Boinkie's Blog

Universalis

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Preach, use words if you have to

LINK2

Should we share the Lord? Should we learn apologetics to do so?

I live with an evangelical step son who is a pious Pete. Daily bible studies with the help. Always having preachers visiting. Posts bible verses from his cult on the bulletin board.

And if I live here long enough, I'm going to be a F****ing athiest.

I am fairly smart, and can outargue most people...but when I do so, I am obnoxious and superior, so rarely touch the heart.

My stepson preaches, but he is sweety nicey, but his sweetness is actually "passive aggressive", like the Church lady on Saturday night Live.

So I say, furgedabotit.

You don't know how to present the Lord to people unless you know them and actually love them...(not the "fake" love of "I'm a good Christian and will be neighborly to you because I want to convert you to the truth, you stupid deluded catholic--or if you are catholic, you stupid deluded fundamentalist)...

People are hurting, and often they turn from the church because of this hurt...often the hurt was done by church people (I myself have been hurt by "christians" whom I trusted, but that is another story).

And their hearts may not be ready to be invited to the Lord...

When you plant a garden, first you prepare the soil, you add the fertilizer, you plant, you mulch, and you weed...and maybe, if the Lord sends the right rain and keeps the cutworms down, you will get a crop...

But we are NOT responsible for the crop. We are only to do our best, and "the battle is the Lord's".

Presenting the Lord in the wrong way at the wrong time will actually harm people...often it will increase their pain.

On my medical blog, I wrote about doing physicals...that the time we spend with people and the rituals help us to get to know people, so that when they develop problems like cancer or heart problems, the doc is a friend.

As a doctor, often I listen, but don't find the pain until many visits are finished. So the lady with Diabetes and a slipped disk finally admits her pain: A son in prison. the husband of another Diabetic is called in by his wife, because they lost their son, and he is unable to sleep...and a druggie going thru a divorce wants the Lord, so you refer him to the drug counseler, and advise him of the local churches that have AA...

In all these things, as we get to know people, we can nudge them to find healing in the Lord...and usually they already know him...but the pain kept them away...or they were ashamed of past deeds (Do you know how many women hurt because they had abortions that they felt they had no choice in this? ).

But preach? Naaah. Pray with my patients? Nope. not my style. But once in awhile I promise to pray for them...

Friday, February 24, 2006

Want to save Africa?

Wear our wrist band...

You can wear it next to your red Kaballah thread bracelet, your yellow LanceArmstrong bracelet, and don't forget your little flag pin and your pink Breast cancer ribbon.

I'm in a baad mood. The reasons is my lack of charity and an incident that I bitched about in my private blog...

Actually, if you REALLY want to help an Africa, send money to Sister Maggie, Light of life Sisters convent, 6 Cedrella Ave KweKwe Zimbabwe.

They'll put it to better use than feeling self righteous by wearing a bracelet that was probably made in China...

And say a prayer for me....I am a loud mouthed aggressive bitch, but have to live with a pious stepson who is a smiling passive aggressive fundamentalist....fill in blank.

It's enough to make me an athiest.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Don't waste your cancer

The link is to Pastor John Piper's website...and is a very good essay on suffering.

We pre Vatican II Catholics were often told to "offer it up", meaning to offer up our sufferings as a prayer...and that way they became a gift, since it allowed us to join our sufferings to Christ's sufferings...(Paul has a line about this, but my bible is not on ths computer...)

Alas, too often people have the "positive attitude" type, similar to the "If we don't accept evil we will not suffer" or "if we have a positive attitude we will be cured" type idea...

So their churches will have no crucifix, and even no cross, since "Crosses? we don't need no stinkin' crosses..." (Ummm...it's a pun fellahs)...

But ignoring suffering lets us ignore the suffering around us. And the idea that we can't get sick if we have a positive attitude leads to blaming the victim ..

But Pastor John points out two things: One: there is a reason this happened.
Two: Even suffering can be a gift.

When we suffer, we can let the suffering teach us to be compassionate to others who suffer.
And suffering can make us aware of the really important things in life: Family, friends, and God.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Surprised by Joy

Powerline has an essay about the poem...it was about the author's three year old daughter who died...

Of course, most of us know the first line from CS Lewis' biography

See also an earlier post on Wordsworth HERE and a book review of a recent biography HERE

Monday, February 20, 2006

Narcisistic Boomers congratulate themselves

Ummm...Most of the Black liberation predated the 1964 civil rights act, so it predated "boomers"...

The rest of it is a distortion of both the past and the present...his description of the 1950's is nonsense, and then it goes downhill...the main heroism of the boomers is the sexual revolution...yup. really heroic to promote promiscuity and to condemn taking responsibility for your children and spouse...

And, of course, the "heroics" of anti war protests ignores the drug and sex filled gatherings had more to do with the draft than to protest the deaths of the Vietnamese people in that war...because if they really cared about Asians, the narcissitic boomers wouldn't have ignored the suffering caused when their policies prevailed... Cambodia or the boat people...

Mark Steyn's comments about the press seem to fit this fluffy piece: It's easy to be tough about nothing...

And the Boomers, like the pacifists/hedonists of the 1920's, will leave little behind them except a ruined world that the next generation will have to clean up...

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Darwin take two

This article explains better the idea of Darwinism as religion vs evolutionary science...

Darwin did no experiments...and even his theories of evolution were merely new versions of older theories...

The correct conception of inheritance was published in 1866 by Gregor Mendel. His carefully controlled experiments on hybrid peas enabled him to formulate two laws of inheritance. It was the beginning of genetics and the beginning of mathematical analysis in biological studies. Mendel believed his discovery disproved Darwin's theory. He was right.

Mendel's publication had no public uptake whatever in his time. His discovery enjoyed none of the hype of "revolutionary change". Yet in time hard biology rediscovered his work and Darwinians, initially very much against their grain, eventually made genetics the basis of evolution theory.

The Darwin Exhibition doesn't mention Mendel and Pasteur, although they must rank among the top five of the 19th century's great biologists. This silence quietly confirms Darwin's disconnect from hard biology and his entrenchment in the amateur science of the Beagle voyage. That in turn underscores the faith-based orientation of the Darwin bicentenary, together with the implication that science is based on authority. Creationists, alas, will probably conclude that the exhibition's symphony to the legend confirms their belief that to refute evolution, one need but refute Darwin.

One way to disabuse them of this nonsense is to discard the legend, which in any case has no business in science------------------------

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Kuzweil net has another discussion of why the universe is intelligence friendly...


Biocosm, The New Scientific Theory of Evolution
Intelligent Life Is the Architect of the Universe

by James N. Gardner

Why is the universe life-friendly? Columbia physicist Brian Greene says it's the deepest question in all of science. Cosmologist Paul Davies agrees, calling it the biggest of the Big Questions.


This is a transcript of a lecture originally delivered at Hayden Planetarium, as part of the "Distinguished Authors in Astronomy" lecture series. Reprinted on KurzweilAI.net February 10, 2006.

