Posts Tagged ‘God’

h1

More prescient than even he would have expected

November 19, 2013

demonhauntedIt is well-known that Dr. Sagan was not religious – he described himself as agnostic, believing he had seen no proof of a supreme being. His 1995 book, The Demon Haunted World, was about using the scientific method and critical thinking instead of superstition and pseudoscience.

Admirable goals, and Carl Sagan was very articulate. His Cosmos series and book (PBS, 1980) probably did more to to help laymen understand the universe than any previous media program. (He also wrote the novel upon which the Jodie Foster film Contact was based.)

But I doubt he would have expected that his description of America in the quote above would have happened so quickly, or that we got there in the way we did. He seemed to believe the “New Age” trends he saw in the 1980s and 90s might grow, and that the much-publicized decrease in our ability to educate our students would result in an overall dumbing down of America. He himself did what he could to keep that from happening. I doubt he thought, though, that only two decades after he wrote those words we would have fallen so far and so willingly.

Hat tip to Scott Lowther and his “Up-Ship” blog for tipping me off to this one.

h1

Eat Mor Chikn

August 2, 2012

On my other blog I did a piece today on why people flocked to Chick-Fil-A yesterday, and how Americans don’t like being told what to do. I invite you to read it.

h1

“Progressive” radio talk show host mocks tornado victims

March 9, 2012

So there is a “progressive” talk show host named Mike Malloy who has a long history of saying incredibly insensitive things. On March 2 he went on a rant about the people who were victims of the recent rash of tornadoes. Among his comments:

“Their God … keeps smashing them into little grease spots on the pavement in  Alabama, and Mississippi, and Arkansas, and Georgia, and Oklahoma. You know, the Bible belt, where they ain’t gonna let no goddamned science get in the way, it says in the Bible, blah blah blah blah blah. So, according to their way of thinking, God with his omnipotent thumb reaches down here and so far tonight has smashed about 20 people into a grease spot on highway 12, or whatever the hell highway they live next to.”

He has since apologized on his web site. Okay, so he apologized. He has a history of bizarre and hateful on-air statements.

Should we all send letters to his sponsors telling them to drop him because of his speech? That’s what’s been going on with Rush Limbaugh.

I’ve already said I believe Rush got carried away and went too far. He was trying to make a point but it got out of hand. Of course the “mainstream” media has gleefully reported that many sponsors have dropped his show. According to Rush, some have, but in most cases they were local sponsors buying time on the commercial segments reserved for local advertising during his show – not the national sponsors.

Rush can be over the top. He also can be insightful. Sometimes I agree with him, sometimes not – but he has always made me think. The stuff this Malloy guy said would just make me very angry. Apparently he used to be on WLS-AM, which is, ironically, where Rush is broadcast in the Chicago market. I dimly recall the name but I don’t recall hearing him.

Rush was trying to make a point about how the Administration is usurping our freedoms in yet another way. He didn’t succeed because of the direction he took the discussion and the resulting focus on the wrong things. What Malloy said can’t be justified in any way I can see.

But he’s OK, of course. I haven’t heard that the President called the tornado victims to make sure they didn’t feel bad because of Malloy’s comments. But he was very concerned about Ms. Fluke.

As is often the case, Jerry Pournelle presents a logical discussion about the issues of contraception, the Catholic Church, and freedom.

Heinlein was right, but the “Crazy Years” have been going on too long…

 

h1

In Memoriam: Robert Murray

December 30, 2011

Bob Murray was band director at Lyons Township High School in LaGrange, Illinois, for thirty years, retiring in 2007. Bob was my “next door neighbor,” the band director at the high school immediately to the east of my own, for over twenty years. A better neighbor I could not have had. Bob passed away last Thursday evening, and last night a beautiful memorial service was held for him in LaGrange.

Bob and I had a lot in common; involvement in Boy Scouting; a love of the trumpet, jazz in general and Maynard Ferguson in particular; and a deep connection with family. Bob was one of the most influential mentors I ever had, and I took his counsel with no reservations. Bob “got it,” as Steve Melillo says, and was a truly outstanding teacher, musician, and husband and father.

