

Posted by David

A revolution is sweeping the Middle East and in other places in the world. Some are calling for a “Jasmine Revolution” in China. I call for a revolution in modern scientific thought: call it the Revolution of Pi. Science no longer seems to search for truth, but for supporting evidence to uphold false notions. Modern science has nested itself on a crumbling altar. The exact same data can also be nested on a different platform and a very different picture emerges.

I propose three new pillars in science. These were developed out of a challenge from my friend Lisbeth.

1) Types: pre-existence of types – Out of order, emerges order. Most modern scientific thought is based on the pillar chaos theory. It’s the way some scientists explain seeming-randomness without God. Out of that pillar you get, all sorts of misconceptions. Order cannot emerge out of chaos. In every community of organisms there is a directional evolution toward those types.

Pre-existence of types

Pre-existence of types

2) Circle: The circle is the fundamental structure of nature – Infinity does not exist in the natural world, and neither does the finite. Built like a circle, the universe is both infinite and finite and neither at the same time. The human mind can only conceive of this idea by understanding the nature of a circle.

The circle is the fundamental

The circle is the fundamental

3) Life: The fundamental state of matter is Life – Nothing in the natural world is dead or non-living. Everything we touch, see, feel has life. Entropy is a circular of a change of state. Ecology is the fundamental branch of science.

The fundamental state of matter is Life

The fundamental state of matter is Life

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Yes, Yes, Nod, Nod, Wink, Wink

Hurricane Katarina

Photo Credit: NASA

Posted by David-

Anyone who has spent much time with me knows that I love the weather and that I have special theories that cover just about everything. I suppose, “theory” isn’t the best word for my thoughts. It’s more like I hang on to a map that is based loosely on observation and highly on metaphor. I ask myself, “If [A] works in this pattern, then mustn’t [B] work in a similar way?” Yes, there’s trouble written all over that logic. Or is there?

I’ll share with you one of my special maps that helps me grasp processes in the cosmos. It’s quite simple: all processes of the heavens, including the ‘space’ below our feet, work like weather. I always envision the hurricane as an example because it’s so elegant and its basic processes are fairly well understood. We might not know why it centers on Kingston rather than Havana, but we do know the heat engine that drives it, the steering currents that push and pull it, and the general pattern of wind development. In my personal opinion it is the perfect model for everything from trees to planets and from atoms to galaxies. In my map, the hurricane is the rosetta stone for understanding how all natural phenomena works.

As bold and off-base as this might sound, it actually is my fundamental subconscious map that I use to understand nature. When I think geology, in the back of my head I see the earth as a hurricane. When I think of gravity, I think of the isobar gradients that weathermen plot. If I read about a scientist’s new theory about the cosmos, I always plug the new theory into my ‘map’. Does it fit into my map?

As a result, I have developed a fairly farfetched vison of how nature works. But I enjoy it and if I’m wrong, that’s okay. I’ve been wrong before. My scientist friends think that I hold on to these ideas, because that is what I ‘want’ to believe. They may be right. It maybe that my pride and prejudices need this to be the case so I don’t tumble into existential despair. But I don’t think so. These days, Jesus keeps me humble. It may very well be that I am projecting my ‘maps’ on to the universe, which takes me to one of the other special ‘maps’ that guide my understanding: human projection is a real and powerful force.

I had an interesting experience just the other day that may help me to explain. I’m using this incident as an example and by no means am justifying myself here. I’ve done the same thing many times.

I was at a dinner gathering of 20 or so men, women and children. The friends that I usually chat with were either occupied or absent, so I just sat around and watched the children play. One particular person started telling a story describing something of a political nature. As an observer to the story I listened and the storyteller knew it. Every few moments, my eyes were linked to the storyteller. I listened. As the person spoke, the story was told in a manner that had the general expectation that the audience agreed or should agree with the political position. The storyteller’s eyes were seeking facial cues of “yes, yes, I agree with you.” But I didn’t agree. I rarely agree with any political stance, right or left. But what was interesting was that the storyteller seemed to hunger for acceptance of this particular view.

