Mammonite Messiah

28 03 2009

I once declared that I would never again play the state lottery unless God sent me a dollar bill floating on the waves of the ocean with which to buy the lottery ticket.  Before that, I had only played twice.  The first time was my way of celebrating my eighteenth birthday, and the second time was because my coworkers wanted to do a lottery pool, so I joined just to be a good sport.  After the pool at work won a minimal prize and they refused to give me my share, I swore I would never play again, and if I did, then I would never do it through a pool.  I know that the math behind the gamble is a fool’s wager.  The odds of losing outweigh the average jackpot.  It’s not an investment.  It’s a complete waste.

At the time, I was fresh out of college and making a beginner’s income.  My only hope of owning my own home or having the level of prosperity that I wanted would have to come through the winnings of the lottery, as ridiculous as it sounded.  Eventually, I got a better-paying job with excellent security, and I still couldn’t afford to buy a home.  The hardest aspect to this was knowing that I was working for one of the best-paying employers in my field.  Any hope of advancement beyond this point seemed unlikely.  The state lottery seemed like the only solution, even if it was a bad one.  Despite this, I declared to my wife that I would not play it unless God sent me the dollar with which to buy the ticket, and he’d have to send it to me on the waves of the ocean, just so I would know that it was him.  That sounded like a fair test at the time.

Then one morning I approached the surf on the north side of Cabrillo Beach, and I noticed that there seemed to be a small rectangular thing floating in half an inch of water, gliding in and out with the flow.  Upon closer inspection I saw that it was a one-dollar bill.  When I picked it up and looked at it, I was reminded of what I had said less than a year earlier.  I wondered if this meant that God wanted me to play the lottery, which might mean that he intended for me to win.  At the same time, I wondered if I had the courage to test that idea.  I mumbled, “Very funny,” under my breath and put the sopping wet bill in my pocket.  I wondered and debated with myself for a long time as to whether or not God would really want me to waste it on a lottery ticket, thusly squandering the one little thing he had given me.  Perhaps it was just a test.  Perhaps he really planned for me to win.  I even considered that it might be something of a supernatural practical joke.  I asked my wife what she thought I should do with it.  She told me to buy something I wanted, because then I’d at least have something to show for it.

The thing that bothered me most about it, though, was the realization of what money had become to me.  Vast riches might be in store, and the only cost was a small sum of one lousy dollar, and even that cost was covered for me.  All I had to do was spend it.  If it lost, then I wasn’t out anything.  If it won, then I’d be set for life.  Something in me, though, said, “Buddy, you spend that thing on a lottery ticket, and you’re putting your faith in money, not God.  Where does your loyalty lie?  In whom do you trust?  God has provided for all of your needs so far, and he’ll keep doing it if you put your faith in him.  Put your faith in that thing, and I don’t know what’s gonna’ happen.”

It’s funny, because it parallels Christian theology, but in a worldly way.  All of Heaven is offered to us at the cost of one person’s death, and that price was already paid.  It costs us nothing.  We’ve got the dollar.  All we have to do is spend it.  Yet, many people don’t take it.  It’s free, and it’s easy.  It’s a no-risk situation.  You can’t lose.  Unless you think you’re going to be damned to Hell for believing in the Jewish messiah, there’s no good reason why not.  Yet, they won’t buy the ticket and take a chance on God, as will I not buy their ticket and take a chance on mammon.

There’s just something about being served daily by people who work hard to make a living, earning their daily bread, for some lazy man who did nothing to deserve their service.  I could eat out more, and the waitress would deserve her tip, but I would not deserve my meal.  I could live in a nice neighborhood, but my neighbors would have done something desirable for someone else to get to where they were, while all I did was pluck a bill from the sea.  I tried to rationalize that this was capital for a business venture, but I knew better than that.  I wouldn’t waste time and energy trying to use money to make money, when I already had enough to be set for life.  Why would I spend precious hours of my life running a bookstore, when I could be relaxing by the pool with a book?  Yet, as a storeowner I would be doing something useful to justify my membership in society, but otherwise I’d be living like a leech, enjoying the fruits of other people’s labor.

The cells in our bodies all have the same genetic code.  The skin cell has all of the information it needs to be a nerve cell.  Every cell has the blueprint to be any other cell, yet they each know which parts of that blueprint to read, and they ignore the rest.  Therefore, each cell takes on a very unique shape, producing specialized enzymes and serving a specialized role.  It’s like all of the different jobs held by different people in a functioning economy.  They’re all human, and most of them could do a variety of roles with the proper training, but they each learn to do something better than most other members of society, and we all benefit from the increased efficiency and effectiveness, as a result.  Cells are like that, but not the cancer cell.  Oh, no, the cancer cell was once a functional member, but it lost its distinctive shape.  It stopped performing its special function.  It became round and fat, and it took what it could get, simply because the resources were made available by all of the other hard-working cells.  When the brain cells are hungry, the other cells deny themselves of nutrients for their sake, but not the cancer cell.  It takes, because it can.

