Archive for April, 2008

How to Make a Difference

April 30, 2008

With “Make a Difference” day just around the corner, I thought it would be appropriate to tell how to make a difference across the world without leaving your own home.

Mercy Ships is an international health charity which provides first world life changing surgeries free of charge to third world patients.  It has performed thousands of facial plastic surgeries ranging from cleft lip and palate repair to removal of life threatening facial and neck tumors.  It has performed eye surgeries initiating sight for people with congenital cataracts.  Imagine seeing your parent or spouse for the first time.  The joy on videos of these encounters is contagious.

How can we help from home?  One can donate money on a monthly basis, but if you want to be a little more personal, why not consider putting together a patient care kit?  It will be given to one of the patients aboard the Africa Mercy, and you can include a “get well” card you have made or bought, and it will bring huge encouragement to the individual.  You can make or buy a bag large enough to include: a hand held mirror, wash cloths, a travel package of wet wipes, a large bar of soap, a tube of toothpaste, a net shower puff, a comb and a toothbrush.  If you don’t want to do a package, but find a bargain on any of these items, please feel free to send them along.  You can mail them to:

Mercy ships

Attn:  Procurement

15862 Hwy 110 N

Lindale, TX 75771

 

You can also send craft items for patients to use during recovery.  Examples:

Yarn, crochet hooks, colored paper, art supplies, scissors, brightly colored fabric, thread, zippers and buttons.

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I Saw Expelled Recently

April 29, 2008

I saw Expelled recently, and can understand why the atheist blogs are in such a snit over it.  It does have quite a ring of truth to it.  I can personally testify that someone I love was blacklisted from University teaching positions because he had a link to an Intelligent Design website on his personal website.  Like some of the people interviewed on Expelled, he got interviews, but the interviewer wanted to argue against Intelligent Design, not interview him.  They also mentioned visiting his personal website.

 

If academic freedom is so restricted—and it is restricted to political correctness in fields other than biology, how will we remain the innovative thinkers the world has always depended on?  How can we advance if so many fields of inquiry are closed to study?  Another person I love has been a university professor, and I am amazed at the stories of shunning and downright harassment of those who don’t tow the politically correct line.  I’m nearly convinced academic freedom is gone from most American Universities. 

 

I thought the link to Nazi Germany was frightening.  Ideas have consequences, and part of  Nazi ideology was about the superman who would evolve if inferior people were eliminated from the gene pool.  It isn’t too far away, judging by the selective abortion we’re already practicing in this country.  Scary thought for those older folks like me who may one day require care—wonder if I’ll just be “put away” by my government.

 

I thought Richard Dawkins was interesting—especially his “moral” condemnation of the “Old Testament God”.  How silly to call a God you don’t believe in a whole bunch of derogatory names—especially since making moral judgments falls in the realm of religion, which he says he doesn’t believe in.

 

What about the statistical evidence for the unlikelihood of evolution happening through random processes?  That question was never answered.  Also, what about the intermediate steps between amino acids or even proteins and a living cell?  No one answered that question either. 

 

Lastly, if our bill of rights is based on “our creator” endowing us with certain inalienable rights, what will happen to our freedom when the creator has been expelled from the country?

Lost Sense of Wonder

April 28, 2008

 

 

Some people can look at a delicious meal and see calories, fat grams, carbohydrate grams, how much it cost, whether it was organic, and how it was prepared.  Other people just enjoy it and thank the cook.  I think we humans fall into these two categories about a lot of things.  We have, in our scientific age, lost our sense of wonder.  People look at this wondrous universe and reduce it to molecules, genes, chemistry, laws of physics, and so on ad infinitum.  They can’t just seem to enjoy the beauty of a wildflower field, a sunset, the ocean, the mountains, babies, and feel thankful.  Beauty is somehow about taking the whole package and appreciating it.  If you pick something to pieces and analyse all the separate parts, something is lost.  So, everything being as it is, its all in the way you look at it.  I will pick apart where I must, but for most of life, I want to enjoy, drink it in, and be thankful…very thankful.

 

Nonni

Science and God

April 27, 2008

I cannot take credit for this piece.  Someone e-mailed it to me, however I thought it was worth sharing for the thought it may provoke.

 

Science vs. God

“Let me explain the problem science has with Jesus Christ.” The atheist professor of philosophy pauses before his class and then asks one of his new students to stand.