It is, in the view of Columbia physicist Brian Greene, the deepest question in all of science. Renowned cosmologist Paul Davies agrees, calling it the biggest of the Big Questions.

And just what is this momentous question?

Not the mystery of life’s origin, though the profundity of that particular puzzle prompted Charles Darwin to remark that it was probably forever beyond the pale of human comprehension. A dog, Darwin commented famously, might as easily contemplate the mind of Newton.

Not the inscrutable manner in which consciousness emerges from the interaction and interconnection of neurons in the human skull, though a cascade of Nobel prizes will undoubtedly reward the teams of neuroscientists who achieve progress in understanding this phenomenon.

And not even the future course of biological and cultural evolution on planet Earth, though the great Darwinian river is surely carving a course that today’s most visionary evolutionary theorist will have difficulty even imagining.

No, the question is more profound, more fundamental, less tractable than any of these. It is this—why is the universe life-friendly?

Life-friendly, you might ask incredulously? The universe is life-friendly? The heck it is!

We have been taught since childhood that the universe is a horrifyingly hostile place. Violent black holes, planets and moons searing with unbearable heat or deep-frozen at temperatures that make Antarctica look tropical, and the vastness of interstellar space dooming us to perpetual physical isolation from our nearest starry neighbors—this is the depressing picture of the cosmos beyond Earth that dominates the popular imagination.

This vision is profoundly wrong at a fundamental level. As scientists are now beginning to realize to their astonishment, the truly amazing thing about our universe is how strangely and improbably life-friendly or anthropic it is. As Cambridge evolutionary biologist Simon Conway Morris puts it in his new book Life’s Solution, “On a cosmic scale, it is now widely appreciated that even trivial differences in the starting conditions [of the cosmos] would lead to an unrecognizable and uninhabitable universe.”

Simply put, if the Big Bang had detonated with slightly greater force, the cosmos would be essentially empty by now. If the primordial explosion had propelled the initial payload of cosmic raw materials outward with slightly lesser force, the universe would long ago have recollapsed in a Big Crunch. In neither case would human beings or other life forms have had time to evolve.

As Stephen Hawking asks, “Why is the universe so close to the dividing line between collapsing again and expanding indefinitely? In order to be as close as we are now, the rate of expansion early on had to be chosen fantastically accurately.”

It is not only the rate of cosmic expansion that appears to have been selected, with phenomenal precision, in order to render our universe fit for carbon-based life and the emergence of intelligence. A multitude of other factors are fine-tuned with fantastic exactitude to a degree that renders the cosmos almost spookily bio-friendly. Some of the universe’s life-friendly attributes include the odd proclivity of stellar nucleosynthesis—the process by which simple elements like hydrogen and helium are transmuted into heavier elements in the hearts of giant supernovae—to yield copious quantities of carbon, the chemical epicenter of life as we know it.

As British astronomer Fred Hoyle pointed out, in order for carbon to exist in the abundant quantities that we observe throughout the cosmos, the mechanism of stellar nucleosynthesis must be exquisitely fine-tuned in a very special way.

Yet another bio-friendly feature of the cosmos is the physical dimensionality of our universe: why are there just three extended dimensions of space rather one or two or even the ten spatial dimensions contemplated by M-theory? As has been known for more than a century, in any other dimensional setup, stable planetary orbits would be impossible and life would not have time to get started before planets skittered off into deep space or plunged into their suns.

For centuries, it seemed that the dimensionality of the universe—three dimensions of space plus one dimension of time—was a matter of axiomatic truth. Rather like the propositions of geometry. In fact, precisely like the propositions of geometry. That was before the birth of superstring theory, and its successor, M-theory. I am going to get into M-theory more deeply in a moment but for now I want to highlight its insistence on the fact that there are, in fact, ten dimensions of space and one dimension of time. The mystery is why only three of the spatial dimensions got inflated into cosmic proportions by the Big Bang while the remaining seven stayed inconceivably minuscule. If anything else had happened—if only two spatial dimensions had been inflated or if four had been inflated—then the universe would not have been set up to allow the emergence of life and mind as we know them.

Collectively, this stunning set of coincidences render the universe eerily fit for life and intelligence. And the coincidences are built into the fundamental fabric of our reality. As British Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees says, “There are deep connections between stars and atoms, between the cosmos and the microworld . . . . Our emergence and survival depend on very special ‘tuning’ of the cosmos.” Or, as the eminent Princeton physicist John Wheeler put it, “It is not only that man is adapted to the universe. The universe is adapted to man. Imagine a universe in which one or another of the fundamental dimensionless constants of physics is altered by a few percent one way or the other? Man could never come into being in such a universe.”

Scientists have been aware of this set of puzzles for decades and have given it name—the anthropic cosmological principle—but there is a new urgency to the quest for a plausible explanation because of two very recent discoveries—the first at nature’s largest scale and the second at its tiniest.

The first was the discovery of dark energy, which resulted from the observations of supernovae at extreme distances. Contrary to all expectations, the evidence showed that the expansion of the universe was speeding up, not slowing down. No one knows what is causing this phenomenon, although speculative explanations like leakage of gravity into extra unseen dimensions are beginning to show up in the scientific literature.

But for our purposes, what is particularly puzzling is why the strength of dark energy—which the new Wilkinson microwave probe has revealed to be the predominant constituent of our cosmos—is so vanishingly small, yet not quite zero. If it were even a tad stronger, you see, the universe would have been emptied long ago, scrubbed clean of stars and galaxies well before life and intelligence could evolve.

The second discovery occurred in the realm of M-theory, whose previous incarnation was known as superstring theory. Those of you who have read Brian Greene’s terrific book The Elegant Universe or watched the Nova series based on it will know that M-theory posits that subatomic particles like quarks, electrons and neutrinos are really just different modes of vibration of tiny one-dimensional strings of energy. But what is truly strange about M-theory is that it allows a vast landscape of possible vibration modes of superstrings, only a tiny fraction of which correspond to anything like the sub-atomic particle world we observe and that is described by what is known as the Standard Model of particle physics.

Just how big is this landscape of possible alternative models of particle physics allowed by M-theory? According to Stanford physicist and superstring pioneer Leonard Susskind, the mathematical landscape is horrifyingly gigantic, permitting 10500 power different and distinct environments, none of which appears to be mathematically favored, let alone foreordained by the theory. And in virtually none of those other mathematically permissible environments would matter and energy have possessed the qualities that are necessary for stars, galaxies and carbon-based living creatures to have emerged from the primordial chaos.

This is, as Susskind says, an intellectual cataclysm of the first magnitude because it seems to deprive our most promising new theory of fundamental physics—M-theory—of the power to uniquely predict the emergence of anything remotely resembling our universe. As Susskind puts it, the picture of the universe that is emerging from the deep mathematical recesses of M-theory is not an “elegant universe” at all! It’s a Rube Goldberg device, cobbled together by some unknown process in a supremely improbable manner that just happens to render the whole ensemble miraculously fit for life. In the words of University of California theoretical physicist Steve Giddings, “No longer can we follow the dream of discovering the unique equations that predict everything we see, and writing them on a single page.” Or a tee-shirt! “Predicting the constants of nature becomes a messy environmental problem. It has the complications of biology.” Note the key word Giddings uses—“biology”—because we will be coming back to it shortly.

