30 01 2012

The rivers run with milk, honey and wine.  The fish that swim within them are already breaded and fried.  Anyone who wants to eat one need only open his mouth and a fish jumps right out of the water and into the hungry person’s mouth.  The birds that fly through the air are already cooked, prepared and ready to eat.  A person need only lay down a plate, and a chicken will walk onto it and lie down (they come in several breeds, including barbecue, kung pao, cashew and southern fried).  Houses are made of food.  If a person  wants ham, he need only lean over and bite a wall.  All trees provide all kinds of fruit, all of which are low-hanging, all of which will fall to the ground at a person’s wish, which is a very necessary thing, because the inhabitants of this land are always lying flat on their backs.  They probably could not rise if they wanted to.  In this land, all work is a sin, and not just on the Lord’s day.

This is Schlaraffenland, literally meaning Land of the Lazy Monkeys.  Fortunately, I can say I did not invent this fabulous land.  I should be embarrassed if I did.  The tale originated in Germany around 1494, and time has only made it worse.  Luckily, the tale never made headway into English-speaking cultures.  The point of the story is simply to satirize paradise.  We think of the evils of our world as including hard labor and a struggle to survive.  Hence, the logical extreme would be a place of absolutely no work, and no struggle to survive at all.  We do tend to think of work as a drudgery, and we do tend to think of Heaven as a permanent place of retirement.  Perhaps we ought to reconsider.

In truth, the tale of Schlaraffenland did not go far enough.  If we really need not work to survive, if we need not do anything, and if God provides absolutely everything we need at all times, then Schlaraffenland is simply an arduous place to have to spend eternity.  The real absolute zero-cost land of plenty is a brain connected to life support.  After all, if one must eat, then one must perform the task of chewing and digesting.  Then, it follows that we must do the unthinkable, which is to say that we must poop.

We are here, somewhere in the middle, between life-support, where life is absolutely effortless, and a world like Mars, Venus, the Sun, a comet, or pretty much the entire universe, minus Earth, where life is basically impossible.  One of the things I get a lot from atheists is the observation that life on this ball of dirt is not only a struggle, but an actual battle against other species and even each other for our very survival.  This is true, but the fact that a battle can be fought at all, with any hope of victory, implies that the opportunity has at least been provided, and we must seize that opportunity to yield an outcome, which just happens to be survival.  I’m not sure exactly what they expected from a created universe, but if they expected God to provided us with absolutely everything, with the food already in our bellies and the sun always warm upon our faces, then what, exactly, were we meant to do with all of our free time?  Really, if we think about it, ease of living is just a point along a broad spectrum from a dead rock to a celestial tube of life pumping directly into our brains.  If the atheist would say that the current struggle is evidence of no created design, then, likely, a much easier world could yield the same view, all the way up that spectrum, until we’re all on life-support and there’s nothing more for us to want.

Someone had to work to design and create, ship, distribute, sell and deliver that thing you’re staring at, called a monitor.  If there had been a creator, then you’d think he would have had the foresight to have monitors growing everywhere out of the ground.  Trees have a fairly complex design, but merely having masses of lumber harnessing solar energy, growing from the ground and reproducing copies of themselves hardly seems sufficient.  Trees ought to be able to connect to the internet so that they can play a game of reversi with you (a good and proper use of sophisticated technology, really).  When is it enough?

The truth of it is that the Bible never promised that Heaven would be an iron lung, a mechanical heart and some I.V. bags.  I hope that comes as no surprise to anybody.  All we were promised was much greater prosperity, better opportunity, and easier labor.  That’s all.  The truth of it is that the Bible tells that life on earth is a bit harder, because we’re not exactly little saints down here.  Take a drive down the freeway tomorrow and try to convince yourself that we’re all a bunch of nice little angels.  You didn’t scream profanities for nothing.  Life is harder, but life is not impossible.  Now that we’ve topped seven-billion people on this planet, I think it’s safe to say that life on Earth is not too hard.

So, exactly how well-tailored to our existence must life be for us to conclude that maybe things were engineered that way?  For the skeptic, intelligent design will always seem a little lacking, here or there.  The fact is that the human may be very intelligent, but we’re built like wimpy, hairless, defenseless bipeds.  Well, the Bible says we’re built in the image of God, which essentially means that we were designed more for what we look like than what we are capable of.  It’s a priority of form over function.  Fur, claws venom and fangs are all very good for survival, but they don’t contribute much toward making a man look more like God.  Yes, I know that many think of God as an amorphous blob.  One person’s fancy is as good as any other’s, so I suppose the claim that God has a humanoid form is no less valid than the claim that he’s shaped roughly like an amoeba.  Christians make an exception for the form of a person.  The intelligence of this design is a little more artistic and a little less utilitarian.  Now, if we had really evolved from apes, or whatever simian beast they haven’t yet debunked, then we might expect to be fully loaded with all of the latest weaponry.  Evolution is always strictly utilitarian, with no exception, so I’ll leave it to them to explain how the heck a smart monkey who looked like he just got let out of Auschwitz after being de-fanged, de-clawed and cleanly shaven could survive on his wits alone.  We’ll experiment by taking some fool off the street, or the reader, if he wishes to volunteer, and dropping him naked into the middle of a forest with nothing but his wits, and we’ll see how long he survives.  A well-trained survivalist might make a year, but I’ll give it a couple of weeks at best before the average chump finds himself on his face sucking dirt.  If the early human survived strictly by wits, and if those wits were so far superior that he could cast off every natural advantage in favor of wits, then I must say that he must have been way smarter than Einstein.  I can’t imagine Einstein lasting naked and alone in a forest, though it may be that I have trouble imagining Einstein naked in the first place (man, what a thought.  I should have left that one alone!).  Then, we would have a very intelligent early human who was even more keenly aware of his doom than our poor naked Einstein ever was.

Your smart phone can make phone calls, send text messages, play games, browse the internet and take pictures, but it can’t give you a sponge bath, double as a cereal bowl or brush your teeth in the morning.  Dang, what a lame rip-off!  I could have created as much by smashing two rocks together!  Right?  If I can find something that it can’t do, then it must not be intelligently designed, right?