At first, I felt compelled, almost as if by a power, to agree with my eyes. But my eyes wouldn’t, they tried to stay neutral, which I found to be no different than a lie. It was so difficult. Finally, I burst out and said that “no” what was being described sounded like Hell to me, because that was the truth. Politics are Hell. Politics are simply the societal gossip that lead humans down the road to civil war.

So, how do I explain this common human phenomena, this powerful force that causes us to seek justification of our points of view from those around us? It’s easy. I just look inside myself to see why others do it. I’ve done this before with my ‘theories’. My ‘fallen’ nature desires to be God. I project–as a force–my notions, my thoughts, and my lies upon reality for purposes of dominion and self-justification. At least I’ve done this in the past and I certainly do it at times presently.

I never really understood until recently how sin can have affected all of the cosmos, as is taught in Christian theology. But I now understand it to be because of the power and scope of human projection. Because of our fallen state, when we look beyond our own noses we tend to project the ego outward. However rational and unbiased and scientific we may try to be, we can’t help but apply the root of our pride and prejudices to the universe and to our next door neighbor. This is a true force and can be likened to gravity and to barometric isobars. And it can become malicious and manipulative as we seek justification.

For quite sometime, maybe our whole lives long, we can go about thinking that we’re right and that the other guy is wrong. In fact, because we’re so good at projecting with a force, the universe may even start talking back to us, and nod, and say, “yes, yes, nod, nod, wink, wink, I agree with you. I want to belong to your way of thinking.” But eventually we will discover, that it wasn’t universe talking back after all, it was only our reflection and, oh, how lonely we will be then.

Creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now.

Romans 8:19-21

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People at Last – Chapter 8

Previous Chapter

Reading my notebook, I saw that Mr. Davis once again gave me a suggestion:

“The gifts of sustenance lay upon the land for the tribes of the past. Food, clothing, tools and shelter were available everywhere. The generosity was overwhelming.”

I sat staring up at the canopy of leaves overhead and realized that the sun had returned and was spraying light into the forest and causing steam to rise from the mossy forest floor. About a hundred feet away from my shelter, sunlight streamed into a small clearing above a massive fallen tree. It looked as though some tall bushes had grown up around the great log. They were full of yellowish-red salmonberries which were wet with sparkling rain drops.

I was very hungry so I climbed over a series of mossy logs to get there and gather berries for awhile. After I had my fill and collected some for later, I made my way through the forest, mostly by walking log-bridges toward the river, which seemed to be straight ahead.

At first I thought I was hearing things in the roar of the river, but I wasn’t. I heard voices calling out slowly yet repetitively. As they came nearer, I discovered they were calling my name!

I yelled back, “Over here!” And they came. They were two park rangers, who looked exhausted, almost as tired as I was. They seemed truly happy to see me, which for a moment I thought a bit odd, because I had never met them before.

We sat down in a clearing and rested. One of the rangers talked to his headquarters on his radio and the other asked me questions. They gave me some food and water. Finally we got moving and slowly made our way alongside the stream, over fallen trees and through the thick undergrowth downstream to a place where the river moved quietly. There we met others who seemed to be waiting for us—including Mr. Davis! It was wonderful to see his face in the crowd.

By the time we got back on the trail, the sun had long been set and everyone was wearing headlamps. We traveled for a couple of miles down the trail until we reached camp—which incidentally was the same place from which I had recklessly abandoned my classmates six days ago. Mr. Davis was happy to see me also, but he did give me the ‘evil eye’ when he first saw me down by the river. I knew it would be my parents and not him who would ground me, for how long I could not imagine.

He told me that first thing in the morning, we would walk out to the trailhead to meet my parents.