He could be intimidating when you didn’t know him. Bob didn’t “suffer fools gladly,” adult fools at least. Early in my years in Illinois my wife and I took our son and his Cub Scout den to a summer day camp in the forest preserve in Palos. I was surprised to see that Bob and his wife Kathy were handling registration at the camp. I knew he and his son Bob Jr. had been involved in scouting, but the younger was in high school at that time. Apparently, knowing that I had an interest in scouting made a difference with Bob. Somehow he decided I was OK, and we got along beautifully. Last night a group of Boy Scouts of the Order of the Arrow held the Broken Arrow service at the memorial. I was proud to be one of the members of OA who was able to join them at the front of the church sanctuary for the service. There were over two dozen OA members in attendance, from high school age to men in  their sixties.

I learned a lot about teaching, working within the Illinois Music Educators Association, and just about being a good person from Bob. I always thought I was a better teacher after I became a father, and Bob demonstrated every day how that was true – he was more of a father to his band students than a “regular teacher.”

He was no saint. He could be angry and frustrated when teaching kids as much as anyone. He challenged his students and was unwilling to accept less than their best. But he also was willing to give a kid a chance who might not otherwise have had one. A couple of the speakers last night spoke about that – his faith in kids who had not proven themselves yet. He gave them the chance to do that, and they succeeded partly because they didn’t want to let Bob down.

Bob could be gruff and cranky, but he was incredibly generous. He served on the school board for one of the elementary districts that fed into LTHS for quite a few years. He somehow balanced family and job, and did so very well. He waited to retire from teaching until his youngest, his daughter Kari, graduated from LT. His kids went through the same school where he taught, as did mine with me, and I know he had just as much fun doing it as I did.

No one knows why God takes us when he does. Bob left us all too soon, at the time when he was enjoying retirement and family. Apparently God’s big band needed a new trumpet player. Maybe He needed a director to sub on the days when He Himself couldn’t be there. (Don’t ask me how to reconcile that with an omnipresent God; I said I don’t know. Maybe he needed someone to direct for Maynard. He’s there too, you know, in the Canadian part of Heaven!) All I know is that Bob is gone, and I miss him, as do thousands of students of his and dozens of colleagues like myself who got to know him over the years. My prayers are with Kathy, his wife, and Bob’s family. I just felt I needed to put down, somewhere, some thoughts about a a great teacher. He was my mentor and my friend. Godspeed, Bob Murray.

h1

Sarah Palin in the race? And other things…

December 21, 2011

Burger King doesn't help you wear the cat suit, ScarJo...

Scarlett Johansson says she loves cheeseburgers from Burger King:

http://xfinity.comcast.net/slideshow/entertainment-favoritefoods/2/
“Johansson admitted a fast food fetish to the website Skinny Vs. Curvy. ‘I love pizza with anything except pineapple or anchovies on the top,’ she said. ‘I do like Burger King cheeseburger meals as well because I like the chargrilled taste, and I like the toy that comes with it.” —Xfinity Entertainment Programmers”

Right. The last part tells you the tale. She’s not had one since she was a kid. I mean, come on. At least Mariah Carey is honest about not being allowed to eat pizza (quoted in the same slideshow). Nice touch in trying to be one of the common people, though.

Just between us, kids...

Mark Whittington ponders whether Sarah may decide to enter the Presidential race at the last minute. I wonder if this wasn’t her plan all along. The whole debate cycle from the last few months has done very little to help clarify the decision one might make about the best Presidential candidate. The only things we’ve really learned are”

Mitt is rich, not really very conservative, and looks good on TV.

Newt is smart, thinking way ahead of the pack, but doesn’t look so good on TV.

Michelle Bachmann may have great ideas but nobody knows because of the crazy eyes.

Ron Paul shouldn’t be on the stage with the serious candidates. It just shows how fed up a goodly percentage of the electorate is with high taxes and size of government. Unfortunately, he is completely clueless about foreign affairs.

Rick Santorum is a good guy, but nobody cares.

John Huntsman is sort of a Romney close, but with closer ties to Obama.

Oh, and Herman Cain, whatthehell was up with that?

