The Last Dixie Cup

28 02 2011

A long line of predecessors passes before it, alike living and dying in the same story.  Within the column that hangs beside the water cooler is a long stack of waxed paper cups, Dixie cups, and within that stack is a single cup just like all of the others, awaiting its turn at fulfillment.  Its ancestors pass before it, each taking its turn.  Then, our selected Dixie cup emerges from its birthing canal, from whence it is filled, then drained, and then it is crumpled and tossed into the trash.  Even before it meets its demise, another cup is already waiting to take its place.  The story doesn’t end there.  Our little cup is then transported to Puente Hills Landfill, where it is buried and covered in a lovely layer of sod.

A long line of predecessors passes before him, alike living and dying in the same story.  His ancestors passed before him, each taking his turn at life.  Then, at the appointed time, our selected man emerges from the birthing canal into the world of the living.  He grows up; then he grows old, and then he dies.  Even before he meets his end, another child is already waiting to replace him.  His body is lovingly laid at Rose Hills Cemetery, where it is buried and then covered in a lovely layer of sod.

The biggest irony in all of this is that Rose Hills, the site of the man’s burial, is the exact same hill as Puente Hills, the site of the paper cup’s burial.  They’re two faces of the same hill.  The man and his trash will be buried side-by-side.  The only differences between the two are the oaks that grow on the landfill and the stone monuments that lay inert on the cemetery.  It’s not a very cheery comparison, but it’s definitely an effective way to clear the crowd at the water cooler and get them back to work.  “You see this cup,” I could say, “It tells the story of your life.”  The cheapness of the paper cup makes a very disturbing comparison with human life.

And then the paper cup dispenser runs out.  Someone removes the last cup, and it gives a little too easily.  He glances down and sees that he’s taken the last one.  He knows that he’d better hang on to this one if he ever wants to come back and get another drink, later in the day.  So, he writes his name on the side, and he places the little cup in an inconspicuous corner of the counter top, beside the microwave, behind the stack of loose paper towels.  This one little cup gets to experience a deviation in the pattern set before it.  Its life has been prolonged, because it has something that the previous cups did not.  The last cup has a little share of significance.  It’s not much, but it makes the last cup special.

Hollywood, over the years, has found a wide array of devices for destroying the Earth, whether by alien invasion, earthquakes, war, climate change and even robotic revolt.  They do this because it makes money.  That’s what interests people, the end of the world, because the last generation has something that all of the previous generations seemed to be missing.  The last generation has significance, and, deep down, many people in this world want that significance.  World religions have also profited from this tendency.  Either the world will end in fiery destruction, or it will transform into an everlasting paradise.  Either way spells the end of the world as we know it.  Nearly every world religion has some sense of eschatology, because everyone’s just dying to know how it all ends.

The quest for significance is just one of four basic motivators that drive humanity.  The first two, purpose and meaning, are divine in nature.  Only God can give them, and if he doesn’t exist, then they don’t exist.  The second two, significance and pleasure (alternatively pain), are like the bastard offspring of the previous two.  Where a sense of purpose is lost, significance takes the reins.  Where a pursuit of meaning is surrendered, the drive for pleasure takes hold.  Simple pleasure is shallow enough and not the subject of this post.  Here, we look closer at significance.

We achieve significance by doing or being something big or small, first or last, best or worst, brightest or darkest, and so on.  Whatever might motivate someone to write our names in a history book, even the history of the local chess club, such is significance, of a sort.  Significance is morally neutral.  It doesn’t need design, and it doesn’t heed the precepts of God.  It merely needs to be different.  Whether we go out in flames, or whether we all quietly freeze to death, if we are the last generation, then we have a certain significance, even though no one will be left to care.

We can see places in recent history where significance usurped purpose.  We know of televangelists who needed our money to fulfill a great purpose, but the greatness of that purpose was the real underlying drive.  Greatness is a matter of significance, not purpose.  A waxed paper cup fulfills its purpose by holding water for a few seconds, but it will never be great.  A gigantic prayer chapel reaching toward the heavens might be great, yet not really achieve a divine purpose.  The more we see a person striving for greatness, or any other manner of significance, the more we can be certain that such a person is losing or has lost hold of his sense of purpose.  Purpose is God’s design for your life, the ideal that he knows you ought to fulfill.  Purpose is often mundane.  It is usually not much different from everyone else’s purpose, and not at all different at its core.  The core of our purpose is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and soul, and love our neighbors as ourselves.  How we elaborate that purpose is the only difference between us.