All the people and the barrage of questions were overwhelming, but eventually we ate a hot meal and I was able to go to a tent to sleep. But before I slept I couldn’t help but do the last activity in my notebook.

That night I dreamed of the eagle once again. We flew to the top of a tree which stood beside a broad curving river. In my mind I heard him say,Eagle “Copernicus may have discovered that the earth travels around the sun, but that doesn’t mean that the earth is any less important than the sun—all parts have their special significance. Flee as far as you can to the east and you will return to this tree. Run away to the north and all the way around the earth and you will return to where you stand now. There is no escape, for one day we return to that which we abandon. We are all bound to our homes.” I supposed he was teaching me a lesson about staying with the group. But before the eagle vanished I listened to him say, which also contained Mr. Davis’ final piece of advice: “Thankfully, we are all bound to dream. Listen, seek and ask for clues and your dreams may lead you home.”

I awoke to the bustle of camp traffic. Shortly after I emerged puffy-eyed from my tent, we all ate a hot breakfast, after which Mr. Davis and I promptly set out on our hike to the trailhead. We spoke very little during our journey out. I did apologize to him for abandoning our group. I felt really terrible for making everyone worry and work so hard to find me. He said that apologies are good, but actions are better and that he had a big project in store for me. (The writing of this story was that project.)

My parents were at the trailhead parking lot. They were thanking all the search and rescue folks for all their hard work before they noticed me. When they saw me, they both came over and gave me a huge embrace. “I’m so happy you’re home,” my dad said softly in my ear as he hugged me in his arms.

I replied, “So am I.”

We all got in the car and began driving the highway westward, around all the tight curves that parallel the Skagit River on our way back home. Out of the corner of my eye I saw an eagle gracefully pull a fish out of the Skagit’s water and return to a tree perch. Mom saw it too. We pulled the car over into the pullout and watched the birds—there were others.

Finally, I said aloud, “I feel a bit homesick.”

After we returned to the car, I opened my journal to the last page where Mr. Davis had written:

“We are all bound to become lost and bound to wonder how to get home. Never cease to wonder, because in wondering we find our home.”

The End

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One for the Other – Chapter 7

Previous Chapter

It was a good thing I learned about bats that evening for I would have confused all the bats that were feeding on insects in the avalanche chute for night birds. I watched those bats dart and dive back and forth in the clearing from my cozy, log hideaway until I fell asleep.

A mist arrived with the morning and all the bird songs seemed dampened by the moisture. I was horribly stiff-legged. All the favoring of my right leg must have strained both of my legs. I got my day-pack and slowly hiked downward, parallel to the avalanche chute, just paces inside the forest cover. Some would think hiking down would be easier than up, but each downward step sent my weight into my thighs, making them ache terribly. I passed a huge hollowed out tree and wondered if bats lived deep inside that tree—even I could have slept there, the cavity was so large.Snag

“I suppose stewardship goes both ways,” I thought, recalling that stewardship was the last note from Mr. Davis that I had read . “Bats are responsible for eating insects, even some of those that bite us. And we have the responsibility to take care of bat homes.” I passed out of the forest and reentered the chute while continuing my slow, determined descent.

By noon the fog had lifted, but I was stopped in my tracks. The trickle down the center of the chute had gained strength and had become a steep cataract which plunged a hundred feet or so down. I stood upon a cliff facing only air and treetops. The only feasible way seemed to be to my right.

Once again I entered the forest. Inside the forest the trees were immense, wider than I was tall. After I walked in far enough that the sound of the falls eased and became indistinguishable from the deep background murmur that seemed to pervade all of the wilderness, I heard the tiny chirps and trills of birds. Some were flocking high up in the canopy, a couple of hundred feet above me, while others darted around the forest floor, almost seeming to be taunting me to follow them. I had glanced ahead in my journal  in the duff and took a break.

