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Random Thoughts



This Blog focuses on faith and reason, tying rational thought with faith.



Updated: 2012-07-19T15:03:05.418-04:00

 



Victims of rape and incest

2011-10-22T08:39:54.833-04:00

I heard Cain waffled on abortion in the case of rape our incest.  This is an emotionally  charged question, which deserves an emotionally charged answer.  I think a good response is "Do you mean: should we punish the victim?"




Einstein, Heisenberg, and Tipler

2011-03-28T20:49:18.462-04:00

Einstein, Heisenberg, and Tipler

This was a cute, if a little irreverent, article. The concept that creation was via information, not matter, is an interesting idea. Of course, the idea of a bug in creation is a little heretical.

It's also interesting how I came upon the article. I had read about the Planck Power in the latest Proceeding of the IEEE, and as I hadn't heard of it before looked it up. That landed me on the Plank Energy Wikipedia entry, which referenced the ultra-high-energy cosmic rays article, which led to John Walker's lively analysis of the 1991 event. This had links to several other of John Walker's pages.



...As It Is In Heaven

2009-10-27T22:11:59.292-04:00

Reading Mark Musa's translation of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, in which Dante uses imagery of the perfection of the planetary motions as images of Heaven, it occurred to me that heavenly perfection was what Jesus meant when teaching his disciples to pray. This is what the understanding would have been, and indeed th.e heavens were considered perfect until fairly recently. So the prayer is that "May Your will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven", really means "May we be perfect, as the heavens are perfect".

We may now, in our hubris, rejoice in the now known imperfections of space, what with meteors, gamma ray bursts, rogue comets, the chaos of the Sun's surface, etc., and think that we don't need to be so damn perfect. A closer examination, though, will short circuit that thought. The ancients observed perfect gravitational reactions -- they didn't know gravity was what it was, but that's what they observed. All the other stuff that we now know is in outer space is still perfect though, just more complex than the ancients thought. Each particle of dust reacts to gravity perfectly.

Of course, one can say that quantum mechanics and the uncertainty principle may give us the randomness that will excuse our imperfections. But even quantum reactions are perfect. Of course, scientists depend on that perfection, and new theories hang on minute deviations from the expected reactions.

So no more excuses: pray to be perfect.



Scientist as a particular type of Athiest?

2009-10-27T21:34:27.875-04:00

I heard this the other day, probably on a Christian radio station (WAVA 105.1 in Washington DC area). The term scientist is really that you believe in science. Of course, that's a bit of a logical puzzle, as science is about obtaining evidence with know error margins. Belief shouldn't enter in to it, but I think the science community does, at least in public, believe very strongly in science.

As a Christian, I've always maintained that my faith started with facts (see McDowell's Evidence That Demands a Verdict) and wasn't so much a matter of belief, and science is by definition fact based. So I think the two mix very well. The faith comes in after digesting the facts, because the facts point one to faith in things to come. And this is OK for Christianity, but not so much for science. The statement that everything must have a scientific explanation is a statement of faith, because it can never be subject to experimentation.



Sacred Science: Using Faith to Explain Anomalies in Physics: Scientific American

2010-05-06T20:15:59.091-04:00

Sacred Science: Using Faith to Explain Anomalies in Physics: Scientific American

Like most such articles, the author takes a most unscientific view of God -- that is, he assumes God does not exist, and explains everything in these terms. Now, explaining anything using the existence of God from the outset is foolishness. Even the Catholic Church, whose very trade is in miracles, takes a very sober view of them - saints aren't declared haphazardly. But either God exists or He doesn't, and a scientific attitude would leave the question open.

Rather, science can examine miracles. We would have to record enough preconditions to the miraculous event to declare that the event could not have happened without a miracle. And then the result would not be repeatable. Not repeatable? Of course - that's why it's a miracle.

I don't expect to see such evidence presented anytime soon though. It would take a truly remarkable scientist and man of faith to record the details of miracle with such evidence that skeptics would be moved. The religious scientist would likely be too moved himself (herself) to be objective. And a non-believer (or should I say, a believer in no God) would most likely bury the evidence.



American Scientist Online - Tip-of-the-Tongue States Yield Language Insights

2008-04-18T10:25:14.310-04:00

American Scientist Online - Tip-of-the-Tongue States Yield Language Insights

This article creates a strong case for language as fundamental to thought processes. This may explain why people who know more than one language (a club I am not a member of) often seem smarter. It may also explain why culture seems so strongly tied to language.