“You’re a Christian, aren’t you, son?”

“Yes sir,” the student says.

“So you believe in God?”

“Absolutely.”

“Is God good?”

“Sure! God’s good.”

“Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?”

“Yes.”

“Are you good or evil?”

“The Bible says I’m evil.”

The professor grins knowingly. ” Aha! The Bible!” He considers for a moment.

“Here’s one for you. Let’s say there’s a sick person over here and you can cure him. You can do it . Woul d you help him? Would you try?”

“Yes sir, I would.”

“So you’re good…!”

“I wouldn’t say that.”

“But why not say that? You’d help a sick and maimed person if you could. Most of us would if we could. But God doesn’t.”

The student does not answer, so the professor continues. “He doesn’t, does he? My brother was a Christian who died of cancer, even though he prayed to Jesus to heal him How is this Jesus good? Hmmm? Can you answer that one?”

The student remains silent.

“No, you can’t, can you?” the professor says. He takes a sip of water from a glass on his desk to give the student time to relax.

“Let’s start again, young fella Is God good?”

“Er…yes,” the student says.

“Is Satan good?”

&nb sp;The student doesn’t hesitate on this one. “No.”

“Then where does Satan come from?”

The student : “From…God…”

“That’s right. God made Satan, didn’t he? Tell me, son. Is there evil in this world?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Evil’s everywhere, isn’t it? And God did make everything, correct?”

“Yes.”

“So who created evil?” The professor continued, “If God created everything, then God created evil, since evil exists, and according to the principle that our works define who we are, then God is evil.”

Without allowing the student to answer, the professor continues: “Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things, do they exist in this world?”

The student: “Yes.”

“So who created them?”

The student does not answer again, so the professor repeats his question. “Who created them? There is still no answer. Suddenly the lecturer breaks away to pace in front of the classroom. The class is mesmerized.

“Tell me,” he continues onto another student. “Do you believe in Jesus Christ, son? ”
< BR> The student’s voice is confident: “Yes, professor, I do.”

The old man stops pacing. “Science says you have five senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Have you ever seen Jesus?”

“No sir. I’ve never seen Him”

“Then tell us if you’ve ever heard your Jesus?”

“No, sir, I have not.”

“Have you ever actually felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelt your Jesus? Have you ever had any sensory perception of Jesus Christ, or God for that matter?”

“No, sir, I’m afraid I haven’t.”

“Yet you still believe in him?”

“Yes.”

“According to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your God doesn’t exist. What do you say to that, son?”

“Nothing,” the student replies. “I only have my faith.”

“Yes , faith,” the professor repeats. “And that is the problem science has with God. There is no evidence, only faith.”

The student stands quietly for a moment, before asking a question of his own. “Professor, is there such thing as heat?”

“Yes,” the professor replies. “There’s heat.”

“And is there such a thing as cold?”

“Yes, son, there’s cold too.”

“No sir, there isn’t.”

The professor turns to face the student, obviously interested. The room suddenly becomes very quiet. The student begins to explain. “You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat, unlimited heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat, but we don’t have anything called ‘cold’. We can hit up to 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold; otherwise we would be able to go colder than the lo west -458 degrees. Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Abs olute zero (-458 F) is the total absence of heat. You see, sir, cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.”

Silence across the room. A pen drops somewhere in the classroom, sounding like a hammer.

“What about darkness, professor. Is there such a thing as darkness?”

“Yes,” the professor replies without hesitation. “What is night if it isn’t darkness?”

“You’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something; it is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light, but if you have no light constantly you have nothing and it’s called darkness, isn’t it? That’s the me aning we use to define the word. In reality, darkness isn’t. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?”

The professor begins t o smil e at the student in front of him. This will be a good semester. “So what point are you making, young man?”

“Yes, professor. My point is, your philosophical premise is flawed to start with, and so your conclusion must also be flawed.”

The professor’s face cannot hide his surprise this time. “Flawed? Can you explain how?”

“You are working on the premise of duality,” the student explains. “You argue that there is life and then there’s death; a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can’t even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life, just the absence of it.”

“Now tell me, professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a mon key?”

“If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man, yes, of course I do”

“Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?”

The professor begins to shake his head, still smiling, as he realizes where the argument is going. A very good semester, indeed.

“Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a preacher?”

The class is in uproar. The student remains silent until the commotion has subsided.

“To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student, let me give you an example of what I mean.”

