4.28.2009

Evolution

For those who are eagerly awaiting part two of the evolution piece, I have not forgotten. I am still intending to write more on that topic, but I have been immensely busy grading papers lately. Also, I've posted most of what I know right off the top of my head, so I'll need to do some research, which takes more time, before I do any more composing. So as soon as I have some time, I'll get it up there.

4.22.2009

Slogans

This was an assignment I gave my Ashland English students. They were to pick song titles and ascribe them to products/companies/businesses etc. as marketing slogans. Here is my list.

1. McDonald's: Bringin' Sexy Back
2. WalMart: It's the End of the World As We Know
3. Victoria's Secret: I Kissed a Girl
4. Pampers: Ridin' Dirty
5. The US Government: Livin' on a Prayer
6. Barak Obama: Like a Virgin
7. NHL Playoffs: Ice Ice Baby
8. Delta: I Believe I Can Fly
9. Big Brother: I'll Be Watching You
10. Tuesday Night Fights: Hit Me Baby One More Time
11. Depends: Oops, I Did It Again

Check back occasionally for updates to this list.

4.13.2009

Evolution

I feel fully justified placing this essay in this, my "humorous" blog, even though it lacks any attempts at humor, irony, satire, or exaggeration. The reason for this is the absurdity of evolution. It is, itself, the sharpest irony that can be painted.

I've been reading quite a bit lately about the evolution/creation debate. There are several particularly sad things about this debate that I must draw attention to before I begin. First, I find it extremely sad that evolutionists accuse creationists of many of the same logical fallacies and poor arguments that they themselves use, including circular reasoning, faulty causality, assumption of givens, equivocation, straw man arguments, skewed mathematics and many others. Second, I find it very sad that, for the most part, Christians are "losing" in these debates. What I mean is, Christians often form very poor arguments for what they believe. For heaven's sake (literally!), if you're going to believe in something, you had better know why! Third, I find it almost inexcusably sad that we teach evolution as fact in high schools, and "conveniently" leave out the vast amount of data that contradicts evolution. Even if evolution were true, wouldn't it be good "science" to present the full case for a theory, including the "problem areas that scientists are still looking into"? This just goes to show that Americans are not being taught in public high schools: they are being indoctrinated. They are being told to believe something based only on the evidence that supports that thing.

This essay will probably have to happen in several parts. There is just too much to say, and given the time of night, I don't have that time right now. But let me begin with a couple observations.

1. Old earth vs. young earth. This issue is, perhaps, the most neglected aspect of the debate in high schools. Because evolution requires a very old earth, it is generally listed as a "given." Students then assume that the earth is old, and base their understanding of evolutionary theories on that assumption without ever considering its validity. For example, one website (man, I wish I could find it again . . . it is not my intent to present "facts" without support) indicates that there are more than three times as many indicators for a young earth as for an old earth. But these indicators are never taught in schools. The biggest "indicator" for the old earth needed for evolution to work is the radioactive dating method. Here's how this works in fairly simple terms: scientists have observed the rate of decay in certain elements. When certain elements decay, they become other elements by virtue of losing some of their electrons and protons. Those other elements are then released into the air. Thus, they assume that they can calculate the age of things by assessing how much of the element remains and calculating the time it would take for the element to decay to that point using the known rate of decay. But this presupposes many things, most of all that we know how much of the element was present to begin with. Here's an equivalent illustration. Chuck observes that a glass of water is evaporating at the rate of one inch per hour. Using this observation, Chuck works backwards to figure out when the glass was first filled with water. But Chuck has overlooked a few things: 1) he doesn't know how full the glass was to begin with. If the glass was full to the brim, his calculation may be correct, but if someone filled the glass only halfway, he will be way off. 2) The rate of evaporation is always the same. This is almost universally untrue, and it is possible to speculate that the same can be said of radioactive decay. 3) No other outside influence has affected the amount of water in the cup. There's no way Chuck can know that part of the water was not consumed by a person, or a cat, or was spilled, unless he was there from the moment the cup was filled observing the evaporation of the water (which would be equivalent to watching paint dry or grass grow). I think we can safely say that no one has been there since the beginning of the earth (whether thousands or billions of years ago) observing the radioactive decay. Of course, evolutionists assume that the cup was full to the brim. Strictly speaking, this is a logical assumption, but it's nothing more than that: assumption. It can't be proven. This is not, in itself, proof of creationism (more on proof of God later), but it does at least show that radioactive dating has its flaws. Creationists usually argue for what is called "apparent age." In this scenario, apparent age means that God filled the glass half full to give the impression of previous drinking. I suppose you could ask, "Why would God create rocks only partially filled with given elements?" but it's also easy to ask, "What the deuce do you mean by full?" When we deal with glasses of water, it's easy to know what full means. When we talk about the amount of carbon present in a particular rock or fossil, "full" has very little meaning. How can we possibly know how full a rock can be? And besides, the concept of apparent age is not so ludicrous. If there is a God and if He created the world as Genesis records, all animals, trees, humans . . . essentially all LIFE . . . would have to have been created with apparent age. If they weren't, Adam and Eve would have been new-born infants completely incapable of caring for themselves. Ditto all animals. Trees could theoretically grow from a seed on their own, but since all the bees died in infancy, there would be no pollination to replicate the procedure. If God created all life in this way, why not create everything else in the same manner?