After I had completed the activity, the bird songs that seemed to surround me had vanished and had been replaced by the creaking of tree against tree. A wind was buffeting the canopy. Blue and marbled-white skies were soaring above in the strong, midday breeze.

I had yet to discover a way down the steep mountainside, and was forced to go south, deeper into the forest. So onward I hiked, not able to descend. With my legs continuing to weaken, I hiked for more than an hour and ran into another gully. It was similar to the other avalanche chute, so I chose that route down. It was steep, but not nearly as sheer as the precipice that had redirected me before. Far across the valley, I could make out what looked like a trail winding through a clearing in the forested mountainside. My heart started to pound with anticipation. But my pulse retreated as I started down, for the difficult footing and my sore legs slowed my progress. The wind seemed to be carrying a summer afternoon thunderstorm, for the sky had become mottled and dark gray and I could hear deep rumbles in the distance.

With the thunder growing nearer, I began to feel like a human lightning rod, standing on the open slope. I wanted to find some shelter, so I picked up my pace.

At last I was nearing the bottom—maybe 500 feet to go—and I came across a huge melting snowfield which continued all the way to the valley floor. A few small branches were scattered atop the snow, but otherwise it was clear of hazardous debris and I could clearly see that I was in no danger of careening into a tree, for the snow flattened out onto the valley floor. “Finally, one of Mr. Davis’ notes is going to come in handy!” I remarked out loud excitedly. The previous note was enjoyment.

I sat down on the steep snowfield and began my slide. The speed was tremendous.McMillian Peak

My boots sprayed wet snow in my face. I lost my balance a few times, but otherwise my course stayed true. I ended my ride face up with my arms and legs splayed. I lay there soaked under a darkening sky. But it didn’t take long for me to get moving, because the breeze was still strong and I began to be covered with goose bumps. Only moments after I had slid down the melting snow pile and entered the deep forest, pelting rain fell from the sky.

I found an deer trail and followed it toward the roar of the river. This sound was becoming overshadowed by the chatter of rain in the canopy. I soon came across a very large boulder, at least the size a house, which probably came tumbling down the avalanche chute long ago. On one side its angle created an overhang where I took shelter from the canopy’s water droplet bombardment. Behind me, black soot covered the face of the rock in a wide vertical swath up and out of the overhang, which was otherwise covered with various green mosses. It seemed as though a campfire lay here in the past. The rain still fell and thunder crashed all around. When it calmed a bit, I opened my journal.

Final Chapter

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Harbingers of Hope – Chapter 6

Previous Chapter

Courage will strengthen you.” Mr. Davis had written following his previous entry in my journal.

I glanced around at the old-burned forest. “Courage, huh. I wonder how much courage these pitiful trees had as that fire roared upslope toward them. They couldn’t even….” I stopped myself in the thought. “I suppose, if trees could have courage, it sure would be courageous to stand amid a fury of fiery onslaught. And what’s even more amazing is that they did survive. Their seedlings are building a new forest.” I began to backstep in my mock pity.

Before, I saw just dead silver trees all across the barren landscape, but after learning about wildland fire, I saw a refreshed wildflower garden hosting purple lupine, red Indian paintbrush, yellow groundsels and many other high country favorites that were bursting into life beneath the fire-scarred snags. Scattered here and there seedlings were building a new forest.

I began thinking about a time in middle school when this kid was lofting fiery insults at me, I had the courage to stand up for myself. And in that case, I must have been strengthened because that brat never did it again. And I didn’t even need to toss any punches. All I did was stand up like one of these trees and then I walked away. I didn’t even say a word.

I had my last granola bar and refilled my water bottle in a seep coming out of the hillside where yellow buttercups and purple daisies were poking out from among a carpet of sedge. A ways to my south I saw a grassy chute coursing down the mountainside like a lush river of green ground cover. Patches of snow were still melting out in the upper part of the chute. It looked like it may have been where avalanches carved out the forest. The green path seemed to reach all the way to the valley bottom. “Maybe I’ll find a trail down there,” I thought as I began a long descent; eventually I did find the same trail from which I had left my group. But once again, the sun was beginning to set and my walking was still awkward and slow because of pain in my bruised and torn leg.