The student looks around the r oom. “Is there any one in the class who has ever seen the professor’s brain?” The class breaks out into laughter.

“Is there anyone here who has ever heard t he pro fessor’s brain, felt the professor’s brain, touched or smelled the professor’s brain? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain, with all due respect, sir. So if science says you have no brain, how can we trust your lectures, sir?”

Now the room is silent. The professor just stares at the student, his face unreadable.

Finally, after what seems an eternity, the old man answers. “I guess you’ll have to take them on faith.”

“Now, you accept that there is faith, and, in fact, faith exists with life,” the student continues. “Now, sir, is there such a thing as evil?”

Now uncertain, the professor responds, “Of course, there is. We see it everyday. It is in the daily example of man’s inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.”

;To this the student replied, “Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God.

God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart. It’s like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light.”

The professor sat down.

Why I Trust the Bible

April 16, 2008

I never had any real difficulties accepting the part of the bible called the New Testament.  These books were written pretty close to the time of Christ by people who knew him well, associated closely with his followers, and had nothing to gain (and everything to lose) for what they wrote.  The historical records have been pretty thoroughly researched and we have more evidence for the New Testament accounts than we have for a lot of other history we have no trouble accepting.  Its really all about what you make of those accounts.  I personally believe what the accounts said.  

 

The Old Testament was another issue for me.  There were so many books, so many authors, so much antiquity.  How could I know whether to accept them as accurately preserved, and whether they were really from God?  Then, as I read the New Testament accounts of Jesus, I noticed something.  He referred to nearly every book in the Old Testament, and spoke of them as though they were real history and really from God.  He actually said the Old Testament prophets spoke of him, and as I re-read the Old Testament I could see a lot of prophecy about things that would happen to Jesus—things he had no control over.  I realized it was all part of the whole.  Jesus validated it, fulfilled prophecy proved it, and I believed I could trust it as being God’s message.

 

Nonni

Secondary Gains of Belief

April 15, 2008

Last post I wrote about secondary gains being a way that “mental illness” can confer a hidden benefit in a person’s life. I’m wondering if there aren’t secondary gains from a person’s belief system that also confer some hidden benefits.

 

If a person is a believer in God, the secondary gains are things like the hope that life is eternal, the hope of seeing deceased loved ones in that eternal state, hope that life has meaning and purpose, hope that God has a plan and a purpose for things that happen, hope that God answers prayer, and hope that He has our best interests at heart.

 

If a person is a skeptic or agnostic, the secondary gains are things like a feeling of ones self being in control, a belief that science will find answers to human problems, the ability to make one’s own moral and ethical judgments, a feeling of freedom from any external controls of a moral nature, and the feeling of making one’s own meaning of one’s own life.

 

If one has a reasonable case for being a believer in God, I think I would prefer that alternative.  I realize it might mean I owe Him something for creating me, but I would gladly exchange the freedom to do as I choose, for the meaning and purpose He created for me and the hope of a life spent with Him forever.

 

Nonni

Secondary Gains

April 15, 2008

Back in the dark ages when I worked in mental health, we didn’t have all the pharmaceuticals we have today, and relied a lot more on inpatient hospitalization and psychotherapy of various kinds.  One of the rather interesting concepts was the concept of “secondary gain”.  Some people, unconsciously, or perhaps consciously had something to gain by being “a mental patient”.  Sometimes the psychiatrists could weed out people who were “playing crazy”.  What were the secondary gains?  Oftentimes it was a release from some intolerable living situation.  It might be huge expectations on a person they felt they could never meet.  It might be a career they had spent many years preparing for and then found they hated.  It might be a wildly dysfunctional family.  It might just be that the expectations for the person’s success in life, (their own or their family’s) was more than they ever felt they could live up to.  It might be the marriage from hell.  In all these cases, being “mentally ill” released the person from the burden of the expectations.  They couldn’t be expected to continue what they were doing, and it wasn’t their fault—they were ill.  I think its still a useful concept in some situations.  When somebody you love is doing something “crazy” or dysfunctional, something that makes no sense, or seems to be self defeating, ask yourself whether there is a secondary gain.  It may help you understand the person better, and perhaps eventually help them find a more rewarding way to deal with life.