Significance hits close to home.  Everyone seeks it to some extent, just like we all pursue pleasures and avoid pain.  This is not abnormal or wrong.  We have these four motivators, purpose, meaning, significance and pleasure, and when we lose hold of all of them is when we stand at the brink of suicide.  A person can be drawn from that brink, at least initially, through as little as a promise of pleasure.  Sure, you can kill yourself, but let’s go get a hamburger and milkshake first; I’m starving.  In a longer turn of events, the end can be staved off with a bucket list, an assortment of things that one wants to do before one dies, like climb a tall mountain or skydive.  This is an appeal to significance.  But then we might see drug addicts killing themselves with every chemical they can get their hands on in search of pleasure, or we might see game addicts wasting hours upon hours of every day to maintain the highest score in an online game in their drive for significance.  When we see an overemphasis on one motivator, then we can be sure that another motivator is lost.

Purpose: we dispense.  We are filled.  We are drained.  We are destroyed.  We are buried.  It’s nothing glamorous.  It’s downright frightening.  We are scared of the death, but even more so, we are scared of our lack of significance.

But here’s the end of the matter.  We must first strive for our purpose, to love God passionately and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  God’s response to us follows our pursuit of our purpose.  His response is the meaning that we find in life, the message that we see him telling us in our lives, and the words he whispers to us through his spirit.  If we seek our purpose and we find our meaning, then the significance follows naturally after that.  We are more than a waxed paper cup, even though we share a similar destiny.  We have the significance of being made in the image of God, heirs to his promise, saved and chosen, drawn out from among the whole world to be his own.  After that, the pursuit of pleasure is easy.  He grants us the desires of our hearts.  The cherry on top really is just the cherry on top.  It’s just something that happens to taste nice.

Without God, though, the whole thing topples.  Without him, I really am no better than the cup I drink from, and I’m no better off, either.


Myth Makers’ Challenge

24 09 2010

I took nearly two decades to get the joke.  When I finally did, I had to laugh at the sky, for all it was worth.  The man who pulled the prank was memorable enough, with his large light beard that couldn’t make up its mind whether to be blond or gray.  Add to that the stark contrast of his leather pants and his blouse with little flowers printed on it.  He was man enough to make a floral print blouse look masculine.  He was a big hefty man with a twinkle in his eye like merry old Santa Clause, which I later realized was the mirth from beguiling a group of children.

On the ground a circle had been drawn with a stick around a group of objects.  The man told us he had placed them there, and he offered us a prize, a token that was part of a larger game, if we could look at the clues within the circle and tell the story behind what had happened.  Everything we needed to know was within the circle, and we were not to enter that circle, lest we disturb the evidence.  One of these pieces was a tomahawk, firmly stuck in the ground.  Near it was a bear trap with a scrap of an animal’s fur trapped tightly within its jaws.  There may have been other clues, but these were the ones I remember best, because they were most central to the story which I had developed about the scene.

My idea was that a man had set a trap, which then trapped an animal.  When the trapper returned to his trap, he found the animal struggling for freedom, so he took his tomahawk and was about to kill the beast, when it made a valiant effort to tear itself free, leaving a chunk of its flesh behind.  In his haste, the man dropped his weapon and set off after the animal, to catch it with his bare hands, if possible.  Otherwise, he would have taken it with him.

I remember another boy’s story, that a trapper was visiting one of his traps when he was attacked by a bear, causing him to drop his weapon and flee the scene.  Everyone had a different story to tell.  Each looked at the evidence contained within the circle and conjured an explanation for it.  Then, we all waited patiently for the man with the beard to tell us which one was closest to the true story.

His shoulders bounced with his silent laugh, as he gave a sideways glance at a friend.  “What do you think the true story is?  Do you really think that’s it?” he coached us.  Then he asked us, “Do you think there really is a true story?”  I didn’t get it.  He seemed to be suggesting that all of the ideas were equally true.  Choosing his words carefully, he asked us, “Do you remember what I said in the beginning?  I said I put a few items into a circle on the ground, and I wanted you to look at the evidence and tell me the story of what you think happened.  So far, none of you has even come close to the truth of it.  Look again and see if you can tell me what happened.”

In response, I believe he got a lot of blank stares from some vexed children.  I looked at the items within the circle yet again, wracking my mind to figure out what story they were supposed to be telling, but the one I had was already the one my mind had settled upon.  We begged him for the “true” story, and he eventually relented, giving none of us the desired prize.