Affairs of the Lips: Why We Kiss: Scientific American

2008-02-06T08:44:42.620-05:00

Affairs of the Lips: Why We Kiss: Scientific American

First of all, it's funny when scientists try to give us straight talk about such emotional issues. Second, how can science be objective about subjectivity?



Send To: Send To Blogger

2008-02-05T21:55:48.843-05:00

Send To: Send To Blogger

Oh. So that's how that works. I think I'm back!



Brain Images of Woman in Vegetative State Hint at Awareness - Los Angeles

2006-09-08T14:19:16.406-04:00

The issue here is that someone discovered information suggesting that people in a persistent vegetative state may be more aware of what's going on than previously thought. What I find most interesting is the vehemnet arguments that the research is wrong, flawed, or that the patient was already getting better. As if "getting better" wasn't an indication that there was brain activity. The naysayers are clearly speaking from the agenda that the family members must be allowed to remove the "burden" of a vegetative member by killing them (usually by starving them to death).



Do they still practice population control in China?

2006-04-11T15:36:41.910-04:00

Note the second sentance: "That's a lotta folks." Does this justify China's policy? Does Yahoo approve? Clearly the policy has produces great sadness manifested in many ways in this very article.



Must Democracy be Secular?

2006-03-07T07:42:54.743-05:00

I stumbled on this 11/2004 article doing other research, but it is an interesting question. Of course, democracies have only recently been completely secular (including the US). The question is being examined anew though with the though of an Islamic democracy, and what that might mean for Iraq.

It is going to be interesting to see the answer evolve.



More on the new town in Florida...

2006-03-03T09:32:54.926-05:00

Another update on Ave Maria.



'Pizza pope' builds a Catholic heaven - Sunday Times - Times Online

2006-03-01T13:55:07.900-05:00

Someone anonymously emailed me about this. I had heard about the university, but not the town. It does sound like an interesting test of the non-establishment clause (commonly misquoted as the "separation of church and state", which is nowhere in the constitution).

I'm not sure I would be in a hurry to move there though, but only because I've been in Florida in the Summer. I have been thinking of moving to South Dakota though....



The Earth's Learning Curve - Issues 2006 - MSNBC.com

2006-01-16T21:03:41.613-05:00

This is an odd article coming from Newsweek. Basically, it says that the world is getting to be a better and better place, and knowledge is not the same as wisdom. That, of course, is the answer to our search for Faith and Reason. This is, as the article remarks, a very old question -- "What is the Good Life?"

The author (Fareed Zakaria) notes that knowledge doesn't produce good sense, courage, generosity, tolerance, he notes, most crucially, the farsightedness that will allow us all to live together without war chaos and catastrophe. But I must ask, why is it so obvious that those are Good things. Sure, we like to be around courageous people, but is courage good for us? Prove it.

We can whittle down all of these things in this fashion, and I won't fill this blog with that, because it doesn't solve the problem. Just like you can't solve the problem of where the universe came from, you can't solve where "Good" came from.

One can claim that they came from the same place though. The universe, that is, all of creation, is good. All the items in Zakaria's list can be declared good only if there is some ultimate Good. That is: God.

Good work Newsweek!



The Earth's Learning Curve - Issues 2006 - MSNBC.com

2006-01-16T21:03:06.853-05:00

This is an odd article coming from Newsweek. Basically, it says that the world is getting to be a better and better place, and knowledge is not the same as wisdom. That, of course, is the answer to our search for Faith and Reason. This is, as the article remarks, a very old question -- "What is the Good Life?"

The author (Fareed Zakaria) notes that knowledge doesn't produce good sense, courage, generosity, tolerance, he notes, most crucially, the farsightedness that will allow us all to live together without war chaos and catastrophe. But I must ask, why is it so obvious that those are Good things. Sure, we like to be around courageous people, but is courage good for us? Prove it.

We can whittle down all of these things in this fashion, and I won't fill this blog with that, because it doesn't solve the problem. Just like you can't solve the problem of where the universe came from, you can't solve where "Good" came from.

One can claim that they came from the same place though. The universe, that is, all of creation, is good. All the items in Zakaria's list can be declared good only if there is some ultimate Good. That is: God.

Good work Newsweek!



The Earth's Learning Curve - Issues 2006 - MSNBC.com

2006-01-16T21:01:34.106-05:00

This is an odd article coming from Newsweek. Basically, it says that the world is getting to be a better and better place, and knowledge is not the same as wisdom. That, of course, is the answer to our search for Faith and Reason. This is, as the article remarks, a very old question -- "What is the Good Life?"