I found some patches of sweet, watery salmonberry and kept my eyes out for a good sleeping place. There was no way I would be down before it got dark.

“I’ve made the wilderness my home for four nights, I can do it again,” I repeated to myself. A sense of strength began to well up and drown out the weaknesses of my body. I paced myself down five hundred feet or so, using Sitka alder as safety ropes in the steep rocky areas. I was met by the whistles of marmots along this steep meadow—which were not nearly as annoying as the high pitched chirps of those pikas. The marmot sentries stood tall and proud on their entrance mounds. I even came across a bear feeding on summer berries. Staying motionless yet trembly, I watched him for a full minute before his glance, or nose, caught me. He bolted—in terror I guessed. Up the avalanche chute side he shot, straight up and into the dense forest. I never saw such raw strength. Why he was afraid of me, I could not imagine.

Once again I found a nest of fallen logs in the forest nearby, under which a soft, mossy nighttime retreat could be padded down; I practically had a routine established. My nest looked out into the chute’s clearing and I listened to water trickle down the center of the chute. I fed on some of the berries that I had collected and swatted at a few mosquitoes. Using what was left of the evening light, I started the next activity in my journal.

Black BearThe black bear I encountered was of the brown phase, such as the one pictured here.

                                                                                                     

Chapter 7

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In the Company of Others – Chapter 4

Previous Chapter

“If I only had some arrowleaf balsamroot right now, I could make an excellent feast, but I suppose I’m not in that habitat zone, am I?” I reasoned. I also considered catching a few of those jeering pikas that were whistling at me earlier in the evening on my way up that horribly unsteady talus slope. Even though they were probably simply warning their friends of my approach, I still felt a tint of mockery after each slip on the jagged rocks.

Subalpine FirsEven though the night sky was cloudy, it was unexpectedly bright and cold out, I supposed a bright moon was making the clouds glow from above. I must have snoozed a bit after I finished the last activity, because it seemed late at night. But I was too cold to sit still. The mossy logs in the forest below were much more comfortable that these jagged rocks. I slipped on my light day-pack and continued uphill.

Few trees remained on the landscape now, which would have made navigation easy—if I had known where I was heading. Scattered among the rocks, in clumps, were tiny plants all huddled together. It seemed as though there were different species all working together to survive. Even the trees were clumped together helping each other out.

As I continued up the ridgeline, a cold wind bit at my skin. I found a clump of trees and wove myself between the branches until I felt somewhat comfortable and even a bit warm. It humbled me thinking about these old trees and how they had survived for so long in this desolate landscape and how none of these plants could survive without each other. I began to become a bit frightened, not because of my predicament, but because I was beginning to think like Mr. Davis! His last clue was Humility.

Oregon JuncoI slept deeply until dawn burst over the ridgeline and stirred the juncos and roused the twerpy pikas. I had my breakfast of half a granola bar and humbled myself further by starting the next activity.

The Oregon junco looks like this. Unlike the other birds I saw, this bird seemed to be everywhere. I couldn’t escape seeing juncos, not in the forests, mountains or rocky ridgelines. It was almost eery—like one was following me. I took this picture, while I was grounded, in my backyard when I returned home.

Chapter 5

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Upon the Shoulders of a Giant – Chapter 3

Previous Chapter

Admittedly, I spent a couple of hours the next morning working on the next activity in my journal. I wasn’t sure what I should do next and the activity, about carnivores, turned out to be quite interesting—carnivores are pretty cool.Bobcat Track Sketch I was reminded of our cat back at home. Her fluid and supple shape was like the forest carnivores in my journal. I couldn’t keep from wondering if her early relatives once lived in forests like these.