I looked at that dollar and I saw a lottery ticket and a fortune, and I saw myself as an economic cancer cell.

Unbelievers look at Christianity and see a spiritual lottery jackpot.  The Messiah is, to them, a get-out-of-Hell-free card.  They imagine that Christians would do with this spiritual windfall what they would do with a financial windfall, like the lottery, that we would squander it.  To some extent, their accusation is not unwarranted.  Paul had a certain difficulty with the early church thinking that because their sins were paid for that they were free to continue sinning.  It’s akin to a man winning a million dollars and spending himself into oblivion.  It happens all the time.  On the economic side, the lottery winners turn into a financial cancer, living lavishly at the expense of others until it ruins them.  On the spiritual side, Christians often live lavishly at the expense of the grace of God until it ruins them.

Don’t waste the grace of God.  Reinvest it.  Use it for the benefit of others.  Be a functional member of the body of Christ.  Live with discretion and self-control.  Be the person that God meant for you to be.


Steering Into Disaster

25 03 2009

I see it all the time: there’s a tow truck at the side of the road, and the car in front of me, instead of hugging the opposite side of his lane actually veers toward the hazard.  If you’ve never seen such drivers, then you’re probably one of them.  It’s really a common phenomenon.  People tend to head toward what they’re watching, and they tend to watch the most interesting thing around, which is the hazard at the side of the road.  It’s totally unconscious.  If you were to ask them, they’d probably deny doing it.  Tow truck drivers get hit by cars that had plenty of room to avoid them.  That’s why I’ll never work as a tow truck driver.  If the passers-by had been focused on the empty space where they should have been guiding the car, then the collision never would have happened.

You head for whatever you focus your attention on.  If you spend your time thinking about a sin, then you’re probably going to commit that sin.  Yeah, sure, you’re just thinking about how to avoid that sin.  Don’t kid yourself.  Your conscious mind might be saying it, but it’s only a front for the subconscious.  A person could spend all day planning out how not to sin, only to commit the deed in the end.

People who are afraid that they won’t be able to sleep never get to sleep.  They lie awake all night thinking about how they can’t sleep.  Some people walk into a restroom afraid that they won’t be able to urinate.  No matter how badly they need to go, or how hard they try, they just can’t do it.  It’s not a physical problem, often, but a psychological one.   Some people think about breathing, and they wonder what would happen if they stopped consciously doing it.  They can’t stop consciously doing it, because they keep thinking about it, and the more they think about it the harder it is to breathe naturally.  Some people fear public speaking.  They’re so afraid that when they get on stage and open their mouths, nothing will come out.  Then, when the situation arises, that very fear paralyzes them and fulfills itself.

You don’t get to sleep by thinking about restlessness.  You get there by thinking about relaxing things.  You don’t avoid sin by thinking about it.  You avoid sin by thinking about things that are full of virtue.  It’s really the same principle.

People say that they can’t help it.

A truck driver can hold his need to use the restroom for so long that it backs up to his kidneys and causes kidney failure.  Prisoners on hunger strike  have denied themselves of food for so long that they starved to death.  Soldiers have been trained to hold their breath almost to the point of lethal suffocation.  What, then, is this wimpy temptation to sin?  Ordinary people can deny themselves of legitimate needs.  Certainly they can deny themselves of what they do not need.

Although it’s tempting to say that this world is full of new temptations that past generations never had, nothing could be further from the truth.  The essence of these things has always been around in one form or another, and, remarkably, for every soul who has been tempted, there has always been some jerk there to sell him what he wants.  Every temptation boils down to just a few basic, simple pleasures.  We’re only built to feel good in just so many ways, whether it be pride, relaxation, comfort, food or other physical amenity.  Every sin stems from a temptation, and every temptation can be traced to some simple thing innate in humanity, usually some stimulus meant to promote adaptive behavior.  People are most creative when it comes to satisfying simple pleasures, and it gets to the point of utter perversion at times.

That’s all it is, though, just a simple shallow feeling being satisfied temporarily.  It’s about as meaningful as putting on socks when your feet are cold.  It feels good, nothing more.  Sin is taking that simple reponse and blowing it out of proportion.  What it lacks in depth, it attempts to make up for in sheer volume.  Convenience is nice, because it promotes efficient behavior.  Yet, we take it to the point of killing inconvenient people, and tailgating slow drivers to coerce them into driving faster.  Pride is not all bad if it motivates us to make the best of ourselves.  Yet, we’ve turned it into a worship of ourselves, forsaking even the ideals of God in favor of our own.

Some people say that abstinence until marriage is unrealistic.  Those of us who have actually waited until marriage find this to be a foolish assertion.  You don’t win wars by waving a white flag, and you don’t defeat temptation by calling it irresistible.