This really is, as Brian Greene says, the deepest problem in all of science. It really is, as Paul Davies says, the biggest of the Big Questions: why is the universe life-friendly?

If we put to one side theological approaches to this ultimate issue, what rational pathways forward are on offer from the scientific community? I suggest that three basic approaches are available. Two are familiar while the third is radically novel.

The first approach is to continue searching patiently for a unique final theory—something that you really could write on your tee-shirt like E = mc2—which might yet, against the odds, emerge from M-theory or one of its competitors (like loop quantum gravity) aspiring to the status of a so-called “theory of everything.” This is the fond hope of virtually every professional theoretical physicist, including those who have been driven to desperation by the horrendously messy and complex landscape of theoretically possible M-theory-allowed universes that distresses Susskind and other superstring theorists. Perhaps the laws and constants of nature—an ensemble the late New York Academy of Sciences president and physicist Heinz Pagels dubbed the cosmic code—will, in the end, turn out to be uniquely specified by mathematics and thus subject to no conceivable variation. Perhaps the ultimate equations will someday slide out of the mind of a new colossus of physics as slickly and beautifully as E = mc2 emerged from Einstein’s brain. Perhaps, but that appears to be an increasingly unlikely prospect.

A second approach, born of desperation on the part of Susskind and others, is to overlay a refinement of Big Bang inflation theory called eternal chaotic inflation with an explanatory approach that has been traditionally reviled by most scientists which is known as the weak anthropic principle. The weak anthropic principle merely states in tautological fashion that since human observers inhabit this particular universe, it must perforce be life-friendly or it would not contain any observers resembling ourselves. Eternal chaotic inflation, invented by Russian-born physicist Andrei Linde, asserts that instead of just one Big Bang there are, always have been, and always will be, zillions of Big Bangs going off in inaccessible regions all the time. These Big Bangs create zillions of new universes constantly and the whole ensemble constitutes a multiverse.

Now here’s what happens when these two ideas—eternal chaotic inflation and the weak anthropic principle—are joined together. In each Big Bang, the laws, constants and the physical dimensionality of nature come out differently. In some, dark energy is stronger. In some, dark energy is weaker. In some, gravity is stronger. In some, gravity is weaker. This happens, according to M-theory-based cosmology, because the 10-dimensional physical shapes in which superstrings vibrate—known as Calabi-Yau shapes—evolve randomly and chaotically at the moment of each new Big Bang. The laws and constants of nature are constantly reshuffled by this process, like a cosmic deck of cards.

And here’s the crucial part. Once in a blue moon, this random process of eternal chaotic inflation will yield a winning hand, as judged from the perspective of whether a particular new universe is life-friendly. That outcome will be pure chance—one lucky roll of the dice in an unimaginably vast cosmic crap shoot with 10500 unfavorable outcomes for every winning turn.

Our universe was a big winner, of course, in the cosmic lottery. Our cosmos was dealt a royal flush. Here is how the eminent Nobel laureate Steve Weinberg explained this scenario in a New York Review of Books essay a couple of years ago: “The expanding cloud of billions of galaxies that we call the big bang may be just one fragment of a much larger universe in which big bangs go off all the time, each one with different values for the fundamental constants.” It is no more a mystery that our particular branch of the multiverse exhibits life-friendly characteristics, according to Weinberg, than that life evolved on the hospitable Earth “rather than some horrid place, like Mercury or Pluto.”

If you find this scenario unsatisfactory—the weak anthropic principle superimposed on Andrei Linde’s theory of eternal chaotic inflation—I can assure you that you are not alone. To most scientists, offering the tautological explanation that since human observers inhabit this particular universe, it must necessarily be life-friendly or else it would not contain any observers resembling ourselves is anathema. It just sounds like giving up.

In my view, there are two primary problems with the Weinberg/Susskind approach. First, universes spawned by Big Bangs other than our own are inaccessible from our own universe, at least with the experimental techniques currently available to scientists. So the approach appears to be untestable, perhaps untestable in principle. And testability is the hallmark of genuine science, distinguishing it from fields of inquiry like metaphysics and theology.

Second, the Weinberg/Susskind approach extravagantly violates the mediocrity principle. The mediocrity principle, a mainstay of scientific theorizing since Copernicus, is a statistically based rule of thumb that, absent contrary evidence, a particular sample (Earth, for instance, or our particular universe) should be assumed to be a typical example of the ensemble of which it is a part. The Weinberg/Susskind approach flagrantly flouts the mediocrity principle. Instead, their approach simply takes refuge in a brute, unfathomable mystery—the conjectured lucky roll of the dice in a crap game of eternal chaotic inflation—and declines to probe seriously into the possibility of a naturalistic cosmic evolutionary process that has the capacity to yield a life-friendly set of physical laws and constants on a nonrandom basis. It is as if Charles Darwin, contemplating the famous tangled bank (the arresting visual image with which he concludes The Origin of Species), had confessed not a magnificent obsession with gaining an understanding of the mysterious natural processes that had yielded “endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful,” but rather a smug satisfaction that of course the earthly biosphere must have somehow evolved in a just-so manner mysteriously friendly to humans and other currently living species, or else Darwin and other humans would not be around to contemplate it!

Indeed, the situation that confronts cosmologists today is eerily reminiscent of that which faced biologists before Charles Darwin propounded his revolutionary theory of evolution. Darwin confronted the seemingly miraculous phenomenon of a fine-tuned natural order in which every creature and plant appeared to occupy a unique and well-designed niche. Refusing to surrender to the brute mystery posed by the appearance of nature’s design, Darwin masterfully deployed the art of metaphor to elucidate a radical hypothesis—the origin of species through natural selection—that explained the apparent miracle as a natural phenomenon.

The metaphor furnished by the familiar process of artificial selection was Darwin’s crucial stepping stone. Indeed, the practice of artificial selection through plant and animal breeding was the primary intellectual model that guided Darwin in his quest to solve the mystery of the origin of species and to demonstrate in principle the plausibility of his theory that variation and natural selection were the prime movers responsible for the phenomenon of speciation. So, too, today a few venturesome cosmologists have begun to use the same poetic tool utilized by Darwin—the art of metaphorical thinking—to develop novel intellectual models that might offer a logical explanation for what appears to be an unfathomable mystery: the apparent fine-tuning of the cosmos.

The cosmological metaphor chosen by these iconoclastic theorists is life itself. What if life, they ask in the spirit the great Belgian biologist and Nobel laureate Christian de Duve, were not a cosmic accident but the essential reality at the very heart of the elegant machinery of the universe? What if Darwin’s principle of natural selection were merely a tiny fractal embodiment of a universal life-giving principle that drives the evolution of stars, galaxies, and the cosmos itself?

This, as you may have guessed, is the headline summarizing the third (and radically novel) approach to answering the biggest of the Big Questions: why is the universe life-friendly? It is the approach outlined at length in my new book BIOCOSM.