Of Anchors and Ships

10 10 2011

Occasionally, we might encounter the avid gossiper, who always seems to have some nasty tidbit of information about someone, and our ears are itching to hear.  Sometimes, that gossiper is clever enough to choose the right people to gossip about, and sometimes that individual is left quite lonely and wondering why no one wants to talk.  For example, a good target is some jerk whom no one likes and always seems to be stepping on other people’s toes.  A bad target is someone who gets a lot of attention, the sort of person whom everyone seems to like and everyone wants to be.  The insecure gossiper usually aims at the second target, if only because of pure envy.  While the aim may be a simple matter of bringing down a person of higher esteem, boosting one’s own rank in the process, the result is usually quite the opposite.  The gossiper is ground under a thousand heels, and the hero, the person of high esteem, is loved all the more as an undeserving victim.  The fact is simply that some people cannot effectively have their characters assassinated by certain other people, no matter how hard those people try.

Therein lies the principle of the ship and the anchor.  Both are enacting an opposite tension to the anchor line.  We might call it a battle, or a tug-of-war.  To some extent, the ship may move the anchor, but for the most part, the anchor has the advantage.  While the anchor is firmly nested into the floor of the bay, the ship is not-too-firmly nested in the water of the bay.  It’s not too hard to see why the anchor holds the greater influence.  Its place is more firmly grounded.  In any given conflict, some people are more like anchors, and some are more like ships.  Take, for instance, a certain co-worker of mine, who happens to be great friends with my boss’ boss.  I hardly ever talk to that boss, but he has been to her house, to parties and a funeral with her.  He’s not just an anchor.  The man is a cleat on the dock.  Let’s just take a hypothetical situation, which, thankfully, has never happened.  Let’s say that boss calls me into her office and asks me what I think of my coworker, who happens, I might add, to be very new to our group.  I’ll admit that I can’t stand the fellow.  He’s an irascible fool.  I’ll admit it, I say, to anyone but her.  She has already made up her mind about him.  Anything I say can and will be used against me.  Anything I say will be used by the listener to shape her opinion of me, and it will have absolutely no effect upon her opinion of my coworker.  The effect is guaranteed.

Now, a wise audience can always discern truth from lies, and a wise audience could take the word of a stranger or even an enemy against that of an ally, if the evidence and reasoning demanded it.  Even a wise audience would still be tempted toward bias, and I’m still unconvinced that I’ve met more than a handful of wise people in my entire life.  No matter how true or virtuous or obvious my campaign, my standing with my audience versus my opponent will, more often than not, determine whether my argument gets my opponent trounced, or whether that argument gets me lynched.

It’s not just a matter of opposing people, either.  Sometimes it’s a matter of opposing ideas.  For example, in this day and age the idea of creationism is weak and Darwinism so widely accepted, that, more often than not, any randomly selected person or group of people will disregard anything further that I have to say if I suggest that the popular one is a fable and the unpopular one is truth.  It’s a nepotism of ideas.  Never mind that Darwinism really is a glorified Aesop’s fable.  If I promote what you’ve already embraced, then you will think highly of me, and if I denounce what you love, then you will disregard anything else I say.  If the roles were reversed, say, and I were the anchor and the ideology the ship, then I could sway your opinion on the ideology.  That would require you to already hold me in high esteem and have a weaker, less firmly formed, opinion on the ideology.  What are the odds of that?  Most people reading this are going to be strangers to me.  The others won’t even realize they know me.  The effect is that anything I say will do more to affect how people who read this think of me than it will affect how people think of the topic at hand.  To remedy this, I could use the bully pulpit to send that point home, maybe speak from the authority of a scientist…and then I could lose my job.

The first rule of speech-making is to always know your audience.  In this case that is impossible.  Recklessly, I throw my thoughts, in all their naked honesty out for the world to see.  I do it because, by chance, some people will discover it with the prompting of God already at work in their lives, and this will be just another of the many ways that God uses to bring that message home.

More often than not, it will earn me a boatload of ridicule.  It is what it is.  Sometimes the anchor gets dragged through the mud.

The weakness of thinking in our culture is this propensity to let the experts do our thinking for us.  The experts will not suffer the consequences of our choosing to follow them.  We will.  For thousands of years, humanity has been led like sheep by the experts.  The experts were pagan priests, mollifying the many polytheistic gods.  Then the experts were Catholic priests, killing Christians for trying to build their own faith directly from the Bible, or, like that one famous Christian named Galileo, threatened with death for claiming that the Earth was round.  The experts love their power, and they fight like mad dogs to hold on to it.  Today’s experts are the Darwinists.  It’s the same story as always, just a different fable.  They show you a bone and tell you a story and all is well; only now, we are no longer expected to kiss that bone.  Perhaps even that will change.

Fighting the experts, today, is the same as always.  They are the anchor and we are the ship.  They carry more weight, and their reputation is more firmly grounded.  All we can do is struggle as we might, perhaps moving that anchor a little.  In the end, those of us left unsullied and unabused are simply not trying hard enough.


Alive in the Land of Statues

21 08 2011

[A parable]

Sybil glanced up nervously at the dark silhouette above her, eclipsing the sun, a great beam supporting the many thick plexiglass panes that separated her from the great and deadly vacancy above her.  The glare of the sun was like a bare bulb hanging from the celestial ceiling, a bright point that cast a harsh light on everything.  Without any atmosphere beyond that transparent barrier, the sky was still pitch black, even in broad unobstructed daylight.  Beneath that ceiling, a vast garden grew.  Sickly carrots lived their puny lives in a line along a long planter box.  One planter box over, a mulch of dead leaves marked an attempt at kale.  The next row contained a relatively successful box of legumes, sprouting from their minimal supply of dirt.  It was a bumper crop this year.  It would be enough to supply a single person with enough food to live, provided she survived long enough to eat it.

Around the perimeter of the solarium, and staggered throughout the farm, were various statues of mythic gods and demigods, carved from native stone,  here an image of Perseus, holding aloft the head of the hated Medusa, there a carving of Neptune, sitting on his throne with his trident in hand.  Sybil’s deceased fellow colonists had carved the images of a former world.  Over the course of a mere two years, she had forgotten her comrades and abandoned her sanity.  The statues were her only companions, now, and her madness forbade her to accept the stark truth of her isolation.  There was no one left in her world, now.  There never would be.  Jupiter was her father, and Mars was her lover.  Venus was the pretty girl in the room, whom she hated with a venomous jealousy.