None of these things are thoughts one couldn’t have had six months ago. In the meantime, the media (and the conservative media, too) have been picking apart every line the candidates have uttered. All that does right now is lower our confidence levels in all the candidates.

Palin has been raked over the coals enough already. There is nothing that could have been said post-debate to eliminate the attacks on her. And she has found that she can get her message out with less distortion on Facebook and through Fox News. She’s not been silent.

So if Romney shows that he can only really pull about 30% of the primary voters, that may translate into a lackluster performance in the general election. Conservatives may just decide to stay home, like many did in 2008. She will be poised to jump in after some of these primaries, but before the convention, and then do her own tour while the little candidates squabble among themselves for things like the Iowa caucus. (Has it ever generated the successful candidate, running away?)

Apparently Jeb Bush is thinking about running. I don’t recommend it. There are people who respected 43 for his response to 9/11 and his prosecution of the terrorist war in Iraq and Afghanistan, but his spending during that last year in office turned them off.  Jeb might be really good, but the name is going to work against him. Palin/Bush? Maybe.

Newt speaking at one of the Hannity Freedom Concerts

So maybe Gingrich is for real. I don’t buy everything he promotes, but he has thought it through. He’s the only one of the candidates who seems to be able to go on at length about any subject. Successful candidates often are trained to just remember the sound bites and catch-phrases. Every political handler knows that a candidate asked to think on his feet is dangerous to his own candidacy. Newt doesn’t seem to be like that. Remember, Reagan spent years before the 1980 election thinking about his beliefs and potential policies – and put them out there in a series of radio speeches. If you heard those, you knew he had been working this through ahead of time…and you would have pretty much seen his platform before the election. Gingrich has been speaking, writing books, and researching stuff for years and years. Nobody knows the issues better than Newt. That doesn’t mean he’s the guy for the job, but he has been preparing himself to be President  – not to be a candidate. Who else in this bunch has done this?

The debate bit between Newt and Mitt about lunar mining actually tells more than people seem to think. Newt is looking not just to inspire youth, but he’s thinking that far ahead for the country. Mitt is not thinking long-term, and only inside his little centrist box.

Don't stop thinking about us!

The research into quantum physics and cosmology – the two go hand in hand – that I have been doing for a novel have only really demonstrated two things to me: at the most fundamental level, reality is based on, well, we don’t know. Even calling them “strings” or “superstrings” doesn’t help because at that level, what are the strings made of? The other thing is that there is no reason why the universe should have occurred in the way it did, so that matter – and by inference, life – should even exist. Was this the first time it all worked out? And what was cranking to start the beginning of the universe as we know it?

Personally, I think of strings as intentions in the mind of God. That makes as much sense as anything else I’ve read. And the fact that the universe worked out so we could exist?  I paraphrase Robert Heinlein: “I don’t know who’s cranking. I just pray He doesn’t stop.”

 

 

h1

Does God Exist?

November 16, 2011
bubble universes

Bubble Universes visualized in journalofcosmology.com

I’ve been doing some interesting research for a novel I’m writing.  (More on that, maybe, in another post.) It concerns quantum physics and even smaller things – string theory, branes, theories of 10- or 11-dimensional space-time, multiple universes – all sorts of what can be considered either cutting-edge physics and cosmology or crazy crap.

I confess I came to the whole quantum physics stuff late. In high school we got “classical” physics, down to the electron, proton and neutron. I didn’t take a college science class (Yea music degree!) so I didn’t get anything there. Most of what I got was from science fiction I read, and the science fact articles I’ve absorbed through the years from Analog or other magazines.

Parallel to this I was a kid growing up in small-town Ohio in the Sixties in a German-Lutheran environment, religiously speaking. The Lutheran Church there had not yet been changed by the inclusion of Scandinavian influences. I’ve always thought that the Church I grew up in was closer to old-school Roman Catholicism that the Catholic Church was in the Sixties. Minus that transubstantiation stuff, of course.

These two viewpoints always kind of fought in my head. Is there a God? Is He a personal God? If I pray to Him, does He hear me? Does he answer prayers? How do I reconcile my religious upbringing with, not Darwinism, but cosmology, which was trying to determine how the whole universe started.