Thinking about my cat made me feel a bit lonely so I went down to the water to splash down my face and try to figure out what to do. I noticed a pile of scat which tapered off on the end like a feline’s does. “Bet that’s from a bobcat,” I thought to myself, and sure enough, some cat tracks were scattered across a muddy surface leading upstream. I remembered from the researcher’s discussion in the carnivore activity that bobcat tracks and scat were often found along trails.

I guessed carnivores must take the easiest path too and jumped at the slim prospect of finding a trail back to camp; I grabbed my day-pack and started tracking ‘Bob’. I followed the tracks upstream for a few hundred feet, but they turned upslope and meandered unrecognizably into the spongy moss. I sat down on a log, despairing. Panic began to rise, but as my mind wandered to Bob’s visit, I thought, “If that cat has survived in this bleak forest, so might I. There are no restaurants, no television and no video games. Why would anyone want to live here?” A surge of respect followed for any animal that could survive in the wilderness. Incidentally, respect was the second clue, centered on a blank page following the forest carnivore activity in my journal.

Still thinking that I was lost somewhere along Thunder Creek, I crossed to the other side on a huge fallen log, which was covered by tiny hemlock trees and mosses. Thinking, “Maybe the trail is just a little higher,” I started a relentless climb up the steep mountainside.

I never found a trail on the shoulders of Mount Klawatti. All morning and afternoon I worked my way up through the forest, sweating so profusely that steam issued from my pores. Salal bushes sprawled everywhere, making travel impossibly slow. I cursed their existence until I realized that I could use them as ropes to pull myself upward. I also soon recognized salal berries from Mr. Davis’ botany walk on our first day and knew that they were edible—I’m glad I listened carefully on that day. They tasted a bit like dehydrated blueberries, though hairy in texture. I fed on them until I found an understory full of red huckleberries. Those were much more appetizing, but I recalled a warning Mr. Davis mentioned about another red berry, baneberry, which was deadly poisonous. But these were definitely red huckleberries, sweet yet tart, with oval leaves. I gobbled up handfuls.

As the sun sank westward, clouds began to build and the wind picked up, especially now that I was high on a forested ridge. As I ascended, I noticed the forest began to shift. The trees were becoming smaller. In fact, it was like I was walking through a miniature forest. The sun would soon set and it seemed as though I might be able to get my first view of the landscape below. I scrambled out into a clearing and up through a field of rocks (Mr. Davis called them talus) to a cliff, but a stream of clouds was rolling up the lower valleys and obstructed any lowland view. Even so, the skyscape was stupendous. The clouds below blanketed the inner valleys as if huge glaciers were pulsing backwards up the valleys. It seemed like I had returned to the Ice Age. A large overhanging boulder stood nearby. I would sleep there that night. Thankfully, my thick wool sweater had kept me warm the night before. I picked up my journal and opened it to the next section, while feasting on my hunk of cheese, as the setting sun was enveloped by clouds and gave a final burst of color to all the cirrus clouds above.

Chapter 4

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I’m Just Saying…! Part Two

Posted by Mike

You probably thought I’d never get around to it – Part Two, I mean. But maybe no one’s listening, or reading anyway. “Is there anyone out there?” Sort of like SETI. A lot of money was funneled into that project. Maybe they’re still listening. Fortunately we get by-products from a lot of scientific research, serendipitous findings that can turn out to be more important than the initial research goal. We individuals, groups, and cultures do some silly things – only later are we aware of how ridiculous they were. Silly of course means frivolous; I guess I’m not using an appropriate term for SETI.

Just to remind you, in Part One I was talking about the strong need people seem to have for the religious, and that people who have all the answers regarding life provided to them from their religion tend to feel much safer and secure in our uncertain world, as opposed to those who don’t have all of the answers and consequently must live with uncertainty and tentativeness.