The plan had been simple enough.  A dome had been erected on the surface of Mars (the planet), and enough room was afforded to grow enough plants to eat, and the plants, due to the natural carbon cycle, always provided enough oxygen to account for their own consumption and catabolism.  The dome was two layers thick, with a sensor in between to detect the leakage of life-giving air, so that a repair could be attempted before a complete breach occurred.  Twelve people were given the order to live upon this lifeless planet, all while exploring its surface for any sign of life.  The plan had been ingenious.  Every pot had a system for collecting excess water, preventing it from dripping to the ground and being absorbed by the planet.  Any new water needed could be scavenged from the painfully scarce crystals of ice that sometimes accumulated about a foot below the surface.  The dome provided a natural greenhouse effect, giving warmth and reflecting excess ultra violet radiation.  Human waste was to be harvested and used as fertilizer.  Cultures of useful bacteria were grown to maintain a seed stock for environmental stability.   Everything had been accounted for, almost.  The walls were perfect.  The roof was perfect.  The floor was nonexistent.  The great law of Murphy came down upon their heads like a sledge-hammer, as the necessary gasses of the dome slowly diffused through the dirt, into the planet upon which they lived.  There was nothing wrong with martian dirt, in itself, but the engineers had been so focused upon remediating the bad air, that they forgot about the bad dirt and the fact that air does, slowly, move through it.  It was a great dome.  It was a splendidly flawless dome, but it was helpless to contain the life force within it.  When its communications equipment failed, the remaining life was, indeed, in a hopeless bind.

Sybil stood from her labors and accosted the statue of Venus that stood gloating over her, surrounded by vines of squash.  Baring her breasts shamelessly, she smirked at Sybil, seeming to know that the live woman would never live up to her eternal beauty.  “What are you looking at?!” the woman of flesh screamed, “For crying out loud, at least get some clothes on!”  The statue, naturally, was unmoved by this outburst.  Sybil approached her slowly, like a cat stalking its rival, aiming for a fight.  She looked closer at this arrogant whore.  Something wasn’t right.  The whore stared back, but something was missing.

Many years previous, the Mariner 2, following up on its embarrassingly unsuccessful predecessor, made an orbit around the second planet from the sun.  The surface of this planet was extremely hot, despite having cool cloud tops.  The scientists back on Earth were sorely disappointed at this fact.  There could be no life on Venus.  Ah, but that was just one planet.  If Earth could have life, then there had  to be other living planets out there, somewhere.  Even so, they inspected every inch of the planet, just to be sure, mapping the entire planet with a later satellite.  No, the planet was still quite lifeless.

Startled by her opponent’s inertia, Sybil scrutinized the statue from head to foot, and back again.  “By Jove,” she whispered, “the wench got herself turned to stone!”  She glanced over at Perseus, holding the Medusa’s head vaguely in this general direction, with a little imagination.  She reached out a finger and tapped the stone object just to be sure.  No, it was quite lifeless.  Finding this greatly distressing, she ran to tell her father, whom she found surveying the aquifer at the other end of the solarium.  “Father!  Father, come quick!  Something’s happened to….”  She stopped mid-sentence, when she realized that her father was not responding.  He stood there with a lightning bolt in hand, as though attempting to catch one of the dead fish that rotted below the surface of the water.  She clawed slowly at her face in sudden realization.  She circled him, slowly, touching his cold hard surface.

Years before, several probes and satellites made their interception if the planet, Jupiter, taking various photos and measurements.  Clearly, there was no life on this planet.  The core was exceedingly hot, and the atmospheric pressure was too intense.  Ah, but Europa was thought to have life, or, at least, the potential for life.  Alas, none of them has any life, though some still maintain the possibility that life may have inhabited, or could eventually inhabit, one of them.

Sybil turned from her cold lifeless father, and faced the nearby statue of Europa, seated precariously on a rampaging bull.  This particular statue portrayed vividly quite a bit of life and movement.  She wasn’t as quick to disregard the possibility that this statue had some life in it.  Well, okay, maybe it wasn’t alive anymore, but it might have been alive once.  One could never be sure.  At least, there was always the possibility that it might come to life at some future date, and Europa would ride the back of the wild bull once again.  Given enough time, anything seemed possible.  It was certainly a very lifelike statue, to be sure.

Everywhere she looked, every possible life form turned out to be nothing but a cold lifeless lump of rock, just like her predecessors, who found nothing but lifeless rock, balls of gas and chunks of ice wherever they turned.  Neither she, nor they, wanted to admit that they were alone in the universe.  There had to be someone out there, somewhere.

Even her dear lover, Mars, turned out to be nothing human.  She cried herself to sleep at his feet.  He stood over her, with a shield in one hand and a spear in the other, as though to protect her.  In the morning, she awoke to find him equally lifeless, but was he non-living, or was her lover dead?  At his feet, she found a strand of her own hair.  “Mars, my sweetheart!” she exclaimed,” You have shed a hair!”  She was ecstatic.  Mars clearly had been alive, once.

Years before, explorers in Antarctica discovered a brown rock (yes, a brown rock).  Somehow, they found a bubble within that rock that they were certain must have been a fossil of a single-celled organism.  Not only that, but they were certain that this rock had been knocked from the very turf of Mars and sent through many long, vast, miles of space to land safely on Earth, only to be stumbled upon by the rare individual who seemed to have enough education to realize that this was no ordinary Earth rock.  That’s one rock, over vast distances, to one tiny planet, somewhere in the vast expanse of an uninhabited continent, discovered by one solitary expert.  That’s one massive coincidence, that and the fact that a single-celled organism managed to leave a microscopic little fossil, despite all odds, and, greater still, that someone managed to find that fossil.  That would have been one lucky rock.

Sybil was, of course, overjoyed to learn that she was not crazy.  All of these statues might have been living at one time.  Somehow, they had been turned to stone.  At least, this one statue was alive at one time.  Perhaps, it could be made alive again?  Perhaps, she could marry it and have children by it?