“You want to know the true story?  I already told you the true story!  Do you want me to show it to you?”  he exclaimed.  “First, I came over here and stuck the tomahawk in the ground like this, ” he said, pantomiming the act of slamming the small axe into the ground.  “Then, I came over here and opened the bear trap just enough to put a piece of fur in it, which I laid down, here.  Then I drew a circle around it like this,” he said, retracing his movements every step of the way.

Of course, we all felt cheated.  We thought that we were supposed to find the story behind the evidence, which we had taken to mean the intended fictional story, otherwise known as the “true” story.  We didn’t realize that the true story was exactly what he had told us at the beginning: the objects got into the circle because he put them there.  If we had taken him at his word and simply told him what he had told us, then we would have guessed it correctly.  Had he merely invented a story to suit his fancy, he would have judged our fictional tales against his own fictional tale, which would have been just as valid as comparing ours against each other.  Evidence never really points to anything but the truth, though we might try to make it look otherwise.  Therefore, he would have been wrong in suggesting that his own tale was the truth behind the evidence.  The only truth that the evidence pointed to was that someone had put a few items on the ground and drawn a circle around it.  The answer was so obvious that we missed it completely.

In the beginning, God drew a circle, called Earth, or the Universe, and he placed several items into it.  He told us outright that he had simply put these things there, and then we proceeded to invent stories as to how these things really got there.  We overlooked the simple explanation, the one that was told to us originally, and we tricked ourselves with our own fancy tales.  When told that we were wrong, that all of these things were simply put there, we took the truth to be a cop-out explanation of the evidence.  The fact is, a simple creation story is just too plain to capture the imagination.  It’s not the sort of conclusion that the imaginative and inquisitive mind looks for.  Yet, it is the truth.  A “true” story of any other kind is not really true.  One version is as good as another, and possibly better than the official version, so long as none of them is the truth.

Science is really good at studying things that generally happen, but it makes a foolish effort to play at writing history.  I can say that dogs tend to bite invaders who climb over the back fence.  If I see a man climb a fence, then I might say that he got bit because he was an invader.  However, if the man was entering his own yard after accidentally locking himself out at the front door, whereupon he discovered that his neighbor’s dangerous animal had dug under the fence into his own yard, then what we have is a story that is entirely possible, but not a matter of common occurrence.  The evidence still points to the truth, but it does not cause us to find the truth, because it points to something less likely.  In fact, the less common the event, the more likely it is that the evidence points us to the truth while directing us toward a falsehood.  In the case of the origin of life or the origin of existence, itself, the event is so unlikely that it happened only once, and we have not observed it to happen again.  In this case, neither the dog, nor any other animal, has ever bitten anyone, and no one has ever been locked out of his own home, or, for that matter, even owned a home, so we might never conclude the truth when the unique situation actually occurs.

The fact is simply that every single one of us is a natural-born myth maker.  Every civilization has looked at the world around them and invented a story about how it came into existence.  The nature of that story depends entirely upon the nature of the one making that myth.  Whether a giant god died and became the Earth, or some team played with a fiery football and got it stuck on the sky, or whether a giraffe’s neck got long from struggling ever to reach the highest leaves of a tree, these are all fables, as is the fable that some rudimentary ape climbed down from a tree and started a fire with two sticks.  We think that other cultures have silly stories, but we take ours to be the truth.  In the end, Darwinism is no better than Aesop’s fables, or else it is worse, because we are dumb enough to actually believe it.

It’s the myth makers’ challenge.  God filled the Earth with a bunch of stuff and had us set about making history.  In the end, we wrote many stories that all sounded better than the truth, and the truth was what he told us in the very beginning, that he simply put it there.  It was too simple to be understood.  It felt like a cheap story from a bad storyteller, and we felt cheated.  It wasn’t supposed to be that obvious.

Carte Blanche Philosophy

5 09 2010

Bed and breakfast inns are a hobby of mine.  With most things in life, I think like a middle class citizen: I look to buy things that give me the most for what I pay.  Lower class mentality looks for the cheapest options.  Middle class seeks value, and upper class simply seeks out the best things.  When it comes to lodging, I tend to break out of my middle class mentality and splurge a little.  We all have something like that.  For my grandmother, it was perfume.   For some people it’s a nice car.  For me its a nice inn.