Before I get into this third approach in more detail, I want to say something upfront about scientific speculation. The approach I am about to outline for you is intentionally and forthrightly speculative. Following the example of Darwin, I have attempted to crudely frame a radically new explanatory paradigm well before all of the required building materials and construction tools are at hand. Darwin had not the slightest clue, for instance, that DNA is the molecular device used by all life-forms on Earth to accomplish the feat of what he called “inheritance.” Indeed, as cell biologist Kenneth R. Miller noted in Finding Darwin’s God, “Charles Darwin worked in almost total ignorance of the fields we now call genetics, cell biology, molecular biology, and biochemistry.” Nonetheless, Darwin managed to put forward a plausible theoretical framework that succeeded magnificently despite the fact that it was utterly dependent on hypothesized but completely unknown mechanisms of genetic transmission.

As Darwin’s example shows, plausible and deliberate speculation plays an essential role in the advancement of science. Speculation is the means by which new scientific paradigms are initially constructed, to be either abandoned later as wrong-headed detours or vindicated as the seeds of scientific revolutions.

Another important lesson drawn from Darwin’s experience is important to note at the outset. Answering the question of why the most eminent geologists and naturalists had, until shortly before publication of The Origin of Species, disbelieved in the mutability of species, Darwin responded that this false conclusion was “almost inevitable as long as the history of the world was thought to be of short duration.” It was geologist Charles Lyell’s speculations on the immense age of Earth that provided the essential conceptual framework for Darwin’s new theory. Lyell’s vastly expanded stretch of geological time provided an ample temporal arena in which the forces of natural selection could sculpt and reshape the species of Earth and achieve nearly limitless variation.

The central point is that collateral advances in sciences seemingly far removed from cosmology can help dissipate the intellectual limitations imposed by common sense and naïve human intuition. And, in an uncanny reprise of the Lyell/Darwin intellectual synergy, it is a realization of the vastness of time and history that gives rise to the crucial insight. Only in this instance, the vastness of which I speak is the vastness of future time and future history. In particular, sharp attention must be paid to the key conclusion of Princeton physicist John Wheeler: most of the time available for life and intelligence to achieve their ultimate capabilities lie in the distant cosmic future, not in the cosmic past. As cosmologist Frank Tipler bluntly stated, “Almost all of space and time lies in the future. By focusing attention only on the past and present, science has ignored almost all of reality. Since the domain of scientific study is the whole of reality, it is about time science decided to study the future evolution of the universe.”

That is exactly what I have attempted to do in BIOCOSM in order to explore, in a tentative way, a possible third pathway to an answer to the biggest of the Big Questions. I call that third pathway the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis.

Originally presented in peer-reviewed scientific papers published in Complexity, Acta Astronautica, and the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, my Selfish Biocosm hypothesis suggests that in attempting to explain the linkage between life, intelligence and the anthropic qualities of the cosmos, most mainstream scientists have, in essence, been peering through the wrong end of the telescope. The hypothesis asserts that life and intelligence are, in fact, the primary cosmological phenomena and that everything else—the constants of nature, the dimensionality of the universe, the origin of carbon and other elements in the hearts of giant supernovas, the pathway traced by biological evolution—is secondary and derivative. In the words of Martin Rees, my approach is based on the proposition that “what we call the fundamental constants—the numbers that matter to physicists—may be secondary consequences of the final theory, rather than direct manifestations of its deepest and most fundamental level.”

I began developing the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis as an attempt to supply two essential elements missing from a novel model of cosmological evolution put forward by astrophysicist Lee Smolin. Smolin had come up with the intriguing suggestion that black holes are gateways to new “baby universes” and that a kind of Darwinian population dynamic rewards those universes most adept at producing black holes with the greatest number of progeny. Proliferating populations of baby universes emerging from the loins (metaphorically speaking) of black hole-rich “mother universes” thus come to dominate the total population of the “multiverse”—a theoretical ensemble of all mother and baby universes. Black hole-prone universes also happen to coincidentally exhibit anthropic qualities, according to Smolin, thus accounting for the bio-friendly nature of the “average” cosmos in the ensemble, more or less as an incidental side-effect.

This was a thrilling conjecture because for the first time it posited a cosmic evolutionary process endowed with what economists call a utility function (i.e., a value that was maximized by the hypothesized evolutionary process, which in the case of Smolin’s conjecture was black hole maximization).

However, Smolin’s approach was seriously flawed. As the computer genius John von Neumann demonstrated in a famous 1948 Caltech lecture entitled “On the General and Logical Theory of Automata,” any self-reproducing object (mouse, bacterium, human or baby universe) must, as a matter of inexorable logic, possess four essential elements:

1. A blueprint, providing the plan for construction of offspring;

2. A factory, to carry out the construction;

3. A controller, to ensure that the factory follows the plan; and

4. A duplicating machine, to transmit a copy of the blueprint to the offspring.

In the case of Smolin’s hypothesis, one could logically equate the collection of physical laws and constants that prevail in our universe with a von Neumann blueprint and the universe at large with a kind of enormous von Neumann factory. But what could possibly serve as a von Neumann controller or a von Neumann duplicating machine? My goal was to rescue Smolin’s basic innovation—a cosmic evolutionary model that incorporated a discernible utility function—by proposing scientifically plausible candidates for the two missing von Neumann elements.

The hypothesis I developed was based on a set of conjectures put forward by Martin Rees, John Wheeler, Freeman Dyson, John Barrow, Frank Tipler, and Ray Kurzweil. Their futuristic visions suggested collectively that the ongoing process of biological and technological evolution was sufficiently robust, powerful, and open-ended that, in the very distant future, a cosmologically extended biosphere could conceivably exert a global influence on the physical state of the entire cosmos. Think of this idea as the Gaia principle extended universe-wide.

A synthesis of these insights lead me directly to the central claim of the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis: that the ongoing process of biological and technological emergence, governed by still largely unknown laws of complexity, could function as a von Neumann controller and that a cosmologically extended biosphere could serve as a von Neumann duplicating machine in a conjectured process of cosmological replication.

I went on to speculate that the means by which the hypothesized cosmological replication process could occur was through the fabrication of baby universes by highly evolved intelligent life forms. These hypothesized baby universes would themselves be endowed with a cosmic code—an ensemble of physical laws and constants—that would be life-friendly so as to enable life and ever more competent intelligence to emerge and eventually to repeat the cosmic reproduction cycle. Under this scenario, the physical laws and constants serve a cosmic function precisely analogous to that of DNA in earthly creatures: they furnish a recipe for the birth and evolution of intelligent life and a blueprint, which provides the plan for construction of offspring.

I should add that if the fabrication of baby universes, which is the key step in the hypothesized cosmic reproductive cycle that I just outlined, sounds to you like outrageous science fiction—an “X-file too far,” in the words of one of my critics—you should be aware that the topic has begun to be rigorously explored by such eminent physicists as Andrei Linde of Stanford, Alan Guth of MIT (who is the father of inflation theory), Martin Rees of Cambridge, eminent astronomer Edward Harrison, and physicists Lawrence Krauss and Glenn Starkman.

