Large Hadron Collider Evidences God After All

April 1, 2010

To a philosophy student the Large Hadron Collider which began operations just days ago is a case study in human faith.  There are two groups of scientists in opposition to each other on a rather critical issue.  With which school of thought do you agree?

First there’s the camp that seems rather skeptical of man’s ability to crash two 3.5 trillion electron volt beams head-on in a 17-mile track without accidentally creating a black hole that could swallow the earth in a few years.  This group must have noticed a common denominator between… say,  the Hindenburg, the Space Shuttle Challenger, the Titanic, and Chernobyl.  Men who made even the tiniest of miscalculations, amplified a thousand times over by the scale of the experiment, caused more damage than anyone expected.

Most epic failures are like houses of cards.  They do not typically feature one blunder after another, rather, a “small”  mistake (as men view most mistakes) at some fundamental level, followed by a great many non-mistakes piled upon it.  Sometimes an impressive structure of non-mistakes is built up over many years and by many different people, perhaps long after the original mistake-maker has passed away.  Scores of people end up assuming that given the amount of time, energy, and sheer brainpower from the combined number of experts involved, no  fundamental mistake could have possibly been made.  The switch is finally thrown, something long-forgotten on the bottom of the pile trips and brings down the entire structure, including all of the ‘correct’ calculations.  All the ‘correct’ calculations smolder on the ash heap because they were built upon a flawed assumption.

I appreciate the collider-skeptics.  I want my kids to understand that faith in science can be misplaced.  Theories of Global Warming, Evolution, and the Big Bang, for example, can be impressive structures on non-mistakes teetering precariously upon a few fundamentally false assumptions.  I want them to trust God even more than the brakes of a Toyota Prius.  God isn’t susceptible to human error.

Then there is the CERN camp enthusiastically pursuing conditions that they believe were created just after the Big Bang.  What could possibly go wrong?  Never mind the minor glitches and the mysterious dark material that showed up in the last couple days, the planet is safe.

Now back to our philosophy student … on the one hand we have some scientists who don’t appear to be worshiping at the altar of science, at least when it comes to the LHC.  They’ve found faults with the research of others in the past, and observed the ensuing disasters from machines or policies built upon those faults.  Though they may know of no specific immediate threat at CERN, they point to a lack of humility in CERN’s approach that could spell disaster as certainly as other projects that have come before.

Then there are the scientists who strangely mock Christians with faith in God while ironically placing their faith in the LHC.  Is man’s science more reliable than God?  Perhaps a humble review of the history of each would be in order.

After reviewing my summary of these opposed scientific camps perhaps it will surprise you that I too have faith in the relative safety of the LHC.  Accidents may happen there, some could be impressively disastrous and/or fatal, but I believe at least the majority of the planet should be relatively safe for now.  Just like the scientists pursuing the Big Bang because they don’t accept God’s explanation of things in Genesis, I too at least share their belief that the earth won’t get sucked into a black hole because of their work.  Why?  Because that’s not the way God outlines the End of The Age.

The Large Hadron Collider will yield evidence of God and the trustworthiness of his Word.  As usual though, evidence alone will not be enough.  If evidence were enough, as I heard illustrated recently, people wouldn’t smoke.  There’s plenty of evidence that smoking is bad for you.  People smoke not for lack of evidence, but for other reasons.

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Redeeming Tiger Woods

January 7, 2010

I have not been Ann Coulter’s biggest fan.  Her name-calling rhetoric has been a turn-off.  This is one of the most amazing articles I have read from a public political figure in a very long time.

Dolphins Without iPhones

October 28, 2009

Scientists have observed bottlenose dolphins wrapping pieces of sponge around their noses to prevent abrasions.  For being animals they are remarkable problem solvers, but according to this Wikipedia article, “nowhere as “intelligent” as human.”

Why the enormous gap?  I am always impressed when I read about the smarter things animals do.  But this impression always comes from grading on a curve, the animal curve.  In reality their brightest is still millions of lumens dimmer than our dullest.

I went searching Google with the words “how smart are humans”.  I was hoping to find someone, somewhere who could observe what I do … that dolphins never stop you on the street for a picture taken with you to email to the calves back home.  Instead I found countless articles on how surprisingly smart animals are.  Many are surprisingly smart.  At least on the curve.