What was here before there was a here? If the universe was created from a Big Bang, how did that happen? And why? I’ve always felt that the intense study of the Big Bang and what happened immediately after it, while extremely valuable, ignored the more basic question: what was there before it occurred?

Now there are scientists who are saying that maybe our universe has collided with others. (Also see here.) Some believe that branes have collided, or that gravity, weak in our 4-dimensional view, could be very strong in another dimension or set of dimensions. Others are seeking to understand why the universe seems to be perfectly set up for life to exist.

None of these, nor superstring theory or it’s successors using branes, really refers to why things are the way they are. They just seek to describe what they are. If strings exist at the Planck length (or less) it may be impossible to ever detect them directly. God may just not want us to look that far “behind the curtain.”

The more we know about the very small, the more we can determine about the very large. The Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland is supposed to whack protons together so hard as to produce energies never before seen on Earth. There was an unfounded concern it would create a black hole that would ultimately eat the Earth. The smaller you want to observe, the greater the energy required. That may put a limit on what we can detect.

Instead of looking at this from the “blind watchmaker” angle, let’s look at it from the point of view that there is some kind of intelligence that is extra-universal. It exists outside of our universe but can perceive what happens in our universe. Perhaps it influences how our universe began. Is this the vengeful Yahweh of the Hebrews? Is this a being that cares about us at all as individual solar systems, as planets, let alone as individual people?

I don’t know. In an infinite set of universes, being created and collapsing, eventually there will be one that will have exactly the physical characteristics necessary for life to evolve. (If you wait long enough, those million monkeys will eventually type all of Shakespeare.)

I was going to say, “Are we lucky enough to be the only ones who live in that universe?” What popped into my head was, “Are we the only ones blessed with living in that universe?”

I have to confess that God nowadays seems a bit close-mouthed about things. Back a few thousand years ago he would talk to people, or smite somebody, and demonstrate he was there. Now we look for anything that might be somehow made to fit into our beliefs. I’ve got a couple of incidents myself (which I will not relate here). Is it just our evolved predator brains, looking for patterns where there are none?

I just can’t believe that. If there is some kind of intelligence outside of our universe that tweaked the parameters of our universe so that suns and planets could form, so that water and carbon and other elements could exist and combine in certain ways, and so that ultimately life, sentient life, could come to be – I’m calling it God. Does He listen to my prayers? If He can design a universe, why not? If He went to all the trouble to make the universe balance so we could exist, why wouldn’t He take an interest in His creations?

What happens outside of our universe? Are there more universes? How many more? An infinite number? At what point does the multiverse become self-aware? 

I think the problem with atheism is that it is thinking too small. “I can’t see it, or smell it, or touch it, so it can’t exist.” I think the ideas of what is outside of our universe, how our universe began and how it might end, and how it is built at its fundamental level all tell me it was designed for us. God did want companionship. Perhaps trillions of trillions of companions. Perhaps the multiverse is self-aware and is looking after its component parts, which it labored long and hard to build in a certain way.

Now: let’s say the multiverse idea is correct. What’s outside of the multiverse?

A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.” The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, “What is the tortoise standing on?” “You’re very clever, young man, very clever,” said the old lady. “But it’s turtles all the way down!” 

— Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time

"It's turtles, all the way down!"

h1

Steven Paul Jobs, 1955-2011

October 5, 2011

The “insanely great” Steve Jobs finally lost his battle with cancer. I figure what went on today was something like this:

St. Peter: Hello, Steve.

Steve: Hi! It sure is great to get out of that bag!*

St. Peter (checking Steve’s name off on his iPad): Go on in, man. We’ve been waiting for you. We’re glad you’re here!

*If you don’t get the reference, check just after 3:00 on this:

We’re sure glad you were with us, Steve, and that you brought us so much with your unique talents. I’m writing this on my three-month-old MacBook Pro. My life would not have been anything close to what it is without the vision and passion of Steve Jobs. There are millions of people like me out there now. We should all strive to bring even a little of that kind of vision and passion to bear in our own lives.

I’m sorry to see you go, Steve, but I know that you were in great pain. Now that pain is gone. May God be with you, and may He comfort your family in this time of their loss.