This central claim of the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis offered a radically new and quite parsimonious explanation for the apparent mystery of an anthropic or bio-friendly universe. If highly evolved intelligent life is the von Neumann duplicating machine that the cosmos employs to reproduce itself—if intelligent life is, in effect, the reproductive organ of the universe—then it is entirely logical and predictable that the laws and constants of nature should be rigged in favor of the emergence of life and the evolution of ever more capable intelligence. Indeed, the existence of such propensity is a falsifiable prediction of the hypothesis.

Now, at this point you are probably saying to yourself, “Wow, with a theory that crazy and radical, this Gardner fellow must have been shunned by the scientific establishment.” And indeed some mainstream scientists have commented that the ideas advanced in my book BIOCOSM are impermissibly speculative or impossible to verify. A few have hurled what scientists view as the ultimate epithet—that my theory constitutes metaphysics instead of genuine science.

On the other hand, some of the brightest and most far-sighted scientists have been extremely encouraging. John Barrow and Freeman Dyson have offered favorable comments and reviews. In particular, BIOCOSM has received outspoken endorsements from Sir Martin Rees (the UK Astronomer Royal and winner of the top scientific prize in the world for cosmology) and Paul Davies (the prominent astrophysicist and author and winner of the Templeton Prize).

As I continue to explore this hypothesis in the future, what will be of utmost interest to me and my sympathizers is whether it can generate what scientists call falsifiable implications. Falsifiabiliy or testability of claims, remember, is the hallmark of genuine science, distinguishing it from metaphysics and faith-based belief systems.

I believe that the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis does qualify as a genuine scientific conjecture on this ground. A key implication of the hypothesis is that the process of progression of the cosmos through critical thresholds in its life cycle, while perhaps not strictly inevitable, is relatively robust. One such critical threshold is the emergence of human-level and higher intelligence, which is essential to the scaling up of biological and technological processes to the stage at which those processes could conceivably exert an influence on the global state of the cosmos.

The conventional wisdom among evolutionary theorists, typified by the thinking of the late Stephen Jay Gould, is that the abstract probability of the emergence of anything like human intelligence through the natural process of biological evolution was vanishingly small. According to this viewpoint, the emergence of human-level intelligence was a staggeringly improbable contingent event. A few distinguished contrarians like Simon Conway Morris, Robert Wright, E. O. Wilson, and Christian de Duve take an opposing position, arguing on the basis of the pervasive phenomenon of convergent evolution and other evidence that the appearance of human-level intelligence was highly probable, if not virtually inevitable. The latter position is consistent with the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis while the Gould position is not.

In my book BIOCOSM and in a preceding scientific paper delivered at the International Astronautical Congress, I suggest that the issue of the robustness of the emergence of human-level and higher intelligence is potentially subject to experimental resolution by means of at least three realistic tests: SETI research, artificial life evolution, and the emergence of transhuman computer intelligence predicted by computer science theorist Ray Kurzweil and others. The discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence, the discovery of an ability on the part of artificial life forms that exist and evolve in software environments to acquire autonomy and intelligence, and the emergence of a capacity on the part of advanced self-programming computers to attain and then exceed human levels of intelligence are all falsifiable implications of the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis because they are consistent with the notion that the emergence of ever more competent intelligence is a robust natural phenomenon. These tests don’t, of course, conclusively answer the question of whether the hypothesis correctly describes ultimate reality. But such a level of certainty is not demanded of any scientific hypothesis in order to qualify it as genuine science.

Let me conclude by asking whether the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis promotes or demotes the cosmic role of humanity. Have I introduced a new anthropocentrism into the science of cosmology? If so, then you should be suspect on this basis alone of my new approach because, as Sigmund Freud pointed out long ago, new scientific paradigms must meet two distinct criteria to be taken seriously: they must reformulate our vision of physical reality in a novel and plausible way and, equally important, they must advance the Copernican project of demoting human beings from the centerpiece of the universe to the results of natural processes.

At first blush, the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis may appear to be hopelessly anthropocentric. Freeman Dyson once famously proclaimed that the seemingly miraculous coincidences exhibited by the physical laws and constants of inanimate nature—factors that render the universe so strangely life-friendly—indicated to him that “the more I examine the universe and study the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense knew we were coming.” This strong anthropic perspective may seem uplifting and inspiring at first blush but a careful assessment of the new vision of a bio-friendly universe revealed by the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis yields a far more sobering conclusion.

To regard the pageant of life’s origin and evolution on Earth as a minor subroutine in an inconceivably vast ontogenetic process through which the universe prepares itself for replication is scarcely to place humankind at the epicenter of creation. Far from offering an anthropocentric view of the cosmos, the new perspective relegates humanity and its probable progeny species (biological or mechanical) to the functional equivalents of mitochondria—formerly free-living bacteria whose special talents were harnessed in the distant past when they were ingested and then pressed into service as organelles inside eukaryotic cells.

The essence of the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis is that the universe we inhabit is in the process of becoming pervaded with increasingly intelligent life—but not necessarily human or even human-successor life. Under the theory, the emergence of life and increasingly competent intelligence are not meaningless accidents in a hostile, largely lifeless cosmos but at the very heart of the vast machinery of creation, cosmological evolution, and cosmic replication. However, the theory does not require or even suggest that the life and intelligence that emerge be human or human-successor in nature.

The hypothesis simply asserts that the peculiarly life-friendly laws and constants that prevail in our universe serve a function precisely equivalent to that of DNA in living creatures on Earth, providing a recipe for development and a blueprint for the construction of offspring.

Finally, the hypothesis implies that the capacity for the universe to generate life and to evolve ever more capable intelligence is encoded as a hidden subtext to the basic laws and constants of nature, stitched like the finest embroidery into the very fabric of our universe. A corollary—and a key falsifiable implication of the Selfish Biocosm theory—is that we are likely not alone in the universe but are probably part of a vast, yet undiscovered transterrestrial community of lives and intelligences spread across billions of galaxies and countless parsecs. Under the theory, we share a possible common fate with that hypothesized community—to help shape the future of the universe and transform it from a collection of lifeless atoms into a vast, transcendent mind.

The inescapable implication of the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis is that the immense saga of biological evolution on Earth is one tiny chapter in an ageless tale of the struggle of the creative force of life against the disintegrative acid of entropy, of emergent order against encroaching chaos, and ultimately of the heroic power of mind against the brute intransigence of lifeless matter.

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Again, a nice discussion...but it is NOT science...it is religious philosophy...

Science describes what occurs, but merely naming it doesn't give the why...and if you give the "Why" it is not science but philosophy...


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Evolution: science or scientism

This is a follow up of a post on my regular blog, where a newspaper article mentioned 450 churches were celebrating Darwin day...I pointed out that that left 299,560 churches that did NOT celebrate Darwin day.

I usually don't get involved in the "evolution vs intelligent design" arguments, because they are both wrong, and both not seeing the ideas behind their argument.