I mentioned in my previous posting that I’ve been listening to the interviews by Robert Wright of pundits in the fields of science and religion [http://meaningoflife.tv/]. http://www.newamerica.net/people/robert_wrightIt’s an eclectic group and includes firm believers and skeptics. Wright prepped himself well for every interview and doesn’t waste time, but quickly focuses on the significant issues that the interviewees have elaborated upon in their writings. I also sense that Wright has his own agenda that he seems to push with every interview. What I see – and you might see it differently – is that Wright is looking for agreement with a basic thesis of his, and that is that man must have purpose and meaning in his life which can only come through belief that purpose and meaning is inherent in the universe by virtue of the participation of God or an equivalent “unseen other.” In other words, he sees the universe as not just existing without necessarily any purpose or meaning, that there needs to be some other something that makes sense of it all, and that enables us humans to make sense of our lives. It seems clear that he is talking about God, but it may be that he conceptualizes the maker of meaning to be not clearly identifiable. He’s a good interviewer; he pushes his guests toward the direction of his interests and goals, but tends to withhold a clear perspective of what his own beliefs are. To me, he clearly wants there to be God or something out there, or in here, or everywhere – to make sense of the universe and also to make sense and provide meaning to our own lives.

Whether or not I’ve clearly described Wright’s position, where I’m heading is this: A lot of people, and I think this is clearly true of a great many Americans, think/feel/believe that to have purpose and meaning in life we need to have that “unknown other” that we call God out there creating and managing things in some way or they see life as having no meaning or purpose. Wright pretty much puts it like that. And I guess I’m wondering if we can find and have meaning and purpose without God and without things like an afterlife. Consider the following scenario – what we can anticipate will happen to Earth long after you and I have gone: The earth has been formed and has been rotating around the sun for billions of years. The rotation and movement of the earth is slowing gradually and the sun will eventually use up all of the hydrogen that it contains. At some point billions of years from now perhaps, the sun will let out a final gasp, will send out massive heat that will singe the earth thoroughly and then will itself become a cold dwarf star incapable of providing the light and heat necessary for life as we know it. This is one of the possible scenarios. There are others, but none that are optimistic for life on Earth forever. Oh, there is one optimistic scenario: and that is that by the time of the final conflagration, humans will have found of way to travel to other solar systems that are younger and can then resettle in a new and suitable environment.

Having written the above paragraph, I’m thinking, “What am I doing?” I actually want people to be optimistic about life, to believe that there is purpose and meaning to our lives as individuals – and to think that there is purpose and meaning to Earth itself! And I’m only suggesting the likely end of Earth to make a point, which is that if there’s nothing left of Earth or of the solar system in a couple of billion years what will the purpose and meaning of it all have been?

Where am I heading with all of this? Basically it’s about the purpose and meaning of life; that we know people find purpose and meaning if they have a creator and active God, but can we also find purpose and meaning separate from God, with the scenario of an end to life on Earth? I hope you know the answer already. Clearly, it’s “Of course! There’s purpose and meaning all around us.” We just have to look; it’s right there in all of living things, animal and plant. I’m quite certain that if it’s good enough for them, it’s also quite good enough for us. And purpose that is only for a lifetime or for generations, that has a beginning and an end, is meaningful in itself.

to be continued in Part Three.

“One can get in the habit of not thinking as a defense, of not perceiving and not considering what are his perceptions and feelings about life, in order to avoid what is painful.”

“Where are we going and how do we get there is something we always are working on. I’ll never turn down help from anyone.”

“Life is really simple, but we don’t let ourselves have it.”

– Elvin Simrad

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The Pride and Prejudice in Evolution

Posted by: David

I’d like to look at evolution based on why it enflames human sensibilities rather than looking too much into the details of the phenomena. The reason why few understand evolution is because of pride and fear in the human heart. Let’s borrow from Jane Austen and call it a pride and prejudice.