In a lovely coastal town there sat a lovely little inn, famous for having been there almost as long as the town.  The inn, over-all, was first-rate, with heated towel racks, an oak-paneled lobby with a small library of books, complete with armchairs that squeaked like some ancient thing from a bygone era.  In the morning, we found our way to the parlor, where we were to be served the second B of our B & B.  Usually, the host might ask us for the specific way in which we preferred to have a meal prepared, or else we might be served whatever the host had already prepared.  Usually, that’s what happens in these places.  Surprisingly, this host entered the parlor, clasped her hands together and asked us, without preface, what we would like for breakfast.  My first thought was how amazing it was that we might be served whatever we asked for.  My next thought was that, despite my experience with a variety of delicious offerings at other places, I could not, for the life of me, recall the names of those exotic dishes.  The following thought was that, even if I could remember what they were called, it was highly unlikely that the man in the kitchen could possibly serve up a single plate of any of them at a moment’s notice, even if he were the world’s most renown chef.  Therefore, I must assume that while the menu was theoretically limitless, there still had to be some practical limits to what could actually be prepared.  When I asked what could be made, the answer revealed to me that very little was really on the menu at all.  I ended up eating french toast for breakfast each day.  The paucity of options was disguised by the open-ended question.

In a typical restaurant, we might have the luxury of choosing from a list of repasts.  In a very small establishment, like a B & B, the customers are so few that the proprietor cannot afford to avail an entire list of options.  Instead, we typically get the single option handed to us on a menu the size of a business card, which is often mounted in a special holder near the middle of the table.  Now, the first menu appears, at the outset, to be the better of the two.  We are offered, first and foremost, the luxury of choice.  Unfortunately, what this means is that the odds are not so good that we might happen to choose the best item on the list.  We must resign ourselves to an inferior dish, perhaps.  When the menu consists of a single option, the onus is on the host to choose the best meal possible, and the necessary ingredients, however exotic, may be supplied in advance, with no fear of them going to waste.  The single-item menu is like the best item on the multi-item menu, with the added benefit that it can consist of expensive perishables, being that they don’t have to sit around and wait for someone to ask for them.

Now, the blank menu, at first, seems to be the biggest menu of all.  One would think it was limitless.  That’s the art of its disguise.  In truth, though, while it sets no limits on what can be ordered, it still doesn’t really offer anything.  If a larger menu almost guarantees that we won’t order the best thing, then a limitless menu makes one wonder if we might order anything good.  This is the paradox of a boundary.  Sometimes, a fare without limit is a fare with no offering.

In the most liberal of worldviews, we find philosophies with no moral restrictions.  We might marry anyone, or anything.  We might keep a vow or break it.  We might lie, cheat or steal, or we might abstain from such things.  We might eat, drink and be merry, or we might inject, snort, smoke and blow our minds.  We could vandalize a wall, a website or our own bodies.  We could talk like the devil, live like Hell and still expect a Heaven on Earth.  The complete rejection of religion is the rejection of boundaries.  It is a man who knocks down the walls of his house, because he finds the space too confining, only to discover that he is now homeless.

A world without God and a world without religion is a world at your feet.  You can do anything that your heart desires, and then you can die.  You can populate the Earth, build empires, amass wealth, attain celebrity and struggle to carve out your little Avalon.  You can have anything and everything, except for the only thing that you really need.  The blank menu offers everything and nothing at the same time.  It has no limits, which is easy, because it has nothing to offer.

For, without God, there can be no purpose.  Without him, there can be no meaning at all in life.  In fact, there can’t even be meaning to the idea of meaning.

When the house is on fire, you can run any way you like, but the only way that matters is the way out.  You can have it all, because it all has your destiny, which is the destiny of death.

When the atheist says that your purpose is whatever you make it, what he really says is that there is no purpose.  When the postmodernist says that all ideologies are equally good, what he’s really saying is that they’re all equally worthless.  When the host says you can have whatever you want to eat, what she really means is that she has nothing much to offer.  The best menu is the one that has only one option on it.  We give you the best thing we know, and we stake everything, our reputation, our lives, upon it.  You can take it, or you can refuse it, but there’s only one best way.

That way is Jesus, the Christ, who paid for our sins that we might be saved.  You can take it or leave it, but I’ll not offer a list of choices, nor will I lie and tell you that you can have whatever you want.


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.