One assumes darwin's philosophy behind his evolutionary theory is TRUTH, the other assumes a "deus ex machina" idea of evolution that is scientific nonsense, and theologically unnecessary...

In college, I had to take the usual philosophy courses...I don't remember a thing about two of those courses (I am just starting to learn a little basic philosophy now...back then, I just learned enough to get a C average, because I spent most of my time studying physics and chemistry),

But one of the courses, the Philosophy of Science, WAS interesting.

Like most semi trained scientists, I assumed science was TRUE...something written on stone tablets, that one could not question....

Actually, science is merely saying that nature runs by rules, and that if we observe something, and describe it, another person somewhere else should be able do to the same experiment and observe the same thing...

But HOW we describe the ideas behind what we observe is actually quite creative...

Nature has rules, and it also has beauty...the discoverers of DNA realized that their proposed model was true because it was pretty, it was simple, and it explained many of the observations of what people had seen in genetics...

Now, a Christian would say: The reason it follows rules, and the reason we see design and beauty in nature is that God was the designer...but a scientist only observes. He can't say if there is a designer or not...that is not science's job...

Similarly, Darwin observed the beauty and the simplicity of the idea that things evolve with the environment, and so things change to fit the environment, and the things best suited to the environment are the ones that survive...

Now, there are afew "scientific" problems with his idea (for example, offspring do NOT inherit acquired characteristics, so how do these things change?)...but as a whole, it is a nice, simple picture of how things are, and that things change...

In evolution, God could be nudging the changes, or God could be behind the innate ability of biological objects to follow laws that allow these changes...or maybe not...again, science does not make this judgement.

But Darwin, and/or many of his followers, WANTED to find a way to explain how life came into being in order to affirm their own athiestic beliefs...so the argument was that evolution WAS BLIND and the implication was that God did not exist...and since many of them used this philosophical idea to bash non scientific believers, the Darwin wars started...

Did Darwin devise his theory in a way to confirm atheism? Some say yes (Peter Singer's books say he did). Others say no, he was just observing. I haven't read any of Darwin's books, so I can't say...

But the observation of evolutionary changes in biological systems is NOT the same as the theory that evolution is blind...or that evolution denies that there is a God...

For this, we have to go back to basic Philosophy...

Science is a way to observe the truth...but it makes no assumption on the reality of things outside it's sphere...

But the philosophy (dare one say the "religion") of scientism says that ONLY science and scientific experimentation can discover truth...and therefore the beliefs of religion (and the beliefs of philosophy) can not be explained using experiments, therefore they are not true...

But one cannot say that, scientifically...perhaps we just haven't found the right machine or experiment to prove God's existence...

It is philosophy and religion that explains WHY it is things exist, why nature has a pattern and a beauty innate in it's existence...it is religion and philosophy that explore the questions: Why do things evolve and change? Why does nature follow laws? Why do things evolve into complexity when entropy suggests they should not?

Secondly, there are many realities outside of scientific theory...Love, justice, greed, evil...again, science has little to say in discussing the major questions of life: Why is there evil? What is Beauty? Why do the good suffer? Why do we hope? What is the meaning of life?

Science is a way to find the truth of material things...but it is limited in what it explains...

Or as one cynic explained: they know the price of everything, but the value of nothing...

That is why the Pope backs evolution while insisting that scientism is not true: Yes, the scientific way of examing the world around us is good...but it is merely one way of seeing Truth....

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Rights of the Born...

Read the article...

note the line: I said that this is the most intimate decision a woman makes, and she makes it all alone, in her deepest heart of hearts, sometimes with the man by whom she is pregnant, with her dearest friends or with her doctor — but without the personal opinion of say, Tom DeLay or Karl Rove.

Translation: without anyone supporting her emotionally or physically or financially to carry the child to term...

The elephant in the living room:

Abortion is NOT like taking out a tooth...It is something terrible for women...and the pro choice brittleness refuses to recognize this...

And this problem is not "Caused" by Bush or DeLay or the evil Papists. It is caused by a "pc religion" of "if it feels right do it" that is preached...

We live in a society where sexual activity is now considered outside the judgment of morality (quick: When was the last time that someone disapproved of the promiscuity of Hollywood?)...

But what is not discussed is why "people who must know that teenage girls will have abortions, whether in clinics or dirty backrooms." will not discuss WHY we allow society (film, tv movies etc) to fail to teach teenagers that promiscuity has consequences: both physical and emotional, and the most terrible emotional consequence is the pain of knowing one chose not to bring a child into the world...

The "elephant in the living room" never discussed is that sex cannot be merely fun, but has deeper meanings, and that we ignore these things to our peril...

But the answer is not the moralistic condemnation of hurting people, but to reteach what eros has to do with agape and the meaning of life...

"....Nowadays Christianity of the past is often criticized as having been opposed to the body; and it is quite true that tendencies of this sort have always existed. Yet the contemporary way of exalting the body is deceptive.

Eros, reduced to pure “sex”, has become a commodity, a mere “thing” to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity.

This is hardly man's great “yes” to the body. On the contrary, he now considers his body and his sexuality as the purely material part of himself, to be used and exploited at will. Nor does he see it as an arena for the exercise of his freedom, but as a mere object that he attempts, as he pleases, to make both enjoyable and harmless.

Here we are actually dealing with a debasement of the human body: no longer is it integrated into our overall existential freedom; no longer is it a vital expression of our whole being, but it is more or less relegated to the purely biological sphere. The apparent exaltation of the body can quickly turn into a hatred of bodiliness."

So the fruit of this is women who hurt...
who have HIV, chlamydia, herpes, gonorrhea, and sometimes secondary infertility...

Teenagers who think that they have to have sex on dates...(orgasm? what orgasm? many of these girls end up depressed and feeling unloved and exploited...then people wonder why feminists turn to lesbian relationships or seem to hate men)...

And marriage? We no longer pressure pregnant couples to marry, because divorce is so easy, and marriage is no longer a guarantee that the man will raise the child...indeed, as one teenager told me: I wanted the child, and my welfare will pay for it...so why should I ask the boy to pay for what I wanted?

Ummm...because he is the father? Ah, but we no longer recognize the link between sex and begetting...and then wonder why our boys remain boys until middle age...

The dirty little secret is that God, or evolutionary selection, bound the sexual act with bonding between a man and a woman...because God, or evolution, recognized that women who were pregnant or "suckling a child" could not support herself alone...

So in the past, a woman's family forced the man to support the child, by societal pressure or even threats of violence...or they found a husband for the woman...or the child was cared for by extended family...

Essentially, both biology and cultures emphasized this link... some men were promiscuous, but prostitutes or concubines or "second families" took care of this need...the family remained intact, and the children protected...

So we see both Muslims and conservative Christians/Hindus/Jews horrified by a western culture that ridicules religious beliefs and spreading an "in your face" promiscuity as normal...and we see Musilm riots and hell and brimstone preachers objecting to this ridicule of their beliefs and the pollution of western culture that glorifies many forms of obscenity...

But Ratz is right: We need to start at the beginning, and remind people that eros is beautiful, and that it is connected with agape and God's love for us...and that promiscuity is empty and meaningless and leads to despair...