And you don’t overcome sin by dwelling on it.  Don’t watch that dirty movie.  Don’t listen to that dirty talk.  Don’t fill your mind with trash.

For every temptation that comes our way, there have been numerous heroes throughout all of history, ordinary people like you and me, some of them even weaker than us, who faced that same temptation and won.  There is no temptation on the face of this earth that has not been conquered many times by people who were not especially gifted in doing so.  Virtue is available to all people.  God has made no command that cannot be obeyed.  Everyone has a choice to make, whether to serve God, or to serve simple, stupid pleasures.  These days, we’re turning vices into virtues.  We’re normalizing sin.  Instead of calling people to righteousness, we’re helping people make excuses for themselves.

If this doesn’t change soon, we’re toast.  We’re steering into disaster.  We’re so focused on sin that we’ve lost sight of righteousness.


The Ungrateful Living

21 03 2009

If the value of a human life equals greater than or equal to what must be sacrificed in order to sustain a person’s life, then the following conversion factor might be used:

 1 Human = 180 steer = 800 hogs = 34,000 chickens

 I had a moment of wondering whether my life could be worth more than the equivalent of thirty-four thousand chickens.  Granted, chickens aren’t the only thing I eat, so I’ll never actually devour that many, but the principle remains the same, that quite a number of living things are to die in my place that I might continue to live.  I could be vegetarian, I suppose, but it isn’t the suffering of animals that bothers me, so much as the destruction of life.  Pain is just a response to harm.  Plants, though they lack nerve cells, still have an electrochemical response to injury, like that of a nerve, but without the nerve.

 What, then, am I to make of this?

 We enter this world screaming and crying, and we leave in much the same way.  Although, according to my father, I did not cry when I was born, and the doctors thought that something was wrong with me.  There may actually be something amiss, but I like to think that I’ll leave in the same way, in wide-eyed wonder.  At least, the thought of screaming and crying doesn’t exactly appeal to me.  Of course, neither does death, but there’s not much to be done about that.  Nine months prior, I did not exist at all, so being ejected from my warm happy place was still a huge net gain over the previous year.

 From the very first day, it’s always the same with some people: whine and cry, and then whine some more.  We see the loss so easily, but we are mostly blind to the blessings.  We curse God for the loss of a loved one, which, often, we never thanked him for when that person was still alive.  The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Everything is on loan.  Any good in our lives is still better than what we had two seconds before conception.  We’re always ahead.  Every single living person has an abundance of good in life.

 Yet, there is evil.  We seem to bask in the glow of a bountiful life for but a moment, and then something snatches it away.  It’s like giving a toy to a child on Christmas Eve, and then smashing it viciously on Christmas morning.  The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.

 For every blessing, there comes a loss.  All good things eventually come to an end.  However, for every loss, there was a blessing.  You can’t lose what you don’t have.  In theory, the losses can never exceed the gains.  You can’t leave this world with less than what you came in with, which is nothing.  In theory, the number of times a person shakes his fist at God should never exceed the number of times he thanked God for his blessings.  Yet, it happens all the time that people have a crisis of faith for losing what they were never thankful for in the first place.

 The Son of God died to give you life after life, so that you might not end in the negative, so that you could go to Heaven, rather than Hell.  For those who can’t swallow that, there’s always the equivalent of thirty-four thousand chickens that had to die so that you might live this mortal life.  Yet, spend some time in a restaurant, and you’re less likely to see people giving thanks to God for their food, than you are to see someone complain that his dead chicken was not what he was hoping for.  The poor dumb animal died to save your life, for crying out loud.  It needs more salt, you say.

 Granted…everything gets taken for granted.  It takes six billion base pairs in my genome to make me human.  Those are six billion things to be thankful for.  It’s what makes the difference between the diner and the dinner.

 My friend died two weeks ago.  Shortly before we lost her, they amputated her foot.  The night before the surgery, her eyes were alive with fear, and she gripped my hand with the clutch of one hanging on for dear life.  She was in horror at the thought of losing that foot.  I would be, too.  Yet, come to think of it, I’m not sure that I’ve ever thanked God for my foot.  I might cry out, “Why, God, did you let this happen to me?” to which he might reply, “Let what happen?  Let you develop feet while you were in your mother’s womb?”  I could lose both feet, but I would still be ahead of what I brought into this life, which is nothing.  We live in Zero Land, halfway between positive and negative infinity.  We enter with nothing, and we leave with nothing.

 The happenstance of death is an illusion, though.  People who work around the dead have said so often that they could go weeks without a body, and then in a couple of days have more corpses than they know what to do with.  So many people from the same area die from so many completely unrelated things all around the same time.  If we look at the causes of death, then there is no relationship, yet the timing is so uneven as to defy the possibility of a coincidence.  It’s not a coincidence, though.  Only God decides when we go.  He gives, and he takes away.  He knows the hairs on our heads, and he knows when we’ll die.  The means of that end is the illusion that makes us feel as though our lives were ever in a state of peril, that death has no meaning, that its timing is nothing but dumb luck.