This experience tonight added to the mystery I have been pondering since my last post, which seems like a very long time ago.  Since my last post I have finished reading a book by a former atheist in addition to reading several more articles and posts on atheistic sites/blogs.  How can truth be so obvious, so plain to me yet so un-obvious, so obscured to so many others?

I think there are two answers to this mystery, but before I get to that, let me once again point out how to level the playing field with an atheist.  To level the field, all you have to do is point to an atheist’s own skepticism of reason and science.  If they have little or no skepticism in reason and science, then they have faith in reason and science.

That only levels the playing field.  That is all you can do.  Cast doubt on their beliefs, certainly… or bear witness to yours, indeed… but bring them full circle into the kingdom of God? It is impossible for me and it is impossible for you.

Back to the two answers to the mystery of the truths that seem like they should be obvious:

1.  I came across this over the weekend in I Corinthians 1.  An oft-repeated theme in the Bible is that God hides the discernment of truth from those who are perishing.

2. Many choose, as in, on purpose, to obscure truth.  They do this out of fear, according to Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3.

It’s that simple.  It is an honor to be called by God to bear witness to the truth, but only God can un-hide it in the mind of a sinner.

Alicia Chole considered herself a realist, a reasonable atheist,  right up to the day the “stuff and fluff of fairy tales knocked loud and clear and then stood there offending all {her} senses”.

Feel free to comment.  Dolphins too, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The Day Swine Flew

October 13, 2009

I know something about you.  In fact everyone knows something about you.  What do we all know that is universally true and that we all agree is true about you?  It is that you have a framework of experience in your mind, knowledge from memories and instincts, combined with the ability to organize new information into that framework.

A fact.

Argh… if only it were ever that simple.  There’s always an exception so allow a minor qualification: Except for the rare flavor of agnosticism that anti-rationally  ‘knows’ you can’t know anything for sure, the vast majority of agnostics, atheists, Christians– indeed almost everyone–should be OK with the first paragraph.  If it is possible to establish anything as “a fact” to a near total majority of philosophies, the first paragraph should be a prime candidate.  For those of you who can’t know anything for sure… well, this post isn’t for you.

For the 99.9% of you that understand the first paragraph to be factually correct, I’m going to use this as a fundamental building block to understand something about submitted thought in Fort Wayne, IN.  Since it seems like it was already so long ago, let’s review:

You and everyone else has a framework of experience built up from knowledge through memories and instincts.  The existing framework helps you organize new information.

Agreed? Good. But now it gets tricky because some of our framework has taught us to detest certain words and concepts that are actually helpful for understanding the framework itself.  So piece-by-piece now, see how far we get in agreement, and I would enjoy hearing your contrasts to these fundamental philosophical structures:

We all have a framework of knowledge.

We don’t all have the same framework.

“New information” implies that we didn’t have all of the information to begin with.

If we all have a different framework, and we all have the ability to learn new information, this means none of us know everything there is to know.

If none of us knows everything, none of us will likely ever know everything.

Any new information is therefore not the last piece of information we’ll need to perfectly understand how the framework should be perfectly assembled.

Therefore the framework containing the bulk of our experience and knowledge is more likely to influence the interpretation of the new information than the other way around.

The framework may therefore be stretched a little or modified if needed to accommodate the new information, but seldom does anyone completely tear down their existing framework, even as the new information may occasionally require to build the best possible structure to best accommodate the new information.

This means that we are all biased.

…and the train goes off the tracks…

“Biased” is something few of us feel like we should be.  But under the limits of human reason, without the benefit of universal knowledge, how could we possibly claim to be objective?  Usually when someone claims objectivity they are grading themselves on the curve.  Their naturally limited framework doesn’t allow for perfect objectivity.

If I saw a pig moving across the sky this would be an example of new information.  My framework would probably bend a little to fit the new information.  “What do you know!  Pigs can fly!”, I might conclude .  My framework of knowledge and experience would be altered, but not fundamentally changed.

A fundamental change in the framework would come if I managed to conclude the pig was actually stationary while me and the earth were passing rapidly beneath it.  Against the framework of what I understand about the world, the first perspective is a stretch, though manageable, while the second by comparison would seem absurd if someone presented such an idea to me.  I am biased by my knowledge and experience to believe more that the pig is traveling across the sky than that the earth is traveling around the pig.

In the course of human history all of us can point to moments where nearly everyone thought the pig was flying across the sky, when out of the blue (so to speak) some witty observer made the absurd claim that we were actually traveling around the pig.  At first, laughter ensued.  But then slowly over the years more and more pieces were added into the framework to support the idea and after awhile, it didn’t seem so absurd.