The True Atheist

22 02 2010

Often, the Christian fails to live up to his, and God’s, moral standards.  Much finger-pointing then ensues from those who claim to believe neither in God nor absolute morality.  The atheist does not charge the believer with failing to uphold atheistic standards, but, rather, he condemns the Christian for failing to be a true Christian.  The atheist has no standards, for the whole world is a colossal freak show to him, and morality is just an opinion.  He then has no real basis for judging anyone else’s actions.  Therefore he must judge others by their own standards.  The unavoidable consequence is a double standard.  If the Christian fails in little ways, then he is a hypocrite.   If the atheist fails miserably, then he’s okay, because that’s just the way he happens to be.  Instead, the Christian is judged for identifying the atheist’s moral failure for what it is.

If I fail, then shame on me.  If you fail, then shame on me for noticing.

The true atheist is a mythical being, forged from fantasies.  He does not care that others think that there’s a God, nor that they consider him bound for Hell.  He does not slander believers for believing, because their faith doesn’t matter any more than their and everyone else’s existence.  He is a criminal, who behaves himself only when such is profitable.  The laws of men are weak to stop him, and crime often pays.  He sees nothing as right or wrong.  He does not help the needy, for anything not able to live on its own might as well die.  He sees natural disasters in the same way that he sees the victims of natural disasters: both are products of random chance without inherent value, and both are temporary.  He steps over the bodies of the suffering.  He demands no justice, for there is no such thing.  He offers no pity.  He expects no meaning or purpose in life.  He has no hope, beyond that this life might treat him kindly and then stop suddenly, without much pain.  He has no reason to get out of bed in the morning, except that he is driven by the motivators of simple pain and pleasure.  Humanity is an illusion, being in truth no better than animals, which are merely sophisticated varieties of common minerals in aqueous solution.  He has no reason to condemn others’ shortcomings.  He has no reason to get angry.  Though he experiences pleasure, he has no real reason to be happy.  His only objective is to pass his genes to the next generation, yet, ironically, that objective was no one’s idea and need not be achieved.  The true atheist does not exist.

The true atheist would be a dangerous, unpredictable and selfish beast.  In as much as one approaches true atheism, one becomes a threat to others.

Purpose and meaning are things that can only come from God.  You can attempt to create your own, but you are not the author of your own life, and anything you manufacture is playacting.  Right and wrong are things that can only be determined by God.  You can invent your own standards, but, then, so can the next guy, and no one need do what you think is right, not even you.  The atheist, the breed that actually exists, loves to put God on trial and condemn him for his mismanagement of our world.  Again, on what basis does an atheist condemn anyone?  He puts himself in the role of God, holding his own standard in higher esteem than God’s, and he attempts to sit in judgement over the Almighty.  If my own code of ethics has independent merit, then I am a god in my own right.  If I hold it over God, then I have usurped him, not unlike what Satan had intended to do.  But doing so requires there to be a God, and the existence of God undermines the atheist need to be a god.  If he cannot be a god, then he cannot hold others to his standard, which, by all appearances is what all atheists seems eager to do.

The real atheist, the one that really exists, is irritated that others believe in the existence of God.  He mocks them at every turn.  He struggles to bend public thought his way.  The schools must teach his views, and the media must assume him correct.  He develops rationale for explaining his own existence without God.  He hates the implication that he is a sinner bound for Hell.  The real atheist is sometimes dishonest and sometimes criminal, but he actually prefers to see himself as a good person, and he will actually make some effort to be one, even though “good” is not a real concept to him.  He sometimes soothes his conscience by helping the needy.  He raises your taxes to make sure you’re doing it, too.  He is horrified by natural disasters, for they remind him of his own fragility, and he is fully conscious of the human tragedy.  He insists on justice, even if he cannot define the basis for justice.  He feels pity for the downtrodden, and he doesn’t even reconcile this with his own logic.  He longs for meaning and purpose, but he rejects the existence of either.  All he has is pain and pleasure, and he spends his life trying to minimize one and maximize the other, as though it mattered.  He values the company of other people, even if they are just coincidental arrangements of organic chemicals, nothing more.  He mourns their loss, even if they were no one’s handiwork and by no one lovingly created.  He is quick to condemn politicians and especially religious leaders for moral shortcomings, even if he doesn’t believe in morality.  He is easily angered.  He seeks to be happy.  He raises his children, when he no longer feels like aborting them, and he worries about what the world will be like for them when they grow up, though he won’t be there to care.  He worries about global warming for his progeny, though, logically, it should not matter at all to him, because it won’t affect him.  He sometimes loves, even if love is just a biochemical trick.  He is the real atheist, and he is a living, breathing oxymoron.