And until we do, the abortion wars will continue...

Friday, February 10, 2006

Blogger down again

I had a bunch of links but Blogger was down....

There was an article about Belgium euthanasia cases doubling in the last year--- and 80 percent aren't reported anyway...

There was an article about the handicapped being worried they will be pressured into suicide if they change the law in California.

And then there was a report on the Anchoress, whose writing I usually enjoy, but she brings up a book about "medicine and prayer" and writes:
'I gave him my copy of Larry Dossey’s book, Healing Words : The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine, and directed him to some stories within the book that explored the whole concept of illness not being able to claim you if it remains unacknowledged...."

What do all these articles have in common?

The idea we are in charge of our own destiny, the idea that if we are sick we are somehow "bad", and the idea that healthy and strong is the highest good in life....

As a doctor, I've treated many people...as a general practitioner, probably two thirds of what we see has a psychological aspect...

But in this, I am a materialist. One cannot simply turn illness off and on...

If you are stressed out, depressed, see no reason in life, then you will probably be sick...and if you are hard working and happy, you will probably be well....

But not necessarily....I know that my Asthma here is "worse" because I am not working...ditto for arthritis...partly because when I was working, I could blank out the symptoms...(ah, but at night the pain kept me up)...

So women in bad marriages often have functional illnesses, where the stress hormones mess up the function of various body parts...and the pain hurts worse...

But that is not the same as thinking we can stay well, or that if we are told we are sick and believe it, we will be sick, but if we refuse to believe it, we will be well...

It's like gravity...sickness is a reality...

But if you believe in your heart you can chose or not chose illness, the result is an innate hostility toward the chronically ill...

Hugh Gallagher has abook on the holocaust of the mentally handicapped, and has a chapter about how doctors treating him would become frustrated because they could never cure him...this is a dirty secret in medicine (you never cure some people, and some of them are whiners and drain your sympathy quickly)...

So if you work with the chronically ill, or eldelry, or mentally handicapped, you need to see things differently than the culture of cure...it turns into the culture of comfort...

But even that can lead to "comforting" death...

And we need to remember: We cannot see all ends...

So you need to stand back and see things in a different light...thru the eyes of God, who loves these people, and you are merely to give them a little comfort to help them bear their illness...

As a Christian doctor, I try to heal...but sometimes we can't heal...

Then it is well to remember the old prayer:

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve,
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey;
I asked for health, that I might do greater things,
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things;

I asked for riches, that I might be happy,
I was given poverty, that I might be wise;
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of man,
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God;

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life,
I was given life, that I might enjoy things;
I got nothing that I asked for - but everything I had hoped for,
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered,
I am among all men, most richly blessed.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Shame culture vs Guilt Culture

I am sensitive to those offended by the cartoons ridiculing Mohammed, but it doesn't take much intelligence to see that this is being manipulated...first, local Danish jihadi types "added" their own inflammatory cartoons...then, (as Mark Steyn pointed out) these"spontaneous demonstrations" just happened to have a bunch of Danish flags on hand...wonder how that happened?

Third, the major "demonstrations" were suspicious...

Syria....duh. It's a police state. Sponataneous demonstration that just happened to burn down an embassy, Duh. Has nothing to do with the Hariri investigation by the UN...

Lebanon...again, has nothing to do with Syria trying to derail the Cedar Revolution...
Afghanistan..again, in the Taliban areas...and very small at that...

And, of course, the European Jihadists, who are trying to get support for their paranoia...Europe has a problem...

But the really interesting demonstration was Iran...one suspects that that government would like to manipulate this to take attention away from their bomb...but...they had a COUPLE HUNDRED demonstrate and those had to be bussed in...hello...again, a police state...and blog rumors say that people simply refused to show up...hmmm...

The ones I feel sorry for is the quiet peaceful God loving Muslims who are caught in the middle. Like the latest Rolling Stone cover, which ridicules Jesus, they do not want their heartfelt beliefs ridiculed, but are not supporting the radicals either...

In the US, Catholics put up with a lot of joking...usually good natured humor. But we also face a lot of outright bigotry and ridiule....Like many Catholics, I pray in reparation for the sins of blasphemy...and I pray for those who ridicule God, that they find the grace to find the reality of the One they ridicule...

And Sistani has a similar reaction...LINK

In Iraq, the country's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al- Sistani, decried the drawings but did not call for protests.

"We strongly denounce and condemn this horrific action," he said in a statement posted on his Web site and dated Tuesday.

Al-Sistani, who wields enormous influence over Iraq's majority Shiites, made no call for protests and suggested that militant Muslims were partly to blame for distorting Islam's image.

He referred to "misguided and oppressive" segments of the Muslim community and said their actions "projected a distorted and dark image of the faith of justice, love and brotherhood."

"Enemies have exploited this ... to spread their poison and revive their old hatreds with new methods and mechanisms," he said.

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But the problem is not religious at all: It is a cultural one...

Dr. Sanity has a nice post on the shame culture HERE

A guilt culture (i.e., the West) is typically and primarily concerned with truth, justice, and the preservation of individual rights. As noted earlier, the emotion of guilt is what keeps a person from behavior that goes against his/her own code of conduct as well as the culture’s. Excessive guilt can, of course, be pathological.

In contrast, in a typical shame culture (i.e., Arab/Islamic culture) what other people believe has a far more powerful impact on behavior than even what the individual believes. The desire to preserve honor and avoid shame to the exclusion of all else is one of the primary foundations of the culture. This desire has several side-effects, including granting the individual carte blanche to (1)engage in wrong-doing as long as no-one knows about it, or knows he is involved; and (2) engage in any necessary behavior, including wrong-doing (i.e., murder, beheading, etc.) in order to avoid shame and/or recover honor.

Examples of shame culture are Japanese and Arab and some American Indians...

Many American Indian tribes (e.g. Sioux and Chippewa) never punish their children physically...the children are taught by example...but behavior is often controlled by ridicule...and so they children grow up very sensitive to ridicule...on the other hand, if you gently and lovingly joke, you can defuse the fear and the anger...

So I will pray tonite for peace...but I will cynically recognize the jihadi type backed by certain governments are manipulating fear and anger to their own ends...









Saturday, February 04, 2006

Prayer request

The popular quiz show Wowowee was having a big show for their first anniversary, so they decided to hold it in a local sports stadium...

Something caused a stampede, and at least 79 were killed, and 200 injured...

Most of these are poor people...not destitute but poor workers hoping to win money and prizes...and like most of these stampedes, most of those killed were the weak: older women...

LINK2

Friday, February 03, 2006

The music of the Spheres

Quick, read the essay before the NYTimes puts it in their pay for view archives...

In his struggles with extremely complicated mathematics that led to the general theory of relativity of 1915, Einstein often turned for inspiration to the simple beauty of Mozart's music.

"Whenever he felt that he had come to the end of the road or into a difficult situation in his work, he would take refuge in music," recalled his older son, Hans Albert. "That would usually resolve all his difficulties."