Five years earlier, the Genesis IV module safely landed upon the martian surface.  Twelve brave scientists set out to prove, once and for all, that life on Mars was possible, and that life on Mars had once existed.  Their mission was a perilous one, fraught with hardship, but through human ingenuity, and a great supply of the necessary elements of life, they managed their first year on another planet.  Half of their time was invested in their own survival, and half of their time was invested in exploring their immediate area for any possible sign of prior life.  However, their fate, ultimately, was a slow attrition.  They were like too many fish in a small fish bowl, and the water was slowly evaporating.  They continued to die until there were few enough people to be sustained by their artificial environment.  Then, when that environment diminished a little more, they died a little more, until there was only one person left, not counting her statues.

Brave Sybil consoled herself, initially, with the pretense that the statues might have had life.  Then, when reality glared back at her, she consoled herself with the possibility that the statues might have had life once, before being turned to stone.  Then, she tried, vainly to have children by one.  Finally, she surrendered to the futility of it and consoled herself that there might be some previously overlooked person somewhere in the compound who had not yet been turned to stone.  She even hoped against hope, that one of these inert things might eventually spring to life on its own.  Lastly, but not by any means least, she convinced herself that she had been a stone statue, once, before spontaneously coming to life.  She was surrounded by human figures, and she was a human figure.  They had no life, and they didn’t even have former life (death), but she did.  In her insane mind, she reasoned that she must have been one of them, once, before happenstance turned her into a living human.

Back on the equally insane planet Earth, people looked out over the vast universe, finding only one non-living planet after another.  They weren’t even dead.  The Earth was quite alone as a living planet.  Against all reason, the people of Earth suggested that some of them might have been alive, once.  No bit of evidence was too meager to stretch.  They even made a futile attempt to bring life to one of these wastelands, as was her own failed colony.  They would have had more luck trying to impregnate a statue.  Having found that too difficult and too expensive, they consoled themselves with the possibility that there might be some other undiscovered rock out there with life on it.  The prevailing thought on Earth was that their planet was just another rock like all of these others, and that it had been a lifeless lump of dirt, once, as were these.  Somehow, by strange chance, this dirt clod sprang to life and became the happy little planet that it now is.  Never mind that the other planets were no more living than statues, and Earth, being one of them, had as little chance of coming to life as a statue might have of turning into a human.  Literally, the comparison is astonishingly quite valid.  The difference between a living planet and a non-living planet is like the difference between a human and a statue.

Of course, Sybil was shocked out of her wits when, while crying at Mars’ feet, Venus turned around and yelled at her, “Oh, will you shut up, already?”  Of course she was shocked.  Statues don’t turn into humans.  They don’t turn into humans after five years, five million years or five quadrillion years.  By that time, they’ve turned to dust, and people stop thinking of how much they resemble a living thing.

Life on Earth is impossible.  Despite the fact that it exists, its coming into existence was impossible by mere physical means.  That’s why we call it a miracle.

Sodomy Versus Intelligent Design

26 07 2010

There’s a proper tool for everything, and there’s a proper use for every tool.

In the field of microbiology we use a special membrane filter made from nitrocellulose, a highly flammable paper made from ordinary paper, sulfuric acid, nitric acid and heat.  This produces a few minutes of expensive entertainment, as it bursts into an impressive fireball over a Bunsen burner.  Unfortunately, this piece of flash paper is not produced for the thrill of pyromaniacs, but for the dull purpose of capturing and growing bacteria.  Once it gets wet, it isn’t nearly as fun to burn.

The slim smooth paper filter is very carefully made at the factory to ensure that its pores are just small enough to capture the bacteria, while letting liquids and growth media through.  Now, one might imagine it to be something like sifting marbles out of sand with wire mesh, but this is entirely inaccurate.  On a microscopic level, it more closely resembles a sponge.  The bacteria get trapped inside of it, among the labyrinth of fibers.  The filter can then be placed upon agar, and the growth medium can seep up into this sponge-like matrix and surround the microorganisms, keeping them wet and well-fed.  Had they been trapped on the upper surface, like fish in a net, the medium would never reach them, and they would die of dessication.  Life on top of the filter would be like life on the moon.

Getting the nitrocellulose filter to the right porosity requires a method that borders on insane ingenuity.  One liquid is first dissolved in another, and then the paper fibers are added.  Next, the liquid solution is very carefully dried in a tightly controlled environment.  One liquid evaporates faster than the other, which means that their relative concentrations gradually change.  Eventually, one liquid will become too concentrated to remain dissolved within the other, and it will fall out of solution, forming microscopic droplets suspended homogeneously.  The paper fibers, which are also floating in the mix, are pushed out of the way of these suspended droplets, as the droplets continue to grow.  When the droplets reach the desired size, both liquids are removed, and the paper fibers settle and stick together.  Between the fibers are empty spaces left by the droplets.  Hence, on a microscopic level, the paper is like a sponge, full of air bubbles.  The bacteria wander into it, where they become trapped.

Now, the nitrocellulose filter is perfect for capturing microorganisms meant to be grown on agar, but if one wants to wash them back off of the filter in order to burst them open and study their DNA, then one has a problem.  They do not easily wash off, because they are embedded snugly within it.  Therefore the polycarbonate filter was invented.  This type of filter is essentially a very thin piece of plastic with precise holes bored into it.  To do this, the manufacturers expose the plastic film to nuclear radiation for a precise length of time.  The radiation particles punch tiny holes into the surface, which are then etched to a larger size by soaking the membrane in a strong acid for an exact length of time.  On a microscopic level, it looks like a sheet of plastic that someone attacked with a hole puncher.  The bacteria are filtered out, and they stay on the surface of the filter, because they are too enormous to fit into the holes.  This makes for an easy task of washing them off of the filter to be studied by other methods.

Now, the proper use of each filter is well-established.  Each was very carefully designed for a very precise purpose.  Yet, for the sake of convenience, there are those in the field of microbiology who are, at this moment, attempting to show that the nitrocellulose filter can be used in the same way as the polycarbonate filter.  The wrong filter is easier to handle and easier to come by.  They believe that they can wash the bacteria off of the filter and out of the filter, to the extent that they could count the organisms accurately.  Somehow, I suppose they might just manage to make the data support this idea, if only by dogged determination.  By their reasoning, the key to making a nitrocellulose filter work just as well as a polycarbonate filter for this purpose is to, literally, beat it harder.

