Monthly Archives: October 2008

Does man destroy the earth?

 

Some would argue that man and animal alike have the same impact on the earth; that man has caused no more destruction to the earth than animal.

 

How many lions do you know kill to put an animal as a trophy on their wall, how many monkeys do you know will strip out entire forests for their desire to use paper; how many elephants take so much more than they need from the earth that they have to start digging landfills and throwing out all of their unused and wasted products, how many ants do you know pour poisons into the air, how many giraffes have created atomic weapons?

 

I think the difference that most species do what they can do to survive; there is a balance there, they take what they need from the earth, they give back to the earth (take for example the bird that eats the grape and the flies over and defecates the grape seed on some other portion of the ground), or the lion that kills when it is hungry, and the jackals and vultures that clean up the scraps.

 

Humans strip and mine and rape the earth of all its natural beauties; I am a human, I am guilty. It’s a harsh view of some of the impacts of our existence, I don’t think it was always intended to be this way, I don’t think it will always be this way, but I think it’s the present reality.

 

I just read Ernest Hemmingway’s The Old Man and the Sea yesterday. Like the other Hemmingway books I’ve read, I loved his ability to disclose topics that are so close to the center of human existence. His main character has such a strong symbiotic relationship to the sea, to the wildlife, the nature, he kills because he has to, to survive, he does it reluctantly, he does it humbly.

 

I think there are some people that still live in the harmony of existence, like Santiago, like indigenous tribes that haven’t been ‘civilized’; but I think as a whole, humanity is destroying the natural balance of the earth.

 


 

My new Address is on the Planet of Mars…

 

I think humans have to be very careful in their future endeavors. I love knowledge, don’t get me wrong; but sometimes I think that we’re going to destroy ourselves in our ever relentless pursuit of knowledge.

By examining the observations within our own world and our universe, we put together all these rules and theorems that seem to explain everything, and yet, we don’t really know. If science has shown us anything over the last couple centuries, it’s that even when we think we know things; most often we’re not entirely correct, and sometimes we are completely wrong.

What would happen if in the process of terraforming mars we change some dynamic about mars that causes it to become unstable, how might that impact earth? What would happen if while testing options for terraforming mars on the moon we cause the moon to become unstable, how would that impact earth?

Even science understands the vast improbability (in non-scientific terms ‘the miracle’) of the universe producing the earth so finely tuned for biological existence as we know it; I have to admit that I’m a bit concerned that in our desire for knowledge, we are going to cause a catastrophe that will be beyond our control and our technology to suppress.

On the other hand, the curiosity in me says that I think it’s interesting that we’re starting to examine moving outwards into the solar system; according to the Physicist Frank Tipler in his book The Physics of Christianity this is an inevitable goal of mankind, and necessary for survival.

In my mind, it is entirely possible to create manmade structures like a ‘bio dome’ to inhabit planets such as mars; however, I find it unlikely that we will ever change the atmosphere and temperature of mars in such a way that would allow humans to inhabit it as we do the earth today.

I do find it much more likely, as Tipler describes in his book previously referenced that through using principles defined in the Bekenstein Bound and the availability of future computer technologies based on Moore’s Law and the process of baryon-annihilation which he states will be developed in the future to provide an extremely efficient mass to energy conversion, humanity will become digital, and we shall find the ability to download ourselves into a digital framework and travel through interstellar space at the speed of light, at which point we can then live out our existence as a virtual process on a piece of hardware, not requiring any of the current biological necessities that the earth offers.

Sounds like the Wachowski brothers were closer than we imagine! J

 

Does the earth love us?

“Civilization… wrecks the planet from seafloor to stratosphere.”—Richard Bach, American novelist.

 

This quote reminds me of a great movie; The Matrix.

 

“I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species. I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area, and you multiply, and multiply, until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet, you are a plague, and we are the cure.” – Agent Smith

 

How true it is that human beings abuse and misuse the natural resources we have, we drive animals to distinction, and we cause global effects that change the planet in unforeseen ways through our ever relentless desire to consume.