Which leads to the "proof of God": there is none. And God seems to have wanted it that way. The true answer to that last question (why not create everything else with apparent age) is "To provide proof of Himself as creator." If God wanted to be provable, why would he make the earth appear to be old? Isn't that one of the problems evolutionists have with creationism? If he could foresee the difficulties an old earth would create for people in terms of belief, wouldn't He have done it differently? I fully believe that God (and here that subsumes all Christianity) is "truth." Meaning, I believe God exists. However, that does not make Him fact. By definition, "facts" are observable, producible, repeatable phenomena. Sure, nature, the complexity of the human body, the vastness of space, and other observable facts give evidence of a creator, but God himself cannot be observed (physically I mean). He cannot be produced (as far as I know, they have yet to discover the "God" molecule through laboratory testing). And for those who question such logic, just ask yourself, "What would faith be if God could be empirically proven?" I believe that God made the earth in such a way that it would indicate His presence without scientifically proving His existence because He wants followers who "believe," who "have faith." And let's face it, it doesn't take faith to believe in facts. When I walk outside, I don't have to have faith that gravity will keep me attached to the earth. I know that it will because it's an observable phenomenon. If God could be proven, if God was a fact, we wouldn't need faith. I believe this is VERY important for Christians to grasp because one of the attacks often made against creationists is that they make arguments for an empirically absent God, that they try to mix religion (or theology) with science. Don't. Just don't. I do not believe God wants to be proved. If He wanted that, He could do quite easily, and without our feeble help. Evolutionists are, in some ways, right. We mix science and religion when we try to prove God. Of course, they do the same thing. Evolution requires at least as much faith as creationism, and I would say infinitely more than creationism. They believe in something they have not proven. They claim as fact that which is only a theory. However, if you want to be respected when you tell an evolutionist that he believes only in a theory, then you ought to admit that what you believe in is, likewise, a theory, a belief system. That's not weak. We should be embracing our faith, acknowledging that God doesn't need us to prove He exists.

On top of all this, evolutionists can't agree about the age of the earth, and they "conveniently" change it to suit their theory when new evidence surfaces. If the earth needs to be 10 million years old, let it be 10 million years old. If it needs to be 30 million, let be 30 million. That doesn't really sound like science. Shouldn't science work to calculate the age of the earth, and then shape its theories around that, rather than establish the theories and make the age of the earth conform accordingly?

2. Transitional fossils/observation of evolutionary cycles. Even if people want to believe in evolution, I don't see how they can claim that it is a proven fact, beyond any doubt, when the total amount of species evolutions observed is zero. Scientists have never found any fossils of species "in transition." In fact, every fossil we have ever found can be accounted for among species of which we already know. If fish really did evolve to birds and then to primates and then to humans, there should be ample fossil evidence of these transformations, and there isn't. We have also never observed a species evolving, except in a micro-evolutionary way. Micro-evolution, what Darwin observed when he coined the term "natural selection," has been observed in our history. Micro-evolution is evolution within a species to better adapt to living environments. It makes sense if you think about it. If a certain bird needed a long beak to be able to access food, those with short beaks would quickly die of starvation, so that only the long beaked version would remain. When those birds reproduced, they would produce more long beaked birds. Recessive genes might create some short beaked birds, but of course, they would die of starvation as well. This process would repeat until eventually the genetics required to produce a short beaked bird were completely absent. Macro-evolution, evolution that leads to changes between species (e.g. a fish growing wings and becoming a bird), has never been observed in any form. If evolutionists want to claim that Christianity is religion and not science by virtue of the lack of observable evidence, then they are really forced to accept the same for themselves. 