The author (Fareed Zakaria) notes that knowledge doesn't produce good sense, courage, generosity, tolerance, he notes, most crucially, the farsightedness that will allow us all to live together without war chaos and catastrophe. But I must ask, why is it so obvious that those are Good things. Sure, we like to be around courageous people, but is courage good for us? Prove it.

We can whittle down all of these things in this fashion, and I won't fill this blog with that, because it doesn't solve the problem. Just like you can't solve the problem of where the universe came from, you can't solve where "Good" came from.

One can claim that they came from the same place though. The universe, that is, all of creation, is good. All the items in Zakaria's list can be declared good only if there is some ultimate Good. That is: God.

Good work Newsweek!



The Earth's Learning Curve - Issues 2006 - MSNBC.com

2006-01-16T21:00:47.913-05:00

This is an odd article coming from Newsweek. Basically, it says that the world is getting to be a better and better place, and knowledge is not the same as wisdom. That, of course, is the answer to our search for Faith and Reason. This is, as the article remarks, a very old question -- "What is the Good Life?"

The author (Fareed Zakaria) notes that knowledge doesn't produce good sense, courage, generosity, tolerance, he notes, most crucially, the farsightedness that will allow us all to live together without war chaos and catastrophe. But I must ask, why is it so obvious that those are Good things. Sure, we like to be around courageous people, but is courage good for us? Prove it.

We can whittle down all of these things in this fashion, and I won't fill this blog with that, because it doesn't solve the problem. Just like you can't solve the problem of where the universe came from, you can't solve where "Good" came from.

One can claim that they came from the same place though. The universe, that is, all of creation, is good. All the items in Zakaria's list can be declared good only if there is some ultimate Good. That is: God.

Good work Newsweek!



Wal-Mart Sees How Fast Bad Press Spreads Online

2006-01-07T11:25:54.596-05:00

Sorry I've been gone so long. Much upheaval on the paying job front. Good upheaval, but along with Christmas, distracting from hobbies.

The theme here is something that has been emerging as the bane of modern communications. It originally looked like the ever-increasing bandwidth of our communications were going to free society by allowing the truth to flow so freely.

Freedom is a two edged sword though, and lies flow just as freely. What seems to be happening, on the web and even TV, is that people are tuning into what they want to hear. Our sources of information are getting polarized. If we even look at the other side, it's to check out what the enemy is doing.

We like to read Web sites and blogs that we agree with and that reinforce our opinions. Aside from the few of you who practice "know your enemy" browsing, how many of you liberals read http://www.nationalreview.com/? How many of you conservatives frequent http://www.thenation.com/?


This is a sign of bad things to come. Read your favorite news source to see what will happen!



Maximum Entropy and the Bible

2005-08-01T21:40:07.840-04:00

WARNING - This is tough mathematical/physics topic.

The idea behind maximum entropy is fairly simple -- don't make assumptions, any assumptions, about data that you don't have. For instance, if you flip a coin three times, and get three heads in a row, what can you say about the fairness of the coin? You clearly can't say that it is a two headed coin, because that would be an assumption about the next several flips. Now if you get 100 heads in a row, you have a lot more information, and you might be ready to take that leap.

On to the Bible. Let's take the story of Adam and Eve. Bible critics are quick to point out that based on our knowledge of genetics, there could not have been only one man and one woman, therefore, the Bible cannot be without error. But where in the Bible does it say that God only created one man and one woman? You see, if you are going to take the Bible literally (which, by the way, I don't think it should be, but more on this tomorrow), you have to recognize that the Bible doesn't tell you everything that happened. If you make assumptions about occurrences not related, you will get different interpretations, which will most likely be incorrect (entropy again).

For the curious, entropy is a measure of disorder. I have a few children whose rooms have lot's of entropy! If you make assumptions about information you don't have, you limit the amount of alternative occurrences outside the related story, and thus have a lower information entropy (a more ordered story) than one with the uncertainty. Detective stories take extreme advantage of this principle, as the detective usually keeps an open mind about facts he/she hasn't got evidence for.



Plan for Dalai Lama lecture angers neuroscientists

2005-07-27T12:21:50.163-04:00

Here's a great quote:

Jianguo Gu, a neuroscientist at the University of Florida who has helped to organise a petition against the Dalai Lama's lecture, said: "I don't think it's appropriate to have a prominent religious leader at a scientific event. "The Dalai Lama basically says the body and mind can be separated and passed to other people. There are no scientific grounds for that. We'll be talking about cells and molecules and he's going to talk about something that isn't there.