 

Interestingly before I even read this quote, last night, I was sitting and thinking about all the ways that we, as humans are probably going to try and harness the energies the natural materials of the other planets in our solar systems.

 

We’re already talking about ways to move out to mars – somehow, based on our current track-record, I don’t think we’ll bring much positive benefits to Mars, despite its lack of biological support – somehow, we’ll probably ruin it in the process of inhabiting it.

 

To paraphrase the book of Romans 8: Even nature, subjected to futility as the result of mans transgression, cries out as if in birth pains, waiting for the day of its redemption.

The Proletarians and the Inner-Party

I’ve given up on the politics of this country – George Orwell was a visionary and a prophet. 

With all the hatred and discord that is being sown between Republicans and Democrats the average Proletarian doesn’t even realize that the choice for president has very little to do with how this country is run.  The President is really a talking head – sure, he or she is the ‘most powerful person in the world’, but those powers count for nothing when it’s not the President that makes decisions of policy or law – all the President can do is get in the way or speed up the results, and of course declare war. 

And yet, we spend 2 out of every four years fighting and bickering and arguing about who will be the best president; and each side is just full of propaganda and half truths.  I can’t believe a word any of them say – I’d vote for no one, but then who could I blame but myself?  

Politics were invented to keep the Proles always stirred up in a state of national pride; war is the method that the Inner-Party uses to do that.

Will things ever change?

The stork has finally showed up!

    

Ok, first part of this story is that I have been waiting for my chickens to lay eggs all summer…

Last Saturday I went out and found that my chickens had laid eggs! While I was surprised that the first eggs were so large, and heavy (I thought maybe they were frozen because they were in the outside chicken run instead of the inside coup) – I took it in stride and was extremely excited that I finally got eggs!

But what I came to find out is that my sadistic sister-in-law (with the help of my eager parents) came over while we were out of town the night before, picking up my broken car that had been fixed, and they placed hard-boiled eggs in my chicken coup. That explained the size & weight of the eggs… I sure would have been surprised when I went to crack them open for Sunday morning pancakes.

I’m not going to forget though; I’m not going to turn the other cheek – and when she least expects it I’m going to get her back, and get her back good…

In the mean time, I went out to the chicken coup this evening, and I have a message for her…

Hey Ellen… go suck on an Egg – in fact actually go suck two! I’ll gladly loan you slop covered eggs I took out of the coup tonight!

 

What was there before ‘God’

 

The question of “What was before God” is interesting – although; the answer must be “Nothing”.

 

Whether god is, as to some, the atoms and molecules that make up existence, or god is the personal creator described in the Judeo-Christian doctrines. There is an old Latin saying that says “Ex nihilo nihil fit” which means roughly – if there was ever a time that there was nothing – there would still be nothing today (i.e. out of nothing, nothing comes).

 

The idea of God is that God is that which there is no greater. So if there is something before what we call god, then what we call god is not god, and its predecessor is in fact God (an adaptive form of the argument from ontology by Anselm of Canterbury).

 

Additionally there can’t be an infinite regress of causes (that is – there has to be a first cause) – and that first cause is what we call God (from Aquinas’ Quinque viae).

 

In my science courses at the University, I am always amazed, and delighted to see how discussions of science and humanity inevitably come back to discussions on God!

Augustine on the Literal interpretation of Genesis

 

I found it very interesting that St. Augustine in writing on the Literal interpretation of Genesis warns Christians to be very cautious in making the bible say something that it doesn’t really say, and then looking foolish in the light of common reason that disagrees.

 

I used to believe in a 7 day literal interpretation of Genesis (I was also a young-earth enthusiast) – however, the more I study of evolution and the big bang, the more I at least see, in my own mind, that taking that position may not be the best exegetical approach to Genesis (in fact, there are interpretive reasons as well – but I won’t get into them).

 

Just to go hand and hand with this conversation, here is the quote that I was referencing from Augustine.

 

“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up their vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn (Augustine, 1982).”

 

References

Augustine, S. (1982). The Literal Meaning of Genesis Vol 1. New Jersey: Paulist Press.

 

 

 

Will science ever discover the origins of life?