If you agree that this is always possible, then congratulations, you’re a natural skeptic of science and reason.

Consider this though: what if yet another fellow comes along and says, “No, actually the pig was flying across the sky and all that you thought you knew that was right and later ‘proved’ wrong was actually right”?

Welcome to the battle of presuppositions.  In the realm of human reason, all are equal.  It takes a standard beyond the prison of human reason to give a man peace that he understands truth.

…and then the evolutionist said, “I just did something unnatural!”

October 9, 2009

Let me see if I have this right:

Beneficial DNA mutation happens naturally but we’ve neither observed in nature nor successfully forced a single instance in a lab.

…and…

The speed of light is an all-time universal constant yet primordial goo grows up and discovers he can slow it down to 38 miles-per-hour.

My Genes Ride The Short Bus

October 7, 2009

Compared to my dad’s DNA, my genes are the ones with the hockey helmets.  Mom might claim her genes are superior to Dad’s.  If that is true then it is possible my DNA, even as a hybrid of the two, is still better than Dad’s material alone.  But if you could model the best of my mom’s DNA and the best of my dad’s DNA and come up with the ideal hybrid of Mom and Dad, the likelihood is that I’m physically worse than that.  The potential for a downgrade is great.

The Theory of Evolution has an obstacle in DNA replication.  About every 10,000 times a strand is copied, an error is produced.  While I’d personally like to achieve that kind of accuracy in my typing, when you consider that the human body has between 10 and 100 trillion cells with all but the red blood cells containing DNA, the potential for flaws is nearly guaranteed.

We’re talking about errors, not improvements.  In theory a replication error could result in an improvement in the strand, and that is how evolution is supposed to work. However the vast majority of what we actually observe, and indeed the overall trend, better supports a theory of devolution rather than evolution.

In fact not a single beneficial mutation has ever been documented.  For all of the complex species that exist there should be billions of beneficial mutations that have already occurred, and thousands occurring that are observable now.  Instead what we find is that our very DNA is devolving into chaos.

Forget That Chimp Hogwash

October 3, 2009

You know that 130-year-old belief that we’d eventually find a skeleton halfway between us and our ape ancestors?  You know, the “missing link”?  Yeah, well… that’s bogus.  Now we know the truth.  No, really.  Boy weren’t we suckers… bet my face is just red with embarrassment.  How could we be so gullible?

I remember back in May driving into work and listening to the news as a Fox News reporter excitedly announced the remarkable discovery, finally, of the missing link.  I know, that’s shocking.  Let me break this down for you:

Though it was May 2009, the discovery of the missing link means that … well … brace yourself…  apparently we hadn’t found one yet.  Sure, there were all those other missing links that excited reporters had announced throughout the years since Darwin, but we know those had all been later disproved and associated with an over-zealous, unscientific desire to knock Genesis.

In May 2009, however, finally–the missing link turned out to be an ancient lemur!  Who knew that we apes and humans were all related to our brothers, the lemurs?  Surprise though, turns out that story was over-hyped too, as Fox News criticized the media frenzy over the unconvincing fossil.  Funny how I first heard the story presented by a frenzied Fox News Radio reporter, but maybe they’re not related.

In case you didn’t catch the latest ancestor-of-the-month this past Thursday (October 1, 2009) science introduced Ardipithecus ramidus to the world, replacing Lucy as the oldest “human” skeleton, and oh by the way… see footnote(1)*

    (1).*(Parenthetical fine-print footnote: we’re no longer looking for a “missing link” or any relationship between chimpanzees, apes, and humans.  I know we have been teaching schoolchildren this for years … our bad.)

Now we finally know the truth!  Our ancestors actually came from these artist renderings and this CT-scanned-virtual-60-piece-reassembled-scaled-and-composited-roadkill–fossil-skull.  Glad we got that cleared up!

Presupposing Earthquakes

October 2, 2009

In the last two days  earthquakes have been in the news.  First it was Samoa and American Samoa that sparked tsunamis with a current death toll of 160.  Then it was Peru.  Then Indonesia with a current death toll over 500.  Then California.  Those are just the ones I heard about in the news.