He says that there is no God.  He desires no God.  He thinks that there is no God.  But he lives as though there were a God.  His actions betray his words.  Fortunately, actions speak louder than words.

Erosion; a Dialogue Among Rocks

20 02 2010

Imagine, if you will, three similar worlds placed upon each other like sheets of paper, arranged so that their homologous features matched. 

 The top sheet is a picture of a timeless world.  Mountains dot its landscape, and great rocks thrust into the sky.  Trees cling to the sides of cliffs, their roots wrapped around boulders, and vines blanket them like a comforter.  A lone steep road ascends the side of a crag, winding its way up to the top, where a city sits in full view of the surrounding mountains and valleys.  This is not a defensive location, for the city has no enemies.  Nor is it a location of convenience, for its engineers were clever enough to be able put it on any terrain whatsoever.  It rests upon that crest like a beacon, because the denizens of the lone farms and ranches nestled in the nooks and dells throughout the land love to be able to gaze upon it, where it flickers like a nest of stars that haven’t learned how to fly across the sky yet.  On one horizon, the stars gather in retreat from the advancing dawn.  On the other horizon the sun hides just out of sight, gently illuminating the morning sky.  This world is held forever in a state of perpetual dawn.  Its clocks are always wound.  Its creatures are never hungry.  Its rocks are not eroded, nor are its metals corroded.  The entire place is pristine, like a new car, fresh and green, without blemish.  It even has that new-Earth smell.  A blanket of fog nestles in the lowest ravines, dripping dew upon its herbage.  Cascades of waterfalls make their way down the sides of rock faces.  It is near one of these streams that a man first appears.  He stares in awe at the world around him.  Then he sees the city, and he feels it beckoning to him, so he begins a slow ascent up the winding road cut into the face of the rock.

 Now, let us return to our stack of papers.  The world on the bottom, though a manifestation of the one on the top, is a very different place, indeed.  Somewhere between the top page and the bottom page, the forces of entropy kicked in, reducing the bottom page to a manner of Hell on Earth.  All of the mountains from the first page were eroded until they were nothing but completely flat valleys.  Then the valleys were eroded until they washed into the sea.  Boulders eroded into pebbles, which eroded into gravel, which turned to sand, then silt and then clay.  Hurricanes started in what once was the Atlantic Ocean, traversed unhindered where the American continent used to be and traveled on into the Pacific Ocean.  Being a very liquid sphere, it became not unlike Jupiter, with its everlasting cyclone.  The miniscule particles of sediment were stirred up into a colloid, a suspension of solid within a liquid, causing the dirt and water to mix into a dangerous quagmire.  The sun had reached the end of its life, and, for a time, there seemed some uncertainty as to whether it would consume the Earth or blow it into outer space.  It had done a little of both, tearing the planet apart and turning it inside out, bringing its molten core to the surface.  The stars fled from the sky and blinked out, and the sky was pitch black.  The Earth was void and without form.  It was ready for God to move upon the face of its darkness and create new heavens and a new Earth.  But this was the last page.  This world was timeless.  It was into this darkness that a man appeared in mid-air and fell into the quagmire, where he promptly began to sink into its quicksand, drawing ever closer to one of those eternally burning pockets of magma.

 Somewhere between those pages was another.  This middle page was the story leading the top page to the bottom page.  This one was not timeless, and, in a sense, it was not just one page but many.  In truth, these worlds when put together formed a book.  The mountains were only halfway eroded in the middle page.  The creatures were hungry but not dead.  Somewhere in the middle of this life-death world was a hill that had once been a mountain but was not yet a valley, and a significant portion of rock had been exposed.  A force of humanity had hewn rock from its place and changed its shape, relocating it ultimately to the head of a grave.  A very large mass of people gathered around it to pay their respects, never noticing the neighboring grave, which had also been freshly filled.  This grave was marked by no headstone, for its only respecter could afford naught but to roll a nearby boulder to the place of the head.  The crowd, then, could hardly be blamed for trampling rudely upon the recently deceased, though they might have noticed the one mourner beside it.  If they had possessed eyes to see such a thing, they would have seen the personage of a deceased one arise from his grave and walk slowly up into the sky, traversing a road in a different world, making his way to a certain city.  By all appearances, he would be walking up thin air into the sky, where once a mountain had been.  Likewise, if they had the eyes to see, then they would have noticed a personage falling from his grave into the bowels of a dead planet, sinking into an invisible mud.  He would by all appearances be falling through a valley floor that had not yet washed into the sea.