3. Odds of evolution. We've all heard the outrageously small odds for evolution. A couple that I've heard include: 1) Evolution is the equivalent of a monkey sitting at a typewriter and randomly smashing keys and producing the entire written works of William Shakespeare, and 2) Evolution is the equivalent of flipping a coin 50 times in a row (not sure what the actual number is here - I think it's actually quite a bit more than this, but I was being modest since I couldn't remember) and having it land perfectly balanced on its edge every time. One argument against these statistics I've seen made (which drives me crazy . . . talk about illogical arguing) is that, regardless of how unlikely or improbable evolution was, it happened because the world is what it is. Evolutionists actually make this claim. Surely, the circular reasoning is readily evident. You cannot argue that statistics are wrong because evolution is true when the validity of evolution is still in question. This is like eating something and then saying, "I must have been hungry because I ate something." Evolutionists try to justify it by demonstrating equally unlikely odds that did happen. For example, the chances of winning the lottery are something outrageous like 1 in 20,000,000 and yet, from time to time, someone does win the lottery. Another example I've seen relates to cards. If you shuffle a deck of 52 cards, the resulting order of cards is statistically less probably than 1 in 10^50 (the cutoff for a statistical impossibility), and yet, the cards are in that order, defying statistical improbability. Or if you take 5 decks of cards and throw them up in the air, the resulting layout of cards is a statistical impossibility and could not be duplicated even if you repeated the attempt forever. (See http://radaractive.blogspot.com/2006/06/odds-against-evolution-beginnings.html.) Thus, evolutionists claim that the extremely poor odds of evolution are inconsequential because statistical impossibilities happen. The problem is, the chances of evolution are far worse even than the 5 decks of cards falling a certain way. Compared to evolution, throwing 5 decks into the air to achieve a particular sequence is downright likely. Evolution is more the equivalent (and here I must give credit to the writer of the blog listed above, for this is his analogy) of throwing 5 decks of cards into the air and having them fall into "One neat stack, sorted by suit and consecutively by value." This analogy actually demonstrates what is missing from most estimations of the odds of evolution: order. Throwing 5 decks into the air and having them land in a precise pattern may have terrible odds, but the result either way is chaos. Landing in a neat and sorted stack demonstrates the kind of order we can observe in the universe. According to the second law of thermodynamics, entropy (or disorder) always increases. This law has been observed and can be tested in your own home. Just stop sweeping, dusting, washing dishes, putting things away, etc. and see if your house gets messier or less messy. And yet, evolution is proposing exactly that, if left to its own devices, your house would eventually clean itself. The Big Bang (and many other theories of origins) pivots on the concept of order erupting out of chaos. Nothing we have ever observed supports this, so I am at loss to see how we came to this conclusion. Actually, that's not true. I'm not at a loss at all. The biggest reason people believe in evolution is to keep from admitting there is a God. People are looking for any reason, regardless of how impossible, to disbelieve in a God. 

More on statistical improbability next time. I need to go to bed.

4.09.2009

A note about this blog

I thought about expanded the sub-title of this blog to include serious stuff too, since I do occasionally write such things, but then I thought, "That's why I have other blogs." So I've decided on a general policy: this site will be for all the humorous and satiric stuff, serious church/religion related stuff will go on Practically Thinking, and any other creative writing will go on Different Fingers, which began as a poetry blog anyway. Links to those blogs are in the left column. Those blogs also have links to each other and back to here.

So check back occasionally and see what's new. I've decided that I need to do more writing. Usually I make that decision and then update my blogs once, but I'm really going to push to do more writing and to publish regularly. As Bonnie pointed out in one of her comments, this is my offering to the church for edification. Writing is what I do and I shouldn't be keeping it to myself. Thanks Bonnie.