According to the USGS, as of right now there have actually been 54 earthquakes over a 5.0 magnitude just since the 8.0 Samoa Islands quake two days ago.  Tonga, Fiji, Bolivia, Russia, Japan, and the United States, to name a few, have all seen earthquakes greater than a 5 in the past 51 hours.

President Ronald Reagan famously said, “Facts are stubborn things.”  As much as I admire Ronald Reagan, I don’t see facts as being all that stubborn for a lot of folks, at least when we are talking about facts used in finite human reason.

Many people are expecting earthquakes.  Many people are expecting earthquakes to increase in frequency.  As it turns out, we all appear to be right about this.  We don’t all agree on what it means.

All of us have presuppositions.  A presupposition is an implicit assumption about what facts mean.  We all have a background of belief in what we understand about the world and assume to be true.  When a new fact comes along, it usually supports our presuppositions, even though multiple opposing assumptions seem to absorb the same fact.

Some look at the increasing frequency of earthquakes and assume it is caused by global warming.  It’s exactly what they are expecting to see.  Ice is melting so they expect more earthquakes.

I too am expecting an increase in earthquakes, but my presupposition tells me the trend isn’t reversible by reducing carbon emissions.  The way I see it, the  overall trend may have brief retreats in activity like the jagged line on a  graph, but the trend will be up.   I am expecting this because 2,000 years ago the Son of God said it would happen.

Creation and evolution can be presuppositions, observing the same facts and seeing different meanings.  Evolutionists expect to see creatures evolving, getting better.  I expect to see a universe falling apart in many ways.  I believe all of nature is under a curse, a curse that Einstein partially uncovered in his second law of thermodynamics.  I believe it is likely that all matter deteriorates, all energy is only ever lost, information in DNA is only ever lost and never gained in a closed system.

Knowing the God outside finite human reason gives me peace in the midst of bad news about earthquakes.   A faith that reaches beyond the finite understands that these earthquakes mean an ancient warrior is coming for his bride.  Presuppositions may be equal in the realm of finite human reason, but God is not limited by our inability to understand him.  It is good to understand your presuppositions, and it is even better to let God challenge them… since he is not limited by being finite, and thus knows considerably more about science, ourselves, or anything at all, than we do.

Isaiah 29:14

14 Therefore once more I will astound these people
with wonder upon wonder;
the wisdom of the wise will perish,
the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”

Isaiah 55:8

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.

On Speciesism, Vegetarians, and the Smell of Sizzling Bacon – II

September 30, 2009

Part 2 – Moral Authority

As I’ve done in previous blogs, in Part 1 of this topic I purposely tried to limit my arguments to finite human reasoning, to illustrate again the limits of finite human reasoning.  In any moral argument we humans tend to appeal to either popular consensus, some supposedly “natural” law, or a transcendent authority, such as God.  When you imply moral standards you journey to the very limits of human reason and stretch beyond into faith, whether it be a faith in God, in your fellow man, or even only in yourself.

I’m not smart enough to rest securely on moral arguments of my own making.  I’m imaginative enough to invent my own religion, but I would fear, always holding skepticism in my own ability to arrive at universal truth.

The God of the Bible astonishes me with the security that only ultimate authority can bring.  Even in preparing to write on this subject, I already had an inkling of what God had to say on the subject, but I didn’t know he had given words to a prophet centuries ago about this very era.  The more I read his words in his exclusive written communication to man, the more overwhelmed I become.  “Relevance” is a gross understatement regarding the Bible.  Never was anything more critical to man ever written.

There are hundreds of references (maybe thousands?) to animals all throughout the Bible.  Below are some highlights from the NIV along with some observations I’ve made, and I clearly marked those with “I observe” because my observations of Scripture are hardly as authoritative as the Bible itself:

Genesis 1

24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth,  and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

I observe: man is made in the image of God, we are very special to God.  He gives us the privilege of stewardship over the whole earth.

Leviticus 16:11

“Aaron shall bring the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household, and he is to slaughter the bull for his own sin offering.”

I observe: Aaron sins, yet God wants the bull slaughtered to save Aaron.

Luke 8

28When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29For Jesus had commanded the evil[a] spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

30Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31And they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

32A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into them, and he gave them permission. 33When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

I observe: Jesus is more concerned with one demon-possessed man than a whole herd of pigs.

Mark 7

18“Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? 19For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”)

I observe: Jesus has no condemnation for what a man eats, but is far more concerned about what comes out of his heart.

John 21

12Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

I observe: Jesus ate fish and encouraged the disciples to as well.

