Thursday, January 17, 2008

Oh my....

In other news, today workers at Monticello reported an odd sound and an accompanying vibration emanating from the vicinity of the Thomas Jefferson burial site.

"We were so freaked out!" Reported one custodian. "It was this bizzare 'whirring' noise. What in heavens name could make such a noise?"

A prominent personality and humanities scholar Clay Jenkins [1] has proposed that this can only be explained as Thomas Jefferson himself spinning in his grave!

All I can say is if this man is elected President, we are totally F---ed!

[1] Apologies to Clay Jenkins, whose work I thoroughly enjoy, he DID NOT say this! I used this for comedic effect.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The democracy we deserve....

I'm growing actually I'm beyond that. I'm fed up! I am absolutely fed up with hearing how cynical the American public has become. How we Americans no longer have good choices when we go into the voting booth every 2 years. I'm tired of we Americans, the legacy of Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Paine, Lincoln and TR, painting the government as 'them' or 'they'. As if the poor innocent American public bears no responsibility for the tripe that passes for a list of candidates we now have before us. I have news for you the government is a reflection of the people in this country.

We get the democracy we deserve!

It is said that Ben Franklin wrote more than 200 years ago: "They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Whether or not that is a paraphrase or an actual comment is not important but the lesson is clear. Yet today while the President signs a Bill essentially revoking the Habeas Corpus, a part of common law for almost a thousand years, the American public barely averted their collective eyes from "Big Brother" or "American Idol" or "Dancing with the Stars" long enough to even shrug. The reason is most Americans have NO idea or conception of what habeas corpus is and why it's important. Whether or not this action is right or wrong is not altogether clear, this is not my point. the point is there should have been a public dialog before we allowed a US President to revoke a civil right!

Most Americans would be hard pressed to state what the first 10 amendments to the Constitution are collectively named and why they are important. Thomas Jefferson said that in order for democracy to survive requires and educated public. Yet most Americans probably couldn't tell you why Thomas Jefferson is significant to American History.

We Get the Democracy we DESERVE!!!

There are millions of Americans with no form of health care. We have a looming Social Security crisis. The price of oil is in the neighborhood of $100 a barrel AND we have ample evidence that the climate is changing due to human industrial activities. Yet the bulk of our elected politicians feel that banning 'gay marriage', essentially legislating discrimination into the Constitution, is the most important issue of our time! SERIOUSLY?!

We Get the Democracy we DESERVE!!!

When I was a boy I was lucky enough to have parents that were involved in the Boy Scouting program and deemed it important enough to encourage me to advance in rank. Three of the required Merit Badges for the highest rank in Scouting were "Citizenship in the Community", "Citizenship in the Nation" and "Citizenship in the World". Why do we not teach these concepts to our children in our schools?

We Get the Democracy we DESERVE!!!

Today in America we are lambasted with ads for "get rich quick" schemes pawned by billionaires, for 'magic' foot pads that remove toxins from the body while you sleep, for weight loss miracle drugs that require no exercise, for homeopathic remedies that will cure headaches, toothaches or CANCER! We have prime time TV shows that extol the 'skills' of psychics and another on a network supposedly devoted to Science, that follows the exploits of ghost hunters. Why are we not teaching our children the virtues of reason and critical thinking?

We Get the Democracy we DESERVE!!!

The choices we have in the voting booth this coming November are a reflection of US as a people. In 1920, H.L. Mencken wrote:
"As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their hearts desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."
Consider that statement and take long hard look at the policies of the individual who has occupied the Oval Office for the past seven years!

We have GOTTEN the democracy we deserve!

If we don't like the choices before us then each and everyone of us bears responsibility for changing those choices. How can we do this?

Have we Americans become so cynical, so facile, such mindless consumers of the latest gadget, the latest pop-song, the latest fads, that we have forgotten what it means and what it takes to be an American? I heard something in a movie that rings true: "America is advanced citizenship! You've gotta want it bad, because it's gonna put up a fight!"

We, as a population have to take the responsibility to be sure we are educated enough to demand better of our candidates. That means picking up a book before we head to the 'john'. A real book, not a fashion magazine or a celebrity gossip rag outlining the latest doings of Paris Hilton. Try a history book, a book of philosophy or science. The powers that be in this country are doing VERY WELL capitalizing on the cynicism and or ignorance of the electorate. They don't want an educated populace because that would spell their doom!