I hope you all enjoy what you read. As always, feel free to post comments.

4.08.2009

Money Doesn't Grow on Trees

We have all, at one time or another, heard, or possibly even used, the axiom, "Money doesn't grow on trees." I would like to investigate this claim in two ways.

First, money is made of paper. Paper comes from trees. Therefore, money really does grow on trees, just not in a usable form.

But second and more important, we simply chose the wrong form of currency. When we first moved away from the bartering system (and why did we do that? Who first decided that paper backed by gold was a good idea?) and were debating what form of currency to establish, why did no one suggest, "Hey, why don't we use leaves?" Let me lay out some of the benefits of this for you.

1. No more poverty. Trees are everywhere.
2. Tree huggers would have even more reason to complain.
3. No need to go to the bank. Just go out back.
4. Congress could bail out big businesses with its own money, rather than our tax money.
5. Make a "withdrawal" while picking apples.
6. Security system stock would sky rocket.
7. And yet, there would probably be less theft. Why steal what is readily available in your backyard?
8. South American and African rain forest countries would be the richest in the world.
9. The phrase "1, 2, 3, get off my father's apple tree" would be justified.
10. Kids would suddenly love raking.
11. Fall would be even more beautiful.
12. And of course, "What, do you think money grows on trees?" would no longer be a rhetorical question.

Pirates or Ninjas

One of my students is writing her persuasive research paper on the recently famous facebook battle between pirates and ninjas. I don't know whether she plans to write about which is better or about who would win in a fight, but it was such an irresistible topic, I had to take it up myself.

Which is better:
It goes without saying that pirates have a lot of things going for them. They get to wear nifty hats, keep parrots as pets, and say things like "savvy." Ninjas, on the other hand, tend to wear all black with masks that conceal everything but their eyes. First of all, that's gotta be sweaty. Second, isn't all black a fashion faux pas, except at very specific times of the year? And finally, I bet it's harder to see in those masks than people think. Clear winner here: pirates.

So what about movies? Until recently, this category would have been easily swept by the ninjas. "Karate Kid" alone would have been enough, and despite the bad acting, there are some pretty sweet Jackie Chan movies out there. I know you're all thinking now, "Come on, those aren't ninja movies." True, they're martial arts in general, but they're close enough to count, and let's face it: the majority of Americans can't tell the difference between kung fu and feng shui. However, the recent release of "The Pirates of the Caribbean" series certainly evens the score in this category somewhat. I'm just not sure it's enough to topple the overwhelming quantity of, if not good, at least entertaining "ninja" movies. And I should really be deducting points from pirates for that terrible "Sinbad the pirate" series that was on TV 5 or 10 years ago. Winner: Ninjas.

Next category: moral/ethical code. Pirates, at least, have a code, even if it's only in regard to other pirates. Beyond that, however, they loot, pillage, murder, and generally speaking, defile the English language (at least, English speaking pirates do). Ninjas are killers too, of course, but at least they generally do it for money and not just for fun. I'm gonna have to go with ninjas as the winner here, but only by a hair.

Hygiene: I don't think anyone has ever seen a ninja without his guise on to be able to tell, but the fact that their assailants don't smell them coming suggests that they keep themselves in pretty good order. Whereas pirates don't even know what soap is. Winner: ninjas.

Final category: which would a kid rather be? I've never heard of anyone, kid or otherwise, playing pirate, but since every child raised in the 80's wanted to be one (or more) of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and every child raised in the 90's wanted to be one of the Power Rangers, I am forced, again, to go with ninjas.

The final score stands thus: Pirates 1, Ninjas 4

Who would win in a fight:
It's tempting to give the edge to pirates right off the bat, since they fight with guns (and in the case of Davie Jones, giant boat-consuming squids), whereas ninjas fight with swords, throwing stars, and origami swans. However, this long range advantage is quickly negated when you consider the fact that 1) ninjas cannot be killed with bullets; they are invulnerable to them, and 2) ninjas are invisible, and 3) ninjas are quick enough to cleave a bullet in two with as little as a playing card and 4) they can dissect a 9th grade biology project from 500 feet away with their throwing stars. Advantage: ninjas.