In the end, Einstein felt that in his own field he had, like Mozart, succeeded in unraveling the complexity of the universe.

Scientists often describe general relativity as the most beautiful theory ever formulated. Einstein himself always emphasized the theory's beauty. "Hardly anyone who has truly understood it will be able to escape the charm of this theory," he once said.

The theory is essentially one man's view of how the universe ought to be.


In the wars of evolution, we see the duds of both sides discussing science vs God...duh...

It doesn't work that way, as even a philosophy impaired doc like myself knows.

You see, Scientism says that there are observable facts, period, and only such observable facts are TRUTH and the rest is falsehood...

Ah, but that's not how Science works...

In reality, science is a form of creativity....

Yes, the scientist dryly observes facts, and then makes a guess on what they mean, and does an experiment to confirm it, and voila, truth...Right?

Nope...

Scientist observe something, think about it, and then CREATIVELY think of a pattern to explain it, and then, perhaps many years later, there is an experiment to confirm that their creative explanation was right...

So when Watson and Crick "discovered" the structure of the molecule of DNA, they saw it was both simple and beautiful, and like a puzzle that clicks into place, all of a sudden, the explanation of genes popped into place..."It was too pretty not to be true", commented Watson...

And scientific Theory is like a painting or a photograph: it is Truth, but it is also an incomplete...and the best scientists, like the best photographers, show us the essense with their limited tools...

So we have quantum mechanics, and light that is both a photon and a wave...and gravity and the space time continuum with many dimensions that none can comprehend, but Eistein tried to describe...

Scientism denies this artistic and creative aspect of science...it forgets that the true is beautiful...

And both JP2's Faith and Reason and the B16 insisting that Love is the force behind the universe add dimension and richness to Darwin's ideas of rich evolution where the fecundity of nature and the interaction between living and the environment bring for new variations...

the Pope would say these patterns reflect the loving hand of a creator who placed into the universe both beauty and variation...so life should be cherished in it's variations...

Pseudoscientist preach using Darwin's ideas: That there is no god, the universe is meaningless, and the strong not only survive but deserve to survive --rigid theories of scientism that ignore the terrible implications of these ideas...(so big business has the right to destroy the environment, since we are the stronger ones...and let us destroy untermensch since we are the Aryan race...)

And even scientists sympathetic to religion see a philosophical apartheid between the two:LINK

Perhaps someday we will recognize not that the flat photograph of scientism is the only way to see truth, but see the Glory of the photographer's art as one way of explaining an ultimate truth of reality that does not deny that other ways--art, and music, and poetry-- also are a way to explain the same thing....

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

the love that moves the sun and all the stars

The title comes from Dante's Paradiso...Seinfels critiques the encyclical " God is Love"...and for once, the MSM i.e. the NYTimes has gotten it RIGHT about the Pope's encyclical...

Steinfels writes:
"God is the absolute and ultimate source of all being," the pope wrote, "but this universal principle of creation—the Logos, primordial reason—is at the same time a lover with all the passion of a true love."

Or as he said in his earlier remarks on Dante: "God's 'eros' is not only a primordial cosmic force, it is love that has created man and that bends before him, as the Good Samaritan bent before the wounded man, victim of thieves, who was lying on the side of the road."

When Benedict speaks of love as the "primordial cosmic force," he knows of course that science traces the movement of the sun and stars to the Big Bang, gravity and other forces of nature. He is, nonetheless, claiming that the truest, most fundamental insight into the nature of the cosmos and humanity is found in our experience of love, beginning with the paradigm of erotic love and crowning it in religious faith.

Is this claim really uncontroversial? Humans, after all, have offered any number of ultimate characterizations of reality, from a swirl of atoms to a struggle for survival, from a war between matter and spirit to the search for pleasure and release, from the slow march of rationality to a cloud of illusion.

There is plenty of evidence for each of these views. One can easily argue that the case for love, personal, self-giving love, as the bottom-line character of reality is the wildest, most astonishing of claims in the face of that evidence.


At the deepest of levels, is the parent caring for the ill or troubled child or the couple pledging mutual affection and support till death do them part going with the grain of the universe or acting in defiance of it? Is such love a flame that somehow begins and ends in a larger fire? Or is it a brief, bold flare that will ultimately be snuffed out in the darkness?

For a century and more, much of Western art and thought has insisted on the latter—to the point, it should be added, that those fierce claims about the ultimate absurdity of existence, no less than the counterclaim of believers like Benedict, are now also passed over as uncontroversial.

Yes, people love when it is not logical to our moneyworshipping efficient society, as the LATimes article points out...in this touching article on infant hospices that give parents expecting children with fatal congenital defects to have an alternative to late term abortion...

And such love is a mirror of God's love for us...

Andrew Greeley call your office: Ratz is stealing your line about God being a passionate lover...

The martyrs among us

On my regular blog, I mentioned the martyrs I knew when I was a missionary....

The reason I left Rhodesia was that one of the doctors at a Swedish mission hospital was shot when he went to the hospital for an emergency...

People don't realize that you make choices...and I discussed this with one of my doctor friends...we both decided to stay until things got bad...

You see, if you are a doctor and you leave, people die. But if you are killed, you aren't doing anyone a favor. So you chose.

People don't realize that doctors and nurses and EMT's chose all the time...
This patient needs care, but there is blood all over and he may be HIV positive...yes, gloves protect, but the shattered glass all over the wounds often pierce the gloves.
So you care for him anyway.

I once had a patient stop breathing on me, and there was no Ambu bag nearby, so I did mouth to mouth for about a minute til it was fetched...later it turned out that he had TB...

Ditto here.
You don't chose to be a martyr. You chose to help, and judge the risk/benefit ratio.
So that means you shudder when you go to the hospital at night (I always took my dog with me for protection). You shudder on bus day, when the guerillas would probably be coming into town. You shudder and don't answer your door at night.

And you judge whether or not the local guerillas will kill you or not. OR the local toughs or the local troublemakers or the local witchdoctors...

In my case, the local guerillas were helpful...when they came to the hospital (shortly after I left)
they sent a teacher to "invite" the nuns to a pep ralley that they held at the local high school...

But even if these "official" groups were friendly, that didn't mean you were safe.

One overlooked problem of civil wars is that they spawn anarchy...we see this in Iraq, but it also occurs (but is not reported) in Gaza, in Algeria, in Colombia, etc.....a good story of this anarchy is found in the book Cold Mountain...where the hero never could trust those he met...

You have the "official" groups...their aims are know, and they are borderline rational. But then you have the criminals, the theives, the murderers, the sociopaths...and you are never safe from them...

So when the doctor was killed, I left. But my friend put it off...she was older than I (I was 30, she was 62 and had worked there 20 years)...and so one day some robbers came in the hospital and shot her...and all the patients fled...no one defended her, because in African society, there is not a tradition of self defense...you keep your head down and survive...or you protest and die...which is why there are so many modern African martyrs...

So the martyrs don't chose to die. They chose to live and help and their very presence is a witness against the evil ones who chose to kill...

And that is what people forget: That martyr means witness...your life and death is a witness to truth...