 There was a band called the Grateful Dead, and I always had a feeling that it was not so much that they would be grateful to die, as it was that they were ungrateful to be alive.

 Every day, I thank God for my family, my home, my health, my car, my job, my goldfish (named Ampersand), and for each of the thirty-four thousand chickens that give their lives that I might live.  I also thank God for the sacrifice he gave, that I might leave with more than I came in with.  I might feel disappointed with God for any given turn in my life, but I never want him to be disappointed in me for having been ungrateful.


Perceptual Fog

17 03 2009

We experience in the past.  We act in the future.  By the time it’s reconstructed in our minds, the event is over, and by the time our bodies move to respond, it’s already the future.  Somewhere in between the two lies an infinitely narrow time span known as now.  Now doesn’t exist for any length of time.  It’s not even now by the time we acknowledge it.  It’s never now, because now is like two parentheses with nothing between them.  It’s not a long enough time span to contain any event.  Now is simply the interface between the future and the past.  It’s never now, yet it’s always now.  We exist in the now.  It is now now, yet, it is never now.  Between one second and the next, there are an infinite number of slices of time that at some point could have been called “now,” and each of those slices would be infinitely thin.  It’s another case of infinity divided by infinity.  What does it equal?  Sometimes it equals a second.  Sometimes it equals a year or more.  It’s yet another metaphysical mystery, because to study the laws of physics and their causes is to study the laws of metaphysics.

Sure, if all we did was study the effects of time on the world we know, then we’d only be studying physics, but when we wonder about the forces giving rise to time, then we step outside of the physical universe to examine it circumspectly.  An infinite number of nows could be a second, or it could be a year, so what makes the two any different from each other?  The perception of time arises from the effects that events have on the brain with time.  A year’s worth of events change the workings of the brain in terms of memories.  It works in cycles.  Each thought is experienced over and over, making a thought last for longer than a fleeting fraction of a second.  The more times a cycle runs through the brain, the greater the perception of time.  The key is that the brain, like the world around us, is a product of cause and effect.  Everything that it is now is the result of cumulative effects from the past.  In the next moment, there will have been a few more effects enacted upon it, and the workings of the mind will be slightly different as a result.

The brain can’t know the future, because it hasn’t been affected by the future yet.  The future is just as real as the past, but we just can’t perceive it because cause and effect only work in one direction.  To know the future is to violate this principle, and reverse this order.  This gives us every reason to fear the future, because we cannot see it clearly.  Had cause and effect generally worked in the opposite direction, then what we call the future now, would functionally be the past, and vice versa.  We’d be in the same boat we’re in now, but with the terminology reversed.  If cause and effect worked in both directions…things could get interesting.  Effectively, there would be no such thing as time.  The past would affect the future, which would then turn around and affect the past, and back again.  The time line would not be a line, but a plane.  Each time a cause and effect bounces back and forth on the time line between future and past, the entire line moves up a notch, drawing a zigzagging line depicting causal relationships as they bounce back and forth.

That’s if cause and effect can ever work in reverse order.  If I hit someone, they might fall backward.  However, I’d be shocked if a person fell backward and I responded by involuntarily throwing a punch.  Therefore, if cause and effect could work in reverse order, normal causal relationships would still always work in the same direction as they are seen to do now.  The difference would be in events that do not usually happen, such as foretelling of the future.  Telling the past is easy, because the causes of the past affect the memories of the present.  To tell the future would require an entirely different set of causal relationships, ones that do not normally happen.  The causes would exist after the effects.

Where does prophecy come from?  It comes from God, does it not?  Therefore, though for us time functions one-dimensionally, for God it must exist in two dimensions at the very least.  All we have is a future and a past.  We see a static time line.  It is what it is.  If the effects ever precede the causes, then we’re dealing with two-dimensional time, or a time line that changes with time.  It’s a difficult concept to grasp, but it is necessarily true.  In order to foretell the future, we need the assistance of one for whom time has one dimension more than we do.

The situation was similar in a previous post, Sid, The Defender, where a circle named Sid lived in a two-dimensional world and could only see objects that existed in that plane.  He was unaware of the three-dimensional person that could see him.  He could not understand the entirety of the finger that crossed through his world.  It looked like a circle to him.  If we wanted to, we could have that circle (the finger cross section) walk through one of his walls, a simple line, by lifting our finger out of his plane on one side of his wall, and placing it back into his world on the other side.  With the extra dimension to our advantage, what would be impossible in his world becomes easy for us.  Then, when we see an angel walk through walls or disappear entirely, or when the beings of a supernatural realm observe us without being seen, we marvel at the impossibility of it.  Yet, if they have the advantage of a fourth dimension, then they have the same advantage over us that we had over Sid.  The impossible becomes possible, but within certain limits.  Angels are not omnipotent.  They strive against their own forces of evil, just as we struggle against ours.