 

While there are very few limits of science in answering metaphysical questions, even science itself cannot answer some questions of science as was discovered in the early 1900s by Werner Heisenberg as a result of work done by Max Planck (Hawking, 1998).

 

Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle led Heisenberg, and others, to create a new theory based on the uncertainty of the ability to make predictions about packets of light called quanta, resulting in a new theory called Quantum Mechanics (Hawking, 1998).

 

The result of this fundamental law of uncertainty means that, not only will science fail to make accurate simultaneous measurements of the speed and position of quanta, but science will never be able to make accurate measurements of the future. So while the future may itself be deterministic, science will never be able to determine it (Tipler, 2007).

 

Like the future, the question of the origins of the life will definitely be challenging if not impossible for science to answer. How can one test in a reproducible fashion, the state in which the early universe was in leading up to the evolution of life, without being able to accurately reproduce that state?

 

One of the hallmarks of scientific learning is to be able to test in a reproducible fashion a theory that has been devised. I don’t ever see humanity recreating the Big Bang without a consequent of the unintentional annihilation of humanity (we’ll see what the LHC produces over the next few years!).

 

I also don’t think science is equipped to answer existential questions, like “Why am I here”, “What is my purpose”, “Where am I going”.

 

So, while science may continue to build on the hypothesis of the origin of life, I find it unlikely that we will ever be able to reproduce the initial creation of life, nor answer the questions of the meaning and purpose of life. Those answers are beyond the limits of science.

 

Of course, if Heisenberg taught me anything, it’s that the future is uncertain from a human standpoint – so who knows for sure!

 

References

Hawking, S. (1998). A Brief History of Time. New York: Bantam Books.

Tipler, F. J. (2007). The Physics of Christianity. New York: Doubleday.

 

Science & Religion


In our post-modern milieu, there are a growing number of scientists that are starting to understand that faith and religion does not have to be mutually exclusive; that true science and true religion doesn’t have to contradict each other – rather it supports each other.

If you have an interest in reading some writers that believe the sciences show some form of intelligent design (Which is the basis of most all major world religions); I could recommend:

Francis Collins – Biophysics
Robert Jastrow – Astrophysics
Frank Tipler – Mathematical Physicist
Paul Davies – Astrobiology
Alister McGrath – Molecular Biophysics

References

Bennett, J., Donahue, M., Schneider, N., & Voit, M. (2007). The Cosmic Perspective 4th Ed. San Fransisco: Pearson Education, Inc.

Have you misquoted St. Augustine today?

I am surprised to find out how many people have quoted St. Augustine as saying: “What was God doing before He created the World”, “He was creating Hell for people who ask questions like that”.  I was doing some research tonight, and I was surprised to find so many people quoting Augustine as saying this (both in theology books and secular writings alike). 

Being a good student (and learning my lesson the hard way of quoting things without checking the source), I pulled out my Confessions to find this quote and read it for myself, before I quoted it. However, as I pulled out my confessions I found that Augustine did not actually say what everyone is quoting him as saying (I’ve also checked the Penguin Classics translation against my Oxford World’s Classics to verify that I wasn’t reading a translation error).

In fact, Augustine said that he would never choose to answer such a question with such a response.  Here is the exact quote from my translation (Penguin was a bit different but said essentially the same):

 

This is my reply to anyone who asks: ‘What was God doing before he made heaven and earth?’  My reply is not that which someone is said to have given as a joke to evade the force of the question.  He said: ‘He was preparing hells for people who inquire into profundities.’  It is one thing to laugh, another to see the point at issue, and this reply I reject.  I would have preferred him to answer ‘I am ignorant of what I do not know’ rather than reply so as to ridicule someone who has asked a deep question and to win approval for an answer which is a mistake.  – The Confessions, Book 11, Section 14, Oxford World’s Classics – translated by Henry Chadwick.

 

I think this quote can still be used for a humorous ice breaker for either side of the discussion, to get people’s attention – making sure of course, to word the introduction to the quote in such a way as to not attribute to Augustine himself.

I was just surprised that so many intellectuals have misquoted him, that I just thought I would pass this along!