Whether you are a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Wiccan, an agnostic or an atheist. Whether you are a Republican, a Democrat, a Libertarian, a Socialist or whatever. We are ALL of us citizens of this country. American citizenship has benefits AND great responsibility. How we behave now, whom we elect now, at this moment in history will echo down the corridors of the future. What account will we give to our children? What will we say we did when we were presented with the challenges of the new century?

Our responsibility is to become the educated electorate envisioned by Jefferson only then will we get the democracy we deserve!


I get email too...

Yesterday I received an email from a co-worker where he tries to demonstrate to me that Creationism is Science:

Hi Robert,

Please check this out. The article talks about how creationists like myself are science people too.


Are creationists anti-science?
One of the most common arguments that evolutionists use against creation researchers is the old refrain that creationists are “against” or “anti-” science. However, the same critics fail to answer one important question. Ken Ham explains:

Recently a reporter from a secular magazine interviewed me for an article on the creation/evolution issue. One of the first things he asked was, “How do you react to those who claim you creationists are against science?”

As I always do in such instances, I asked him: “What do you mean by science?” He just looked at me and said, “Good question—so how do you define science?”

This is a question that many do not consider when examining the issue of creation versus evolution. The word science has the root meaning of “knowledge.” Scientists can make repeatable, testable observations about our present world and gain knowledge about the present—such knowledge has built the technology that puts humans into space.

Scientists also try to obtain knowledge about our past—our origins. But this sort of knowledge is very different from knowledge about the present. It must involve assumptions about how the universe and life arose—when no human was there to see it all happen. Fossils, rocks, dating methods, all of these require the observer to interpret the evidence, and this interpretation is always filtered through beliefs about the past.

There is a major difference between observational (or operational) science—what we can observe in the present—and origins science—interpretations about the past with no direct observation. Creationists are not against science, but they do want people to understand what the word science means.

For more information, see Science or the Bible?

The following is my response:

Hi Bob

I appreciate your trying to engage me on this issue.

While I am sure that you are convinced by the arguments that are made that support a creationist model for the the Universe. To my mind they do not stand up to the rigor of peer review.

I am very familiar with ALL of Ken Ham's views. He picks and chooses the data that support his pre-conceived ideas. Unfortunately for him that's not Science.

I accept the model for speciation as modeled by the theory of evolution BECAUSE it is the explanation that is BEST supported by the evidence we have. As I explained to a you a few weeks ago The Theory of Evolution says NOTHING at all about HOW the chemistry of life came to be. Evolution only deals with how to explain the diversity of life we now see. Where did life come from? I don't know. That phrase is the beginning of wisdom. For all I know life is the result of the act of a Supreme Being or Super-intelligence of some kind. I have NO evidence that directly supports such an idea BUT to be intellectually honest I have to allow for that possibility. I have made a concession that it is possible that GOD created what we call life. As a naturalist it is my contention life COULD just as possibly have arise on it's own in accordance with laws of physics. Now we could also discuss where those laws come from. Here again my answer is: "I don't know". You would posit God, and I am comfortable with that in a general sense. However, you will further posit that it's the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and there I cannot follow.

Let me try to explain my thinking a bit more for you.

You and I are atheists! Now stay with me here...."Madness" you'll say! Do you believe in Zeus? I am confident that you will say 'No'. Good! Neither do I. So we are atheists with respect to Zeus. How about Thor? Ganesh? Pele? Allah? Marduk? Jupiter? Krishna? I will step out on a limb here and ASSUME that you have answered in the negative to each of these candidate Gods. So we are in agreement. Where we disagree is that I add one more god to the my list.

Now, in any of that previous paragraph did I say that I believe there is NO God? I did not say any such thing. Any human being possessed of only five senses who definitively states: "There is NO God", is not being intellectually honest. He or she cannot make such a claim because we are not possessed of infinite knowledge.
Even though I, myself, have made no such statement, people who accept the existence of God will often require someone like me to "Prove there is NO God". This is a ridiculous proposition. It is no more necessary for me to prove that a god DOESN'T exist than it is necessary for me to prove that unicorns nor leprechauns DON'T exist. Nor would I definitively state such a thing as I cannot be everywhere at once.