Some people see time as the fourth dimension.  I don’t.  Time has a dimension.  It’s the timeline.  For God, that’s a plane, having two dimensions, maybe more.  I don’t even know what it is for the angels and devils.  I can only say that I suspect they’re in the same boat as us on that one.  Otherwise, Satan would have seen his eventual defeat and decided against rebellion, or chosen to undo his rebellion and make it as though it never happened.  Had it never happened, the underlying root of the evil would still have been there.  He’d still be a devil at heart.  The same would be true for us.  Choosing righteousness because we see our own Hell looming before us is no righteousness at all.  Everything we know about Heaven and Hell, God and anything that might make dirty rotten sinners like us act like angels is a matter of faith.  Were it obvious, could people see the Hell before them like the memory of something that has not happened yet, they might not act out the evil that was in their hearts, but the underlying motivation would still be there.  The fog of perception that keeps the future hazy to us makes all the difference between faith that saves and uncontested fact that makes for boring textbooks.  People avoid running into walls, because they are sure that the walls exist.  They can believe what they want about the afterlife.

In the attic of my mind, I asked God if things would work out all right.  He looked up from his writing of history to say that things would turn out just fine for me.  “Then, I won’t end up dead in this story?” I asked.  “No,” he replied, “You’ll die, but it’ll work out all right for you.”  I’ll die, but I’ll be just fine.  Okay….

Be thankful that you’re blind to the future.  If not, then you’d be reliving your life from the very beginning with all of the memories of things that haven’t happened yet, all of the disasters, all of the burden.  You’d know about the September 11 attacks well in advance.  You’d feel like a jerk if you did nothing about it, and you’d be pulling your hair out if you tried to stop it.  You’d hate your enemies before they deserved it, and you would be faulted for your baseless aversion.  You’d love your future spouse while you were nothing but a stranger to that person.  Spontaneity would be utterly dead.  Everything would be scripted.  Your time of death would be known, and life would be a countdown.  Everything would be set so far in advance that life would lose its meaning.  The reason it would lose its meaning is because you’d be the one responsible for giving it that meaning, rather than God, who currently performs that role.  If you knew all events that would result from any action you made, all of life would be scripted by you, not God.  This person only loves you because you knew what it would take to make them love you.  That job you have is only yours because you knew what strings to pull.  All of life is what it is, because you made it that way, if you could see the future the way that you see the past.

Thank God for your ignorance.  Thank him for the perceptual fog that grants him the right to author the meaning of your life.


No Intelligence Here

13 03 2009

Early autotrophic quadrocyclite species



Primitive scateboardite in its native environment

The earliest of the motile machines to roll out of the primordial ooze more than twenty stoopillion years ago were four-wheeled creatures, known as skateboardites.  These organisms were believed to be autotrophic and capable of slow and simple movement.  Their design was so simple that their fossils are often mistaken for bubbles in mafic rock formations.  These simple machines were quickly replaced by slightly more capable versions, also having four wheels, known as the toycarites.

Toycarites had evolved a more complex steering, and some protective armor.  Rudimentary headlights can also be seen in their earliest evolutionary stage.


Late Modernassic Age tricyclite species


Early Victorianaceous Age tricyclite

Here, we find one of the earliest evolutionary branches, the tricyclites, first appearing in the Victorianaceous period ten googlepoopillion years ago.  Earliest species have been found with larger back wheels, while contemporary species are generally found with smaller rear wheels.  How these species have managed to remain relatively unchanged throughout natural history poses a paleological mystery.  They appear to have become well-adapted to their environment early on.


Late bicyclite


Primitive bicyclite species

Despite the apparent success of the tricyclites, the bicyclites managed to diverge from them in the mid to late Victorianaceous period.  The earliest species show the enlarged front wheel, suggesting that they may have diverged from the most recent forms of tricyclites.  Later bicyclites display the homomorphic wheel design, as is seen in today’s bicyclites.


Early bicyclite undergoing lateral fission

Some bicyclite fossils have been found in in the process of binary fission.  The early species apparently employed a lateral fission, separating from front to back.  As seen in the photo at left, the two daughter bikes share a common rear wheel, which has not yet bifurcated.  Later bikes demonstrate anterior/posterior fission, as seen in the picture to the right.


Late bicylite undergoing anterior/posterior fission



It is here that the first of the heterotrophs appears.  Despite apparent similarities with the quadracycle heterotrophs, this line of gasoline-burning machine must have developed independently.  Thus, it is evident that the internal combustion engine must have evolved separately more than once, an amazing feat, considering its level of complexity.

The earliest motorcyclasaurus appeared in the late Industrialageuos period, approximately five dummillian years ago.