Giraffe im Krugerpark in Südafrika

Giraffe im Krugerpark in Südafrika

First let me define evolution as I understand it in one sentence: Evolution is the process whereby a natural system becomes its archetypal form. For instance, the archetypal form for a grazing animal that feeds on the tree leaves is the giraffe morphology. The archetype exists prior to the existence of the giraffe. Throughout the ages, the giraffe morphology has evolved and disappeared from the fossil records from within different groups. We can apply the same principle to all biotic and abiotic forms of existence in the entire universe. It can be applied to you and your body. It can be applied to the earth. There is even an archetypal you and your evolution is the process of you becoming the archetypal you. You, the earth, and the giraffe were defined as archetypes before the beginning of time.

I’m sure I’ve already enflamed some of you, but bear with me. Without getting into more detail on the process, I’d like to look at the psychological response of two sides of the evolution debate. I’ll start with the Christians, since I’m a Christian.

Within some circles of Christians, there is an established group-think that if one doesn’t read the Genesis Chapter 1 and 2 literally, where it ‘should’ be read literally, then one is distorting the Word of God. When we think this, we are being prideful, because we are saying that my interpretation or my circle’s understanding is correct and this places us in a place of power over another, and ironically over God. We may be just going along with what we are taught, and that may not be prideful, but it is prejudice. In this case, we are evaluating (placing judgment) something based on our fears rather than what we know in our heart. The root of prejudice is always fear. It may be a fear of not belonging to a group or it may be a fear that God will strike us down for not thinking correctly. If it’s the former, then so be it. It’s vanity to want to be accepted by others at the expense of truth. If it’s the latter, then we need to get to know God better. We will find out that God is gracious and merciful, especially when we tell him that we don’t understand something. We are not judged based on things we don’t know. However, we are judged by the standards that we expect of others, or place upon others.

In other Christian circles, the opposite is going on in order to please society, “what scientists say is fact.” Their pride and prejudice is getting the best of them also in a similar vein: vanity of the ego and fear of being an outcast.

Now, let’s move on to the general atheistic Darwinian. Sorry about the long term here, I needed to specify the perspective as closely as possible; there are all sorts of variations amongst Darwinian perspectives. Generally, it’s easy to see the pride and prejudice in this group. The prejudice is the most clear. There’s a prejudice toward the exclusion of God as driving force behind the process and a reluctance to ascribe a plan to the outcome of process. The prejudice (once again, a ‘pre-judgment’) is that God is not the impetus, which colors the final analysis. I must add that I believe that the deeper motive here again is fear: “If there is a just God, then, oh, no,” says the unconscious, “I’ll be convicted of this or of that.” In this case, the atheistic Darwinian cannot add God to the equation or the ego would be squashed. But once again, if the atheistic Darwinian would try to get to know God, then he would find the God of grace and mercy.

The ego is also to blame for the pride within this perspective. Man and his innovation must be the first to contemplate evolution. The “it’s mine” concept. So, here again, pride colors and distorts truth.

Mostly though, the whole evolution debate is a red herring. It keeps us fighting and that’s the best way to obscure the truth. During any fight, each side obscures their individual error, and both sides also do an excellent job of concealing and burying the truth that the other does hold dear. Yes, both the atheistic Darwinian and the Genesis-literal Christian have truths to tell. The atheistic Darwinian is witnessing a process of unfolding within the natural world that is very true and very real. The Genesis-literal Christian understands deeply that God is the ruler of a just universe and that he has designed the archetypes before the beginning of time.

But by burying the other side’s truth in their pride and prejudice, each group limits the others ability to see the wonders of God’s creation. We are observing, feeling and perceiving beings. We can understand joy. Besides beautiful human relation, nothing gives me greater joy than looking closely at God’s creation. Why does it give me such joy to think about how ginger is related to a banana or how relatively unchanged a species of fern has been for millions of years or how I am evolving to become the “me” of God’s planning? I cannot fathom.

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