Mark 14

12On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

13So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. 14Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”

I observe: Jesus probably ate lamb.

1 Corinthians 10

25Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

Acts 10

13Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

14“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

15The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

I observe: It is permissible to kill something in order to eat it.

Romans 14

2One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.3The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.

I observe: Vegetarians can be Christian brothers.

1 Timothy 4

1The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

I observe: The “later times” spoken of in many places throughout prophetic scripture will see a day when some are deceived and forbid others not to eat things God created to be food.

On Speciesism, Vegetarians, and the Smell of Sizzling Bacon

September 29, 2009

(This is another tangent.  For the both of you who are following my blog (greetings, former immediate family members!), I hope to return soon to the implications of a universe falling apart.  Recently though something came across my radar that is of current interest, a “hot topic” to me for a few reasons.  It seemed to fit into the scope of what I’m doing here, though if I kept trying a systematic sequence I would have gotten around to writing about it in about 20 more years … I’m not the faithful blogger my brother is … who, by the way, seems to want to force his religion of rigorous blogging down my throat).

Part 1 – Earthlings Bemoans “Speciesism”

I recently watched Earthlings, but be warned, it’s graphic for most Americans.  For we who were not raised hunting and fishing, who are unfamiliar with the markets of a China, for example, and having always had our meats neatly packaged at the grocery store,  a video showing among other things the butchering of animals finds an American audience ripe for the harvest of its message.

“Make the Connection” the slogan urges.  The video opens with some gorgeous images of Earth, followed by shots of both people and animals.  The reasonable connection is made that we are all “earthlings”.  Humans are not the only species on the planet.   Humans share the world with millions of other creatures, yet we “tend to dominate.”

So far so good.  I concur with all of the above.  For about the first two minutes there is barely anything I find to argue with.  Even when the video makes the point that it is the human species that often treats other beings as mere objects, I agree that this frequently is the case.

Then  the term “speciesism” is introduced (a new word even for the WordPress spell-checker which just underlined it for me in red), defined as a bias towards one’s own species and against members of other species.  Speciesism is equated with racism and sexism.

Earthlings continues to build philosophical statements, one upon another, representing the best sort of foundation in finite human reasoning:

“If a being suffers there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration.”

“No matter what the nature of the being, the principle of equality requires that one’s suffering can be counted equally with the like suffering of any other being.”

Racism and sexism are discussed accompanying images of slaves, the KKK, Hitler and women’s rights activists on the march.  A pattern is observed, the connection is made.  The narrator explains that we desire many of the same things animals do (such as food, water, and so forth),  so our moral treatment should begin with our “psychological kinship”.

Impressive.  This video really does represent the best of human reason… which as I’ve previously discussed could be a problem.  Once again there is an appeal to some moral code, some universal knowledge about right and wrong, some standard by which we all agree on.  The narrator uses the word “moral” many times and assumes we understand what that means.  No collection of universal knowledge is cited as a reference, or any standard by which to measure morality.  So although Earthlings insists we are obligated to standards of behavior, the video never discusses exactly what or who obligates us to those standards.

Evolution is mentioned a few times and the narration seems to admire evolution.  Is evolution the moral standard to which Earthlings makes its appeal?  It can’t be.  Earthlings wants us to treat the suffering of other species equal to our own and to refrain from objectifying other living beings.  Evolution teaches us that it is completely natural to survive our own species by the domination of others.

My cats seem to agree more with Darwin than with Earthlings.  They wound prey in my backyard just enough to prevent escape, then they play with the frightened creature until they’re hungry enough to finish it off.  Even the video itself shows cannibalism among pigs–the stronger eating the weaker, which betrays the message that it should be natural to have empathy for the weak… that is, it betrays the message if the creators of Earthlings somehow admire evolution.

Earthlings only makes its appeal to humans, however– the most highly evolved, top-of-the-food-chain predators who supposedly arrived here by doing the very things this video seeks to condemn.  So the moral standard doesn’t come from evolution.

Does the moral standard come from consensus?  No.  The consensus is that people don’t have a problem using animals to serve their desires.  If the consensus had its way, vegetarians would be voted off the island.

The moral edicts in Earthlings must thus come from a higher authority, beyond evolution, beyond human reason.  Though it’s still not clear to me what that authority is, in Part 2 I’ll measure the appeals of Earthlings against the higher authority to which I submit my thought.