Branching off of the toycarites emerged the earliest of the heterotrophic quadracycles, known as a horselesscarriageasaurus  (right)



After them came the infamous Model T-Rex, a menace in its time.

Model T-Rex

Model T-Rex

More efficient models came later, producing greater speeds, enabling the machines to catch their prey more easily, as well as evade predators.

Deucesaurus, descendent of the earlier Model T-Rex

Deucesaurus, descendent of the earlier Model T-Rex

A.romeo var. daytonii, modern species of heterotrophic quadracyclite

A.romeo var. daytonii, modern species of heterotrophic quadracyclite

Heterotrophic quadracycle species devouring a tree.

Heterotrophic quadracyclite species devouring a tree.

At some point during the post-industrialassic age, less than two bazillian years ago, airplanes were believed to have branched off.  The propeller is believed to have evolved from an adaptation of a wheel, leaving three others for ground purposes.  The wings are thought to be homologous to quadracyclite fenders.

A. helicopter, predecesser to the airplane

A. helicopter, predecesser to the airplane

Helicopters are believed to have been a transitional species from before the evolution of complete wings.

Airplane, descendent of the quadracyclites?

Airplane, descendent of the quadracyclites?

Later airplanes evolved jet engines, which enabled them to travel higher and faster, increasing their fitness as a species.

Primitive Jet planii (J. planii var. prototypii)

Primitive Jet planii (J. planii var. prototypii)

Modern jet species in flight

Modern jet species in flight

Boat species can be seen to have evolved from the plane family, as is evidenced by intermediate boat-plane  fossils.

transitional species in plane-boat evolution

transitional species in plane-boat evolution

A modern plane of prey

A modern plane of prey

One of the most interesting evolutionary transitions is the evolution of the train.  Earliest trains appeared to have evolved from a bus-like quadracyclite species.  The earliest of these were known as the trolliates.

Bus and trolley, evolutionary cousins?

Bus and trolley, evolutionary cousins?

The advantage to rail-bound living is unclear.  However several different evolutionary lines appear to have diverged early on, giving rise to the deisel train and the cable car.  Later species of the deisel train developed coal-eating (coalophageous) ability to adapt to the abundance of coal versus refined deisel.

Early deisel train

Early deisel train

However, an asteroid strike on the Yuckatan Peninsula apparently drove the coalophageous species to extinction.

Extinct coalophageous train

Extinct coalophageous train

Cable cars eventually gave rise to trams, which still exist today in small numbers, living mostly in mountainous regions in Europe and North America.

Modern tram species, decendent of the prehistoric cable cars

Modern tram species, decendent of the prehistoric cable cars

The evolutionary relationship of the bumper species of cars is unclear.  Some scientists have classified them as late relatives of the tram, while others classify it as a branch of the early autotrophic quadracyclite line.

B. carus, undetermined evolutionary lineage

B. carus, undetermined evolutionary lineage

Even today’s bumper species have vestigial dorsal appendages as found on the tram species.  Other species of indeterminate origin include the blimp species, and the simple ICBM.

Blimpus maximus, decendant of the hot air balloon, which has no known origin

Blimpus maximus, decendant of the hot air balloon, which has no known origin

A humble ICBM species, possibly originated in sulfur vents

A humble ICBM species, possibly originated in sulfur vents

Aircraft carriers appear to have evolved as a symbiotic relationship between an airplane species and a boat species.  The benefits that one provides for the other has resulted in a closely-matched evolutionary relationship, with the two machines living as a single machine.

A. carrier, a harmony of two machines

A. carrier, a harmony of two machines

In conclusion, a solid continuum has been found to exist among all machines, further substantiating the theory that all machines evolved from a common origin.  While on the surface there appears to be an intelligent design to modern machines, this is clearly not the case.  Machines evolved over the course of idiotillions of years, through chance nicks and dings and various forms of corrosion, coupled with natural selection.  No intelligent designer need ever to have been involved.  Religious members of our society may try to push this unscientific dogma into our textbooks, but we must do our best to stop this.  We cannot let the belief in a human engineer interfere with the pursuit of naturalistic science.


And that’s the way it isn’t.


Ooh, Shiny!

12 03 2009


There’s been an amusing email forward making its rounds regarding a starling that worked very hard to loot an automatic car wash of a small fortune in quarters.  A security camera was mounted to catch the thief, and the owners had a bit of a surprise coming to them.  They found the stash on a nearby rooftop, and it was clear that this little bird had been about as enthusiastic as it might have been had it understood the monetary value of money.  Well, no one faults the feathered creature for wanting to collect shiny things.

That was, after-all, the only reason that the bird wanted it, right?