In close combat, however, the advantage would seem to go to the ninjas, whose hand to hand fighting skills and short range bladed weapons are legend. However, keep in mind the poor hygiene of pirates. I believe that pirate stink is probably the only viable toxin to ninjas. Thus are there lightening fast reflexes and appalling flexibility rendered useless. Advantage: pirates.

In a deadlock as we are, perhaps we should consider allies. Pirates have the code, which probably states somewhere that if you mess with one of them you mess with all of them. Not to mention Davie Jones, who shepherds the dead to the land beyond; the kraken, whose hygiene is even worse than pirates'; and Calypso, who was just scary in the third "Pirates of the Caribbean." Ninjas, on the other hand, tend to work alone, but they do have the backing of the emperor (which has got to count for something), or in rarer cases, of God himself. This advantage, however, is so inconsistent that I have to give the advantage to pirates.

The good news for ninjas is that they have the superior escape arts and can always run away.

Who Needs Church?

There are a lot of Christian books coming out these days about how church has failed and why people should not attend Sunday services but should instead participate in some sort of "home-made-free-flowing-non-congregational-low-commitment-what-can-church-do-for-me" form of church. Such church critics are spot on.

First of all, we should all remember that, by definition, church is not a building, but the body of believers throughout space and time, and since a particular "church building/meeting" cannot replicate the full scope of church, we ought to abandon it altogether. What, I ask you, is the point of congregating on a regular basis with other believers to worship, fellowship, and encourage when it is impossible to meet with "the church" as a whole? 

Second, don't forget that churches exists to satisfy those who attend. What can the church do for ME? Often, church leadership loses sight of this, and directs members in other directions. Some common indicators of a church losing this focus include: worship is at the wrong volume level, the sermon is not the right length, the sermon calls me to something that requires sacrifice of comforts, they don't sing the right songs, the pastor asks you to participate in some sort of mid-week activity, etc. If you never get anything out of church, then you shouldn't be going. There is no other point of church except to receive, to be fed, to be poured into.  I cannot be asked to give back, to pour into others, to use my gifts for edification of the church. After all, that would require sacrifice and effort!

Third, the church is full of broken people. We are all, by nature, fallen people. Because of that, no church will ever be perfect, and frankly, a "local expression" of church is only worth pursuing if it can be done perfectly. There is no room in heaven for a church that doesn't get it right. Attempts at imperfect church simply lead to faction, heresy, and hypocrisy.

Fourth, there are many documented incidents of pastors, elders, deacons, and others in leadership roles abusing their power, failing their congregation, sinning in egregious manners, and generally not living up to their titles. Because this has happened on occasion throughout history, it is safe to assume that every pastor, elder, deacon, and leader is corrupt, and that it's only a matter of time before he fails utterly (and likely in a way he just preached against). If you have been hurt by your church leadership, or even by members of the church, don't bother looking elsewhere because everywhere is the same. Every church leader and member is really just waiting for an opportunity to screw you. There is no such thing as an accepting church. 

Fifth, there are more benefits of a "non-regular, non-Sunday morning" church than of our traditional church services. For example, you can sleep in on Sundays; you don't have those pesky regularly scheduled meetings, which allows you to spend more time working (or playing video games); you don't have to see all those broken people in need of Jesus on a regular basis; you are not required to develop your spiritual gifts to try to help people who are beyond help; you can sleep in bed rather than through the sermon; you can keep your "church" meetings unpredictable, which fools the demons so they have less chance of tempting you; you can eliminate all face to face interaction with other Christians by simply having "church" discussions on IM (or facebook); you can discuss Scripture with people free from the training of seminaries, and thereby draw whatever conclusions you want; you can escape those feelings of guilt you use to have when you went to church on Sunday; you can stop singing those awful songs they sang all the time on Sundays; and finally, you don't have to give any of your hard earned money to a church that will spend it irresponsibly - instead, you can spend it on your pleasures!

I hope you can see the dangers of traditional church. If you are still a part of a church, you should get out as soon as possible (although many pastors make such escape difficult by continually emailing and calling to check up on you). The new church is no church. The average person is much better off trying to match schedules with busy friends and meeting for informal discussions about "stuff" than going to a Sunday morning church services.

Oh, and also, if we destroyed all the nations church buildings, we could use the land for commercialized vending, which would create jobs and stimulate the economy thus pulling us out of this recession.