One might imagine someone attempting to prove that a wrench could be used to pound nails into wood just as effectively as one might use a hammer.  With enough care, practice and force, they might even produce data to show that it is possible.  Yet, no matter how possible this may be, nothing can overcome the fact that they use the wrong tool for their purposes.  A man using a hammer to hit a nail has his own purpose for the hammer, but the man who made the hammer also had a purpose for the hammer.  When these two purposes are not the same purpose, then the tool is being misused.  No matter how well a wrench serves the purpose of a hammer, it simply was not made to be one.  No science can overthrow the intention of the one who made it.  Likewise, the scientist who attempts to use the sponge-like nitrocellulose filter in place the sieve-like polycarbonate filter may be able to prove that his tool works, and it may work well enough if he beats it hard enough, but it will always be a misuse of the tool, no matter what his data means to him.

If the matter had been about using one rock over another, then there would be no such misuse.  The rock was not made by anyone for any purpose.  Its purpose is given to it by the one who picks it up and strikes a nail with it.  One rock might happen to be better than another for this purpose, but this is nothing like the difference between the hammer and the wrench, because, unlike the rocks, the tools have an intelligent design.

Now, the Darwinists, who, like the microbiologists mentioned, believe themselves to be wholly rational beings, free of bias, would say that the human body is without an intelligent design.  This means that its misuse is entirely impossible, like the misuse of a rock is impossible.  The circumstance of misuse only arises from the difference in the user’s purpose from the creator’s purpose.  If there is no creator, then there is no created purpose.  To this, we apply the subject of the human orifice.  Logically, the body should be full of various holes and invaginations, so that the lucky few that do happen to promote the furtherance of the species may continue, while the others, at least, do no harm.  In that case, the rectum might be equally suited for sex, if so wished, as it is for defecation.  If it has no created purpose, then it cannot possibly be misused.

However, of all of the various pores and openings within the human body, every single one of them serves a purpose.  Not one has been found without a purpose.  While the Darwinist would say that a hundred arrows were shot blindly through the air, and a few managed to hit the target, what we see is the aim of a marksman, with every arrow hitting the mark.  There are no unclaimed orifices waiting to be designated a role by the perverse human whim.  The saber-tooth tiger didn’t target cavemen who happened to have an extra navel.  The pioneers didn’t have more trouble escaping the appetites of grizzly bears if they, the people, happened to have an extra deep dimple in the middle of the abdomen.  Natural selection couldn’t care if you look like Swiss cheese, so long as you can still run, fight and reproduce.

One opening in particular, the anus and its associated rectum, serve a very delicate, if dirty, purpose.  When the rectum is stretched by the presence of fecal matter, it signals the need to eliminate waste.  The descending colon prepares for discharge, and the action may even take place involuntarily if the offending irritant is not reversed by sheer will.  Now, some would have us believe that the use of this organ is as flexible and open to interpretation as the use of a rock, having no deliberate design.  Consequently, the rectum can become injured and permanently stretched, resulting in a lifetime of incontinence.  The signal to defecate is permanently activated by the ruined device.

Had we not believed in the intelligent design of living organisms, we could not say that any organ was necessarily meant for any particular purpose, much to the delight of those who would invent their own uses.  The rectum would eventually evolve into a womb, and we would be obligated to discharge our feces from our mouths.  This, for many, would be an improvement over current circumstances.  But while the Darwinist is mentoring future generations to spout crap from their mouths, I’d prefer to make the observation that organs are tools, just as a hammer and a wrench are tools.  They serve a purpose, which is part of their design.  One was made for one purpose, and another was made for a different purpose.  In making this rather obvious assertion, we simultaneously draw two conclusions: there was an intelligent designer (otherwise there could be no cross-purposes), and misuse of an organ is not of equal value to its proper use.

What this means is that neither homosexuality nor any other sodomy are even remotely comparable to real sex.  They deserve no comparable treatment, and they merit no legitimacy.  One way is right, and the other uses, while creative, are merely misuses.  One way fulfills the body’s intended use, while all others, while useful to the purpose of the owner, are just a misuse.

What this also means is that there is a God who intended for the body to be used in a certain way.  How he feels about the misuse is a matter of theology.  Whether or not we care about how God feels is a matter of religion.  But, whether or not there was an intended use for the thing remains a matter of physical, empirical, truth.  Some would flaunt the intentions of God, forgetting that this is the same one who designed the food chain, not the person who designed your teddy bear.

As with the matter of the filters, no convenience is too small to bias a scientist to find a way to “prove” whatever he wants to prove.  As with the hammer, you could use a hamster in its place if you simply pound it harder, but it will never be the proper use of the proper tool.

And as with the rectum, you may invent whatever uses you will for it, the thing has only one legitimate use.  Don’t expect me to applaud you and give you wedding gifts when you use it for another, even if you think it effective.

Overt Belief with Covert Unbelief

2 05 2010

“I really, truly believe,” is ironically a statement of unbelief.  Sometimes a statement of faith such as this includes a few more really-trulies just to make it sound all the more emphatic.  The more emphasis it receives, the more certain one can be that the person does not really believe it.  Let alone, the statement, “I believe,” is, itself, a statement of unbelief, contrary to what its intended meaning may be.  The fact is simply that people who say this are usually trying very hard to believe, an act that we generally call make-believe.  This, in itself, implies that the person does not actually believe, otherwise the poor soul would not have to try so hard.

The phrase, “I think,” sounds less emphatic, but it actually suggests that the person saying it is not trying so hard to make himself believe it.  Therefore, it stands to reason that the person who says he thinks God will answer his prayer is not only more confident, but also more honest about his faith in God and prayer.  In a sense, this is counter-intuitive, being that we regard the phrase, “I think,” as a statement of uncertainty.  What we might overlook is that while the person suggests that he is somewhat uncertain about a thing, what it also means is that he is somewhat certain about that thing.  The person who says, “I truly believe,” leaves no room for honest doubt, and in so doing he leaves no room for honest belief.

The phrase, “I know,” is stronger, but people who are confident in their knowledge don’t really say it, as counter-intuitive as this sounds.  When someone really knows something to be true, they don’t preface the statement with anything at all. For example, consider the following statement:

God exists, and he created the world and all that is in it.