Ok, the mind body separation stuff might concern them, but look at the start of the quote. In his mind, it's just plain wrong to listen to religion in the context of science. Even though the Dalai Lama is basically science-friendly. I think his position is very unscientific. Religions, like scientific theories, may have pieces that are right and pieces that are wrong. They are not incompatible with science altogether.



Wikipedia:Neutral point of view, Evolution, and the Supreme Court

2005-07-24T12:58:34.030-04:00

I've been trying to formulate (and express) a coherent opinion on just what I wanted in a supreme court nominee. Not that anybody in particular might care, but nevertheless, here it is. If you've been reading this blog, you might wonder what my quandary is, but there is one. Simply, would we want a judge who would simply interpret the constitution as it was originally intended, or do we want a judge who would apply God's law in interpreting the constitution (perhaps beyond the intent of the writers)?

Clearly, the liberals (you know who you are) don't want either. The media lumps the two together, and many conservatives (which, except for the liberal tendencies of most conservatives, I would consider myself) would choose the latter. The first choice though (simply interpret) should be neutral (see the Wikipedia discussion on evolution). This is hard to achieve, but in a Supreme Court judge, I think that is what we really want.

This would mean, for instance, that Roe vs. Wade would be overturned, but so would anti-segregation rulings. Would this be good? Yes, but other things need to change too. I think that individual states could legalize abortion (as many have already done), and the Supreme Court may have to uphold that. Some states may even choose to return to segregation, and the Court would have to uphold that too.

What is wrong here? It is us. That is, it is U.S. Until these things, which are clearly wrong, are outlawed Constitutionally, which would take an overwhelming majority of -Americans to want it so. Personally I think Anti-Segregation would be easier to get amended than Anti-Abortion (strange if you think about it).



Deal Hudson on Evolution

2005-07-09T20:39:27.066-04:00

This has been a ruccuring topic on this blog, so when I saw Deal Hudson's explanation I thought it so apt I wanted to repeat it here.

The Church challenges scientists to separate themselves from an ideology that begins with the assumption of the assumption of atheism and meaninglessness of life.

... Catholic students need not be indoctrinated in a scientific theory that denies the design and purpose apparent in the natural world.

[Cardinal] Schönborn underscores capacity of the human mind to find order in creation: "Scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of mere chance and necessity are not scientific at all, but, as John Paul put it, an abdication of human intelligence."


[Cardinal] Schönborn also makes clear what the new pope thinks about evolution. He quotes a line from Benedict XVI's very first homily, "We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary."


I think that sums it up. Just because we see the signs of evolution all around us, doesn't mean we aren't the preduct of the mind of God. Clink on the article title link to subscribe to Hudson's e-newsletter.



Charlotte Wyatt -- Is this nuts or what?

2005-07-09T07:55:55.020-04:00

To sum up this sad story, a baby was born prematurely in England with lots of problems. The hospital physicians decided the baby would be better off dead, and got a court order to allowing them not to resucitate the baby. Althought the baby has continued to improve, the judge will not reverse the order. Nor will the hospital or the judge release the baby's medical records to the parents.

So not only do these parents have the heartbreak of a desperately ill (although clearly not dying) child, they have the medical establishment (which should be their hope) and the judicial system (which should be their recourse should their hope abandon them) turned against them.

This is nuts.



The Right Thing to Do

2005-07-09T20:40:56.783-04:00

I heard today on PBS that they interviewed a doctor who was in the British Medical House (? did I get this right?) when the bus exploded. He reported that the first thing they did was say "That was a terrorist attack -- wait there might be a secondary", and so they waited 10 minutes before venturing outside to help. I doubt wether I would have been brave enought, or rational enough, to do anything useful, and I should not judge the doctors. But faith could give you the courage to say "We must go and help now because it's the right thing to do -- if there is a secondary, then we will die, but at least we'll die doing the right thing."

You see, those doctors who waited will still die.



More on the Fruit Flies

2005-07-06T19:06:47.600-04:00

I thin I don't like the "Aha!" nature of some of these reports. It seems like people just don't think about the situation, but simply rally their position. Let's say there is a gene which makes it less distasteful for some to engage in homosexual acts. Does this mean that they are a homosexual? Or does it mean that special people are faced with a choice?

If the later, then most of us shouldn't be so proud of our heterosexuality, as it was built in. Those who can take pride in it would then be those who have the ability to choose, and choose heterosexuality. As for the others, why then do they choose homosexuality? We're right back where we started, aren't we?