This brings us to a deeper question as to why money would be made from a material such that it would be coveted both by people and animals.  Way back, long ago, when people first learned how to bake metals out of common everyday rocks and refine them into a smooth shiny blob, I imagine their first reaction was something like, “Ooh, shiny!”  Yeah, Neanderthals who could barely talk were busying themselves with rudimentary metallurgy and mineralogy…something that less than one hundredth of a percent of today’s population could even begin to do.  Never mind.

“Now look here, Fecundus, would you not say that this is a most extraordinary new material?  Might it have some excellent new potential uses?”

Yeah, that’s more like it.

The earliest metals, gold and silver, were so prized for their beauty, that they became a symbol of wealth.  The more a person could afford, the more they adorned themselves and their possessions with pretty, shiny metal.  Eventually, it was so much a symbol of wealth, that people came to see it as wealth, itself.  People bought and sold goods and services using measured weights of gold.  Then, someone got the bright idea of certifying units of gold by stamping them with an image.  That way, the value of a chunk of metal would not have to be ascertained with every transaction.  Rome mastered the concept of such a common currency.  Paper money, when it first came out, was nothing but a promissory note.  No one valued it for its own sake.  Every dollar bill could be redeemed for gold, originally.  During the colonial era, metal money was so scarce, that people resorted to buying and selling with pounds of butter and bolts of fabric.  The conversion factors must have been a nightmare to work with.  Besides, it had to be awkward to go to the grocer with a stack of butter tubs, in order to buy other food and goods.  When the promissory notes were printed, they were a great improvement in the way people did business.  Until relatively recently, before people had homosexual marriage and abortion to argue about, the big topic was whether our paper money (IOU bills) would be backed by gold or silver.  Those were the days….  Now, our money isn’t backed by either one.  The government simply prints as much as it sees fit.  Now, we hardly use the paper stuff, even.  We get our paychecks direct-deposited, and we make our purchases with credit cards, which we pay online.  If that fails, there’s always debit.  If we don’t have enough, then we can always borrow it.  Money is nothing but an abstract concept now.

So, we went from valuing the shiny metal for it’s own sake, to using that metal to buy other things.  Now we use some abstract idea birthed from that to buy prettier, shinier things, like the LCD monitor you’re staring at like a hypnotized chicken.

Ooh, shiny!

Meanwhile, the starlings, crows, raccoons, rats, sparrows and other highly materialistic creatures are still only just dazzled by the thing that built our global economy.  Greedy little imps.  I’d like to know the presumed evolutionary explanation for the love of pretty things.  Are birds’ nests stronger when they’re built out of coins?  The fact that the love of metallic money crosses species, from mammals to birds to fish, suggests some kind of universality, as though there might be something bigger at stake.  It’s as though all of creation has a shadow of a memory of something that has parted from this world, or something that we were destined to find, something shiny.  If that’s the case, then the love of money really boils down to a case of misplaced treasure.

“He took me there, and I saw a man whose appearance was like bronze; he was standing in the gateway with a linen cord and a measuring rod in his hand.”  (Ezekiel 40:3)

“His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.”  (Revelation 1:15)

“You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared.”  (Ezekiel 28:13)

“And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.”  (Revelation 4:3)

“The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls.  The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long.  He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using.  The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass.  The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.  The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.”  (Revelation 21:15-21)

Beauty is something that we cannot reason-out.  I cannot say why a shiny piece of metal is pretty.  I ponder, though, that maybe it resembles something heavenly.  This may be why people make idols out of shiny metal.  It may be why materialism started with a shiny metal.  It may be why a bird that doesn’t know gold bouillon from a dime still values both.

And it may be why the love of money has so often usurped the love of God.


The Tepid and the Isolated

7 03 2009

When standing on the edge of a precipice, on the cliff of a canyon, one might become acutely aware of one’s peril.  The difference of a few steps, or even one step, could result in plummeting to one’s mortal end.  Yes, well, that’s at the cliff’s edge.  In the stroll leading to the cliff’s edge, one is on flat and level terrain, with no such risk.  If we have acrophobia, then we have a fear of heights, they say.  It’s not a fear of heights, really.  It’s just a fear of falling.  At the cliff’s edge, we are no higher than we were on our way to the edge.  It’s not the depth of the canyon, either.  If the canyon had gently sloping sides, we’d be at no risk.  The problem is the close proximity of the depth of the canyon floor to the height of the cliff’s edge.

 Think about it: we’re all sitting at an elevation of almost four thousand miles above the center of the earth.  That’s a huge distance to fall.  No one cares, because all of that distance is filled in with dirt.  More importantly, though, all of that distance is filled in fairly evenly across the face of the globe.  Were we living on an asteroid, the horizon would be slanted so steeply in many places that we could fall to our death by falling sideways.  It’s not my elevation, or the pit’s depth, but the closeness of two elevations and their difference in depth and height.  This is the essence of useful energy.