This is a statement of faith in its strongest form.  It assumes the matter to be settled.  “I know,” implies that you don’t know, or that someone else might disagree.  Being that I feel no need to heed the ignorance of others, and I do not feel inclined to defer to your own unbelief, I simply state that “this is such,” and leave it at that.  I say it this way, because no matter what you or anyone else may think, the matter is settled, and though I care enough to set you straight, I do not apologize for being right.

What it comes down to is that there exists, for every person, an overt belief, the thing that the person wants to believe that he believes, and the covert belief, the thing that a person really believes but may not want to admit.

21Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered.22“It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

23” ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

24Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”  (Mark 9:21-24)

If you do believe, then why do you need to overcome your unbelief?  It is because the man who says, “I believe,” does not believe.

Faith is something that we all wrestle with.  No one is exempt.  Even the Evolutionist struggles to believe.  I encountered an argument by one individual who said that Intelligent Design could not be peer-reviewed, and therefore should not be treated as scientific.  The implication is that a well-derived lie is better than truth, because we came by the lie systematically.  He could not argue directly against the truth of Intelligent Design, so he took the circuitous route of explaining why it was, “unscientific,” avoiding whether or not it was true.  When an Evolutionist loses the argument on rational grounds, he takes to mocking and assaulting the one who opposes him, by way of an ad hominem attack.  He belittles the opponent and makes the poor victim look silly, because he does not have the mental strength to defeat the argument, itself.  Much as such a verbal melee has the feel of strength, it belies an inner weakness.  The overt belief of the individual is that the human eyeball has all the design of a lump of clay, but the covert belief, the one that he is not willing to admit, is that the eyeball has an undeniable design.  The fact is that all life is loaded with marvelous design, and one would have to struggle hard to find an area of the organism which demonstrates a lack of design.  Even disorders are suggestive of a missing order, which implies that the thing was originally intended for better.

In the event that they cannot overcome this obstacle, they take a circuitous route, arguing something else, anything other than whether or not life demonstrates a design and, hence, a designer.  They call it religious dogma.  They claim that it cannot be tested with science.  They say that it cannot be peer reviewed.  They accuse the believers of wanting to believe in a God, in the hope that he might grant life after death.  They marginalize us, by assigning us a minority status, appealing to the fallacy of ad populem (if everyone else seems to believe it, then it must be true).  They appeal to authority, another damnable fallacy, saying that all scientists believe in Evolution; any scientist who doesn’t is not a real scientist, or doesn’t have enough education or experience.  All of this is a runaround to avoid the real issue.  The issue is not who supports the idea, or what system accommodates it.  The only issue at stake is whether or not the idea is really true. Any tangential argument, no matter how strong, evades the issue and demonstrates a covert weakness.  Anyone who cannot face the matter head-on does not really believe what they say they believe.  Deep down at the place where the conscious mind makes transition to the unconscious, in that darkest part, there lies the hidden fact that a person knows what they deem to be an unacceptable truth.

In truth, Intelligent Design has been studied by science for years.  It has been peer-reviewed and well-published.  When a scientist studies the function of any organ, or the functionality of any organism, or, for that matter, dysfunction, that scientist is studying the design of the thing and how it works.  It would be a very different matter to study the erosion of a rock.  No one asks how the crack in a rock works, because it doesn’t work.  It’s just a crack.  Anything that is designed a certain way to fulfill a certain function demonstrates its intelligent design.  Anyone who seeks to understand that design or function is a scientist who studies Intelligent Design, even if unwittingly.

In any biology journal article, one might read speculation as to why a thing “evolved” a certain way.  In truth, one might just as easily replace these statements with speculation as to why a thing was “designed” a certain way.  In doing so, no real scientific understanding would be lost, and the writing would be more coherent.

In the sense of statements of belief that really indicate unbelief, one classic example is the debater who puts his hands behind his head and leans back in his chair.  You get double points if he puts his feet up on the desk.  As much as it looks like a show of confidence, it’s really the body language of defeat.  I was arguing the matter of Creationism with a fellow, when he assumed this posture, along with an increasing loudness in his voice (another sign of weakness), and I knew that the argument was over.  I had won.  He would never admit that I had won, but I knew that while he overtly believed in Evolution, his covert unbelief had gotten the better of him.

What it all comes down to is that while you can lead a horse to water, you can’t make it drink.  You can defeat a lazy Darwinist, but you can’t make him accept Creationism.  You can’t even make him admit defeat.  The more you prod at what he really knows to be true, the more adamant he will become in his efforts to silence you, discredit you, keep you out of the schools and keep you out of the textbooks.  This is why I think that prolonged debate with such people is worse than futile.  When I write, I do not write to those who refuse to accept the obvious truth that all life has intelligent design.  Instead, I write to commit to solidarity with those who willingly stand against today’s popular myth.

Every age has had its popular myth, and there have always been those who stood against it.  Evolution is just the myth or our time, and we are that opposition.

Psychic Blindness

26 04 2010

Despite its name, it’s really not the sort of thing one would go to a palm reader for.    Psychic blindness is a fancy name for a vaguely defined problem, when a person’s eyes are working, but the mind is not seeing.

As a physiological problem, psychic blindness can result from brain damage.  Though the eyes are working and the signal is getting to the brain, it cannot be properly processed.  As a psychological problem, psychic blindness is effectively a dissociative disorder, whereby a person denies his own sight.  He sees, but he does not acknowledge.  He claims to be blind, but he still reacts to visible threats.

On a more common level, it affects everyone.  This is the aspect to psychic blindness that doesn’t make the medical journals.  We’ll say you’re looking through the refrigerator for a bottle of ketchup, and you feel confident that you’ve searched every last inch of the interior.  It’s gone.  It couldn’t possibly be anywhere in there.  You ask your spouse where it went, and your loved one walks straight to the refrigerator and pulls it from a parallel universe (the middle shelf, near the front).  You can’t say that you didn’t see it, because it was right there in front of you.  You were staring right at it.  Yet, you didn’t see it.  That’s a limited form of psychic blindness.  The eyes were working, and the image of the ketchup bottle was transmitted to the brain, but it got lost in the paperwork.