 

Nonni

We Live on a Knife Edge

April 13, 2008

I said I’d share something I thought was awesome when I first saw it.  I have been reading bits and snatches of and about John Polkinghorne, and I say bits and snatches, because the man’s intellect is such that I am swimming in deep water.  However, this paragraph jumped out at me.

Its from his book One World, published in 1987 in London by SPCK, pgs 57-58

“In the early expansion of the universe there has to be a close balance between the expansive energy (driving things apart) and the force of gravity (pulling things together.)  If expansion dominated then matter would fly apart too rapidly for condensation into galaxies and stars to take place.  Nothing interesting could happen in so thinly spread a world.  On the other hand, if gravity dominated, the world would collapse in on itself again before there was time for the processes of life to get going.  For us to be possible requires a balance between the effects of expansion and contraction which at a very early epoch in the universe’s history (the Planck time) has to differ from equality by not more than 1 in 10 to the 60th power.*  The numerate will marvel at such a degree of accuracy.  For the non-numerate I will borrow an illustration from Paul Davies of what the accuracy means.  He points out that it is the same as aiming at a target an inch wide on the other side of the observable universe, twenty thousand million light years away, and hitting the mark!”

*[I don’t know how to make the little 60 on my computer–what am I doing reading a book by a former professor of mathematical physics at Cambridge University?] 

Anyway, hope this is as awesome to you as it was to me.

Nonni

Orchestra without a conductor

April 13, 2008

I was in the middle of a small orchestra and chorus today.  It is amazing being in the center of that experience of sound.  You hear things you don’t hear from the audience.  Each instrument sounds individually, and the individual voice parts can be heard to some degree as well.  Its taken for granted that written music is used…and it takes a conductor to keep everyone together.  Now, it would be quite possible for everyone to sing or play whatever they felt like, and none of that would hurt the others, but without playing the same song, it would be noise and not music.  Also, even when playing and singing the same song, if the whole group isn’t together, it still sounds like noise, tho faintly recognizable as something supposed to be music.  The audience surely doesn’t appreciate it.  When everyone is on the same page, and the director has everyone together, and each part is coming in at exactly the right time, its beautiful music.  The whole thing seems to me to be an allegory of the creation/evolution debate.  How could evolution happen with no script and no director, and the whole universe be in such a marvelously beautiful harmony.  Take into account the physics and chemistry that have to work together for the biology to even have a chance.  Amazing!  Seems without belief in a director you have to concentrate on each part without considering the awesomeness of the whole as it works together.  Next time I will share an awesome bit of information I just found.

Nonni

Another Reason to Believe in Creation

April 13, 2008

We hear all sorts of reasons to believe or disbelieve in creation.  One reason I believe in creation, is a reason that is rarely discussed.  I don’t personally think you can intellectually arrive at the knowledge of a creator.  Partly its because this creation is flawed by evil.  This isn’t the world the creator originally made—it’s the world after the evil one got hold of it, and did as much as he could to spoil it.  Even though flawed, it is still full of wonders.  But skeptics will point to the imperfections. 

 

The second reason I don’t think we can arrive at knowledge of a creator through our intellect, is I believe our intellects are unequal to the task.  We see what we see through science, but our view is mighty small.  Our minds are mighty small, and we will never, never know all there is to know about this universe.  Even what we think we understand we have to keep revising.

 

If God wanted finite humanity to know Him, and I believe He did, (just as I believe a mother who loses her child will never forget it and often make superhuman efforts to find it), God will have to make contact with the human race.  He did.

 

I once saw a billboard that said “Do I have to come down there.  God.”   He did.  Jesus claimed to be one with God, and backed it up with dozens and dozens (at least) of miracles, culminating in his own rising from the dead.  Some seemingly can’t believe, but the historic evidence for it is greater than for most history we have no trouble accepting.  Just because such a human being never happened before or since Jesus, doesn’t mean the things recorded about him aren’t true.  The people who wrote these accounts risked their lives for them.  The accounts are unbelievable if you think Jesus is an ordinary human. The accounts are believable if what Jesus said is true—that he is one with God.

 

Jesus talked about the creation as though he had no trouble at all accepting its validity.  So, in that sense it hinges on him.  If he is one with God, and talks about God creating what we see, I have no trouble accepting that God created it.

 

So, in my belief there’s some faith and some reason.  I see plenty of evidence for Jesus being who he said he was, that is the reason part.  I trust him with all I don’t see and all that I will never, at least in this life, understand.  That is the faith part.

 

Nonni