 When the crowds dispersed, aged and died out, a vandal visited the gravestone, changing one letter to another.  We might imagine those two stones lying side by side, one carved by human hands, the other carved by random chance.  One stone looks at the other and notices his regular shape, and the letters and numbers scrawled across the surface.  He at once recognizes the fact that something apart from the forces of nature has affected his neighbor.  We might pretend that the two stones had a discussion on the matter.

 “By Jove,” says the boulder, “You have a very distinguishing mark upon you!”

 The gravestone awakes from its slumber and mumbles, “It’s just erosion.  Random forces of nature have made me this way.”

 “But,” the boulder protests, “there is writing on you!”

 The gravestone immediately dismisses this.  “It is nothing but an illusion.  It only looks like the work of an intelligent hand.  I just happen to be the one rock among millions that happened to erode intelligently.  It’s a statistical inevitability.”

 “Look, rock,” said the boulder in frustration, “I know very well what a natural rock looks like.  I know what the forces of chance would produce, and you aren’t it!”  The boulder peered closely at the other and read, “R. I. P. H… Charles Darwin… 1809–1882.”

 “What?!” replied the gravestone, offended, “That’s supposed to say R.I.P.”

 “Well, it used to, but somebody messed with it…hey, how do you know what it’s supposed to say?  I thought you said it was written by random chance.  That’s like rolling the dice and saying that it’s supposed to give you ten, or flipping a coin and saying that it’s supposed to be heads.  If it’s random, then it’s not supposed to be anything in particular.”

 “Yes, but I was the lucky rock that eroded into the message, ‘R.I.P.’

 “I wonder what the H means,” mused the boulder.

 “Nothing,” the gravestone snapped, “It doesn’t mean anything, because it wasn’t authored by anyone.”

 “Does it mean Heaven,” thought the boulder, but then a new idea ocurred to him, “or does it mean Hell?”

 “I said it doesn’t mean anything!” the gravestone shouted.

 “Nonsense,” said the boulder, “It’s too well organized to not mean something.  Someone did this to you, and they must have meant something by it.”

 But the two rocks would not agree.  With time, the gravestone eroded into just another rock, and its letters crumbled away.  Then it said nothing, meant nothing, and looked not at all like a rock that had been deliberately shaped by human hands.

But this is all pretend.  Rocks do not discuss the meaning of life, for they are just rocks.  It is people, living and breathing and exibiting far more design, which demonstrate this kind of nonsensical discussion.  They see their own order and claim it a matter of random chance.  They see aberrations in that order and call it disease, a thing which was not meant to be.  Yet, though they can see that the aberration was not meant to be, they refuse to see that the  healthy person was meant to be.  Having been endowed with a design, having been meant to be anything at all, we demonstrate the existence of the one who meant it.  Otherwise, we cannot claim that a sick person should have been healthy any more than we can claim that a coin toss should have been heads…unless we thought we had rigged the toss, but, then, there comes the intervention of an intelligent design.

 Back to our book, again, we see that the pages have been disturbed.  Someone has picked up our unbound book and read through only the first page.  After finishing that page, the reader placed it on the bottom of the stack and never finished reading the second page.  Now, our story of the universe starts with degeneration without a perfect starting point.  The beginning is mysterious and unexplained.  Humpty is falling from a wall upon which he never sat.  The story begins with the fall.  In our new version, the sun has already risen, and a tiny crack has already formed in the wall of the city.  A particle of sand has moved a little down the stream.  The world starts as nearly perfect as it could be, except that it is already on the second page before we’ve really begun. 

 Then we come to what would have been the end.  Billions of souls perish in the darkness of the end of the world, and there is no transition from there to the first page again, even though it is the next page.  An intraversable chasm sits between the first and last pages, and the people suffering in one cannot get to the other.  Yet, mysteriously, the new last page is full of people.  Those fortunate enough to live on this page have no fear of slipping to the second page, because there is none.  They started with the second page, and now they’re on the new last page, the beginning of things, when all was perfect and new.  All that was old has passed away, and now there is a new heaven and a new Earth.  This will not perish, because this is now the final page of the story.

In the meantime, we shall erode like rocks while arguing whether we have been shaped by an intelligent designer.