Now, being unable to find a specific object might be a memorable example, but it is not a representative one.  Let’s say you were not looking for the ketchup bottle in the first place.  Would you see it?  In fact, you would have been even less likely to see it if you had not been looking.  Therefore, if we are occasionally blind to objects that we are looking for, we must be very blind to many objects which we are not looking for.  It’s like the man who claims that he sees no evidence of God.  He has not looked, and if he looked, he would not try to find, and if he found, he would pretend that he did not find anything at all.  Finding God is a challenge to them who want to find God, and it is an impossibility to those who do not.

I do not know how many square inches of surface area the interior of my home has, including all of the objects contained therein, but the vast majority of my attention is drawn to 198 square inches of it, my computer monitor.  The reason is simply because it captures my interest.  It continues to change.  Every last object within sight of me gets ignored from one day to the next.  This is a mental efficiency.  The mind does not need to take continual notice of things which do not change, and it tends not to notice things that change slowly.  On the whole, I think I must ignore billions of details per day.  From the knickknacks on the desk in front of me, the loaded bookshelves to my side, or the decorations to my right to the living room that I never use, I am surrounded by an environment of my own making, which we have lovingly arranged for our comfort and pleasure.  I see all of this every day, and yet, like the ketchup bottle it is all invisible to me.

Yesterday, I sat in an outdoor eating area, watching the drama unfold in the lives of a community of sparrows.  I watched their courtship.  I watched them hop around, looking for food.  I watched a nearby kid nearly step on one, except that the sparrow was far more observant than he was.  The birds were invisible to everyone but us.  The other diners were blind to this detail.

In the evenings, I have walked along a sidewalk, observing how the residents spent their time staring at a television.  The air was crisp, and the moon reflected off of the ocean just a stone’s throw away.  Surely, they must have paid millions for this view, but they were blind to it.  House after house was illumined by the same blue glow.

I have been in homes where clutter littered the floor, the desktops, the chairs and even the yard.  They may have been too lazy to clean it up, or they may not have had enough time, or they may have even been unable, mentally, to solve the problem, but in the end, they got used to their situation.  Eventually, they stopped seeing the trash.  The eyes still worked, but the mind did not see what the eyes were conveying.

I have seen people put themselves into destructive relationships, boyfriends who used their ladies, friends who manipulated their peers, drugs that rotted the body and well-being of the user.  I have seen sin destroy a life, and I have seen the sinner stare straight at his circumstances and continue walking into it.

I have seen a piece of wood grow and stretch, developing little solar panels, capturing light.  I have seen it tap into an underground source of water, drawing moisture from depths less than a well could find it.  I have seen cells that knew exactly what shape to take and what function to serve, because they knew exactly where they were in the body.  I have learned of an engineer’s plans, written in multiple redundancy, for the construction of an organism that could find energy without a wall socket or a battery supply.  It could find materials to repair itself and make another of its own kind.  It could do all of this with nothing special at its disposal.  Release it into the woods, and it could make do with anything that it found.  It was more advanced than anything made by humans.  I have seen people look at it and call it a freak accident, as though one might spill a glass of milk and accidentally make a cow.  Their eyes work, but their minds do not see.

We learn from the things that we afford our attention.  What we do not see, we do not experience.  What we do not experience, we do not live.  All of the joys of real life, the physical, tangible things, are lost to our blindness.  The spiritual things are twice removed from our sight.  Everything has been reduced to a flat screen and whatever shines forth from it.  Everything we learn, we are taught.  People have become inept at learning for themselves, could not even begin to see, even if they looked.

Within the view of everyone who reads this is an innumerable array of details and objects, but the biggest question on anyone’s mind is, “I wonder what’s on television?”

That’s psychic blindness of the common sort.

Going Down?

11 04 2010

Despite my frequent study of fecal bacteria, my gut feeling toward them is that I find revolting the very idea that anything would be living inside of me, other than my own body parts.  Nevertheless, I understand, albeit reluctantly, that humans benefit from a stable population of beneficial intestinal bacteria.  The maintenance of that relative stability in population can be compared to the workings of a sewage treatment plant.  The secondary treatment process for sewage involves mixing the influent with recycled sludge.  That sludge is a mass of microorganisms that help to remove organic compounds from the water, which would otherwise reach the outfall and be dumped into nature, overly rich with pollutants.  After a long exposure, drifting slowly through the reactor, these organisms are again collected and pumped as sludge back to the beginning of the cycle to start over again.  The sewage carries its own organisms, but seeding of the process ensures a stable and efficient population.

In the human intestine, a similar principle applies.  Intestinal fortitude depends entirely upon the population residing therein.  The appendix serves the function of seeding the intestine with bacteria collected earlier, promoting not only a stable population but also one that doesn’t wreak havoc on us.

Earlier, students had been told that the appendix was a useless vestigial organ, left over from evolution from some previous organism.  Had this really been the case, what we should really be surprised at is that we aren’t entirely loaded with vestigial organs.  If the process of evolution is really as gradual as they say it is, then we can’t really afford to waste so much time exchanging organs one at a time like that.  Well, the vestigial organ paradigm has more problems to it than just its frequency of occurrence.  According to the Theory, every change that provides even the slightest benefit to an organism should be selected and amplified by natural selection and reproduction.  Their problem lies in the fact that the changes are supposed to be gradual.  If a slight change is not enough to improve survival rates and promote evolution, then that change is lost, and no evolution takes place.  If life had to rely on leaps and bounds in lucky engineering to make a noticeable difference on a species survival rate, then even relatively senseless people would have trouble digesting that one.  Every little positive change must work to improve survival and move evolution forward, or else the whole idea falls flat.

That’s where the vestigial organ complicates the problem.  Supposedly, the organ once had a relevant purpose, but as the organism changed, the organ lost its usefulness.  However, if that vestigial organ still provided even the slightest benefit, then natural selection should still promote it.  The thing should never become vestigial, unless it was absolutely useless.  Marginally or mostly useless doesn’t cut it.  People can’t say that a slight benefit causes it to stay and proliferate, but not enough benefit causes it to be lost.  By that reasoning, it actually takes less usefulness to keep a trait than it does to discard it.