I will not elaborate on my reasoning for rejecting the idea of God as described by the Judeo-Christian tradition. Such a treatise could fill a book by itself. Please do not make the wrong assumption that my view is based in some sort of anger or resentment towards God. It isn't! Suffice to say I do not make claims about the almighty, because to my mind if such a being does exist, it is a being so far above our existential plane that we couldn't possibly begin to understand it let alone ascribe very human traits to it as the Bible does.. As far as the natural world, I base my knowledge of the world on the work of men and woman who have gathered evidence using human senses and tools and then constructed models based on that evidence to predict future behavior. This is empirical naturalism. It has made possible vaccinations that have stopped diseases that wiped out millions. We have global communications, computers that would be equivalent to magic in the eyes of Newton or Galileo. All of this not possible without the human constructs of logic and reason i.e. empiricism and the human drive to figure things out.

Back to Evolution....Many Creationists and/or proponents of Intelligent Design (IDer's) like to paint the concept of evolution as a 'theory in crisis'. This is just NOT so. With every year that goes by the basis of evolution: change through random mutation and descent with modification, is further strengthened. Pretending otherwise is not intellectually honest. In my experience what Creationists and IDer's are doing is trying to poke holes in the framework of the Darwinian Model. Are there aspects of life on Earth that this model cannot explain? Absolutely! Does that mean that these things can NEVER be explained through a naturalistic means? Absolutely NOT.

To my mind Creationism proposes a dangerous view...that view being that life and speciation is 'too complex' and cannot possibly happen without the direct involvement of some supernatural agency. If that's true then why bother investigating at all? Why try to understand the mechanism behind the complexity of life? Even if Creationism is would you begin to PROVE such a thing? To suggest that there is NO possible way that speciation can possibly occur without intelligent design is the same type of intellectual dishonesty as someone stating: 'There is NO God'. Both positions boil down to Arguments from Personal Incredulity. This a common are some examples"

"I can't see how two airliners could possibly bring down the World Trade Center, so therefore it was an inside job!"

"I have absolutely no evidence that the Judeo-Christian God exists, so therefore NO Gods exist."

"The human eye is too complex, it looks designed, design implies or needs a designer, therefore evolution can't possibly be true"

These are all common arguments foisted by people of very disparate views!

The Darwinian Model is NOT perfect. However, it is the best model we have given the evidence. To be fair, we've only been at this study for just over a 150 years. What will the next 150 years of evidence gathering and scientific inquiry bring? It sends a chill down my spine.
I am ALWAYS open to new evidence. Unfortunately, Creationists and IDer's are not bringing anything new to the table.

Whew! That's enough of that!

Bob, a couple weeks ago, you mentioned some sort of proof of a young earth involving the atmosphere. Please elaborate or point me to an article that demonstrates this.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

10 wierd things about me....

File this under bandwidth and time wasters...

1. I never learned how to voluntarily burp. Every now and then an involuntary burp escapes but I cannot seem to illicit one at will. Strange being that my children can burp jingle bells or the alphabet! (I'm so proud).

2. I am rarely if EVER cold. New England winters don't phase me in the slightest. Most nights in bed I'm perfectly comfortable under a sheet. My wife says it's like sleeping next to a nuclear reactor.

3. For some strange reason I actually enjoy the taste of NyQuil.

4. I am a born and bred New Englander and yet I am a die hard Yankees fan living in the heart of Red Sox Nation.

5. I love most cooking shows a la Food Network, however the very sight of Emeril Lagasse will make me change channels faster than lightning. I cannot stand that guy!

6. I have never experienced the phenomena of brain freeze from ice cream or any other means...EVER.

7. After 39 years I have never learned how to blow a bubble with bubble gum.

8. All my life I refused to watch "The Wizard of Oz" on principle, until my wife forced me to last year. (Still don't see what all the fuss is about)

9. I worship Tori Amos (see above picture) in lieu of a personal God.

10. When I am thinking or brain-storming I lay back in my chair and toss things up in the air....essentially playing catch with myself...drives my wife and co-workers batty.

I'm sure there's more but I don't want to freak people out any more than I already have!