 I suppose a person could tie boulders to cables and push them over the edge to turn a generator to make electricity.  It would be much easier, though, to harness the energy of water.  Build a dam and let the water build up behind it, and then you have enough stored energy to power a small city.  By letting the water fall from a raised elevation to a lower one, a turbine can be turned, and electricity can be generated.  But you already knew that.  There’s a difference, though, between a dammed lake in the Sierra Nevadas and a large pond in Minnesota.  Without someplace lower for the water to flow, there is no way to generate energy.

Christian spirituality is like this.  Some Christians are like an empty dam.  The water on one side is as low as the water on the other side.  They are living in the world, and they emulate the world.  The world can’t tell the difference between them and any one else.  Even God can’t tell what makes them a Christian.  The man lives with his girlfriend, but he says it’s all right, because they’re “committed” to each other, or they’re planning to get married.  She says “Jesus Christ” about as often as she says the F-word, and she even says it in the same way and for the same reasons.  They both go to church on Sunday and say their amens and praise-the-Lords.

 Some Christians, however, are like very large ponds.  They’re full of the spirit, but they’re so isolated in their holy huddles, that there’s no influence on the world around them.  They have no dam with a gaping ravine on the other side.  They’re stagnant, like a mosquito breeding ground.

 The world is full of energy, and the vast majority of it is utterly useless.  In a room that is neither hot nor cold, we are still about 530 degrees Fahrenheit (295 degrees Celsius) above having no heat at all.  That’s an awful lot of heat, really.  Yet, we can’t use it to generate electricity or do anything useful.  This is because everything is uniform.  It is this uniformity that makes a hot cup of coffee seem hot, and a cold glass of lemonade seem cold.  In reality, they’re both exceedingly hot, relative to absolute zero, just as we’re exceedingly high, relative to the center of the earth (well, some people are rather high in other ways, but that’s a different matter).  It’s the heat of a coffee on a cold day or the coolness of the lemonade on a hot day that makes the difference.  If the drinks are the same temperature as the immediate environment, then they’re tepid.  If the room is as hot as the coffee, then I don’t think I’ll be having one, thanks.

 Take that back to Christian spirituality: a believer in a room full of believers is no big deal.  A preacher in a church is nothing extraordinary.  A preacher on a street corner in downtown Amsterdam is a very big deal.  A believer surrounded by heathens is a powerhouse.  It doesn’t matter if a tight little community in Georgia is entirely Christian, and a brothel in Detroit has never heard of Christ, so long as the two never meet.  You could have a pond in the high altitude of Denver, with all of the continent below it in elevation, but if that water has no place to run, right near where it happens to be, then it’s not a useful source of energy.  It doesn’t matter how cold the South Pole is; my cup of coffee is only as good as the weather here is cold.  In fact, what would be a lukewarm beverage here would be a warm beverage there.

 The lukewarm Christian is exactly like his environment.  Nothing sets him apart.  Either he’s in the world and of the world, or he’s not in the world at all.  Jesus was the perfect example of a high free-energy person.  He surrounded himself with sinners, yet he never sinned.

 There’s another side to this story, however.  The cup of coffee eventually reaches room temperature.  A drop of coffee reaches that temperature only a second after hitting the floor.  A large carafe takes longer.  A person who leaves the church loses his faith much faster than a person who attends it weekly and then some.  A hundred drops of coffee, or even a thousand drops, will all reach the same temperature as the environment within seconds, but if they come together in a single cup, the environment has less power to affect them.  Everyone we meet has the power to influence us, and we have the power to influence them.  If we lack the fellowship of believers and the reinforcement of our faith, then we risk losing that faith altogether.

 Yet, even when the individual drops are combined into a single cup, it still approaches its environment, albeit more slowly.  If we are not led by the Holy Spirit, then we will not have that internal source of energy that keeps our faith hot in a cold world.  A large body of believers, even an entire continent, cannot ultimately resist the outside influences of secular culture without the source of faith that comes from God.  If society at large says that we evolved from apes, then we will eventually believe it, unless we have that living source of faith within us.  How different is Christianity today, as the result of influences from without?

 We have here a crucial dilemma.  If we do not come together in support of each other, if we do not act as one body of believers, then our exposure to the world exceeds our capacity for faith, and we grow cold.  Some people are stronger than others are.  Some people can call down fires from Heaven in a crowd of pagan priests.  Most of us cannot.  All of us need fellowship with other believers, to varying extents.  Alternately, some of us are so devoid of ministry that we have become a hot cup of coffee in a hot room: we’re full of faith, but we’re still lukewarm, because we have completely immersed ourselves in Christian culture, or we are otherwise having no impact on the world around us.  The problem is that too much ministry leads to burnout.  Give the world all you have and you won’t have anything left, but give nothing and you’re stagnant.  The solution is to pray for as much faith as you can get, fellowship with other believers as though your life depended on it, and witness and share as much of yourself as you can to this dieing world without dieing with it.