This is where the creationist usually drops the ball, by failing to claim the vestigial organ as evidence for the nature of change.  We can say that in the beginning, God created all things good.  Any change from there is going to leave things in a worse state than the way that they started.  We wouldn’t want to make the mistake of naming things as vestigial simply because we don’t understand their purpose, as the evolutionists do, but a dysfunctional organ is an example of negative evolution, the antithesis of what we’re being fed of atheist dogma.

The evolutionists want to have it both ways.  Slight benefits accumulate, but insufficient benefit is lost.  In fact, there is only one direction of travel in this world, and it is downward.  It is true that blind naked mole rats might have once been furry little gophers with excellent vision.  This is what the creationist should anticipate.  The evolutionist explanation in this case is the same as the creationist’s should be, but while it is integral to the creationist’s view, it is more of an exception to the evolutionist’s view.  But while the evolutionist is quick to claim evidence of both upward and downward movement in evolution, the creationist is often reluctant to accept either.  If both sides accepted the logical implication of their own beliefs, then the many examples of bad useless organs out there would be a devastating blow to the evolutionists and a victory to the creationists.

But there is an aspect to this that goes smaller than the vestigial organ.  There is also the vestigial gene.  In the game of genetics, the dominant genes are almost always the functional ones.  That is to say that genes are like cars: they either run, or they don’t.  The recessive genes, the ones that don’t work quite right anymore, have always been the ones that came later.  Blond hair, blue eyes, hemophilia, diabetes and other such recessives are known to be relatively recent developments.  No amount of selection has gotten rid of them, and despite the claim that random change has been going on for millions of years, these random changes practically happened yesterday (why did they wait so long?).  Looking at the genetic history of humanity from a rational creationist point of view, the original humans were blacks, at least in appearance.  When a black man and a white woman marry, the resulting child looks more like a black than a white.  This is because the genes responsible for physical appearance are generally dominant in blacks and recessive in whites.  If that child runs for president, they don’t call him yet another white president.  Instead, they call him the first black president, even though he’s just as much white as he is black.  If the genes responsible for this are dominant in blacks, it is because they are functional, healthy genes, whereas the compliment from the white is recessive, sitting there and doing nothing while the black’s genes do all of the work (sounds disturbingly familiar).  From the creationist perspective, and from all available evidence, humanity is trending very strongly toward recessives with time.  That means that we’re not evolving from white to black, from diabetic to healthy, from blond to brunette and so on, but we are moving unstoppably in the opposite direction.  Genes are becoming vestigial.  Adam and Eve, then, were black, at least in appearance.

If God made man in his own image, and in so doing he made a black man, one might wonder something about God’s own appearance, but I digress.

Let’s say that some fool plows his field and dredges up a “missing link.”  Let’s ask ourselves what we really have.  Let’s say it’s something less than human.  The evolutionist sees it and unquestioningly determines it to be an early hominid.  The assumption is that the lesser human was on his way up.  We’re on the third floor, looking at someone in an elevator at the second floor, and we assume that he’s going up.  He could just as easily be going down.  In fact, the evidence would overwhelmingly suggest that he must be going down.  Yet, the evolutionist never questions the man’s direction.  He is going up, and the discussion is over.  Because the skull is older, it therefore indicates that we have improved since then.  The implication, then, is that there has never been a single malformed individual in all of history.  If a man is born deformed today, will future generations find his skull and conclude that humanity has improved since this man’s time?  This says much about how far our popular science has wandered from objectivity.

When two things correlate, one of the most common mistakes people make is to assume that one led to the other.  If A and B look very similar, then people jump to the conclusion that A causes B.  In truth, there are always three possible explanations:

1) A caused B.
2) B caused A.
3) A and B were both caused by C.

In our case, they see that monkeys and humans have something in common.  Therefore, they concluded that monkeys evolved into humans.  When people pointed out that monkeys are physically superior to us, the evolutionists backtracked to say that monkeys and humans both evolved from some unknown subhuman sub-ape ancestor.  What if monkeys evolved from humans?  What if their similarities were only due to the fact that they were both created by the same God, who tended to follow the same functional patterns for both?  Okay, so we’ll admit that we’re not too keen on accepting that monkeys evolved from humans, but are we evolving into something subhuman and sub-ape?  A “missing link,” could always be either post-human, pre-human or non-human (similar only because it was created by the same God, with the same functionality).  The evolutionist only considers one of these three options, because the other two point to a creator.  In fact, if a missing link resulted from negative evolution, or if it resulted from similar engineering, then it evidences creationism.  It all depends on which way the world is really moving.  Evidence suggests that we are moving toward recessives.  We are losing functions and moving downward.  The missing link is not an example of what we came from, but where we are going.  It just happens that one of us got there sooner, and managed to remove himself from the gene pool in the process.

I don’t know if it is possible that “vestigial” organs were created that way.  My first car, a ’72 Mazda, was a rolling piece of junk, missing everything but the barest requirements for running.  Every wire in it had been gnawed in half by a rat.  No dashboard function worked.  Consequently, I found myself scavenging from junk yards for the missing parts.  In this futile exercise, I learned that the engine appeared to be built for parts that it was never equipped with.  Other makes and models had a very similar engine block, but where theirs was connected to various parts in certain places, mine only had the places, still shaped as though they were meant to connect to something, but closed off abruptly.  The engineers used a modified plan from some other design to make this vehicle.  This sounds like an act of laziness, and not something that God would do, but I do recall that while God made all other life ex nihlo (out of nothing), he made man from the dust of the Earth.  I’ve always wondered why he would borrow the substance of something else when he could just as easily make it from nothing.  Why did Jesus need dirt and spittle to make a blind man see?  The point in all of this is that God’s style of work might be slightly more in a way of adapting designs, materials and whatnot, than a creationist would be comfortable with.  This is not to say that things evolved.  This is to say that he does not mind borrowing ideas and materials from his earlier works in spite of, or perhaps because of, the fact that a god-hating evolutionist might use it to demonstrate a falsehood in order to believe what he wishes to believe.

You are in an elevator going down.  You wish to believe that you are going up.  You insist that you are going up.  You ridicule those who suggest otherwise.  You look for evidence to prove your point.  Even when the evidence suggests that you’re going down, you still claim that it proves your point, because going down is still movement, and the net movement must be up.  We must be going up, because it’s the only desirable explanation for how we got this high in the first place.  At least the elevator doesn’t have windows.

Going down?