Archives for category: Science

Faith in reason is the trust that the ultimate natures of things lie together in a harmony which excludes mere arbitrariness. It is the faith that at the base of things we shall not find mere arbitrary mystery. The faith in the order of nature which made possible the growth of science is a particular example of a deeper faith. — Alfred North Whitehead (British mathematician-philosopher), Science and the Modern World, Free Press, NewYork, 1967 (originally published 1925), available at Google books.

(Snagged from http://www.sciencemeetsreligion.org/)

No degree needed. Well stated.

Climate Concern is Mis-directed | Somewhat Reasonable.

Truth often hurts, especially for the truth teller.

http://www.acpeds.org/tragic-day-for-americas-children

“Dr. Michelle Cretella, President of the American College of Pediatricians in response to the SCOTUS decision today stated, “[T]his is a tragic day for America’s children. The SCOTUS has just undermined the single greatest pro-child institution in the history of mankind: the natural family. Just as it did in the joint Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton decisions, the SCOTUS has elevated and enshrined the wants of adults over the needs of children.“”

They reference their court brief:

http://www.acpeds.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/Amici-Brief-FINAL.pdf

Which begins:

“The American College of Pediatricians (ACP) is a nonprofit organization of pediatricians and healthcare professionals dedicated to the health and well-being of children[…]. ACP’s Mission is to enable all children to reach their optimal physical and emotional health and wellbeing. To this end, ACP recognizes the basic father-mother family unit, within the context of marriage, as the optimal setting for childhood development, but also pledges its support to all children, regardless of their circumstances. ACP encourages mothers, fathers and families to advance the needs of their children above their own, and is committed to fulfilling its mission by encouraging sound public policy, based upon the best available research, to assist parents and influence society in the endeavor of childrearing.”

Note: “…also pledges its support to all children, regardless of their circumstances. ACP encourages mothers, fathers and families to advance the needs of their children above their own…”

We must all pledge to support all children regardless of their circumstances. We must all put the needs of others, especially the needs of our children, above our own. We must take care to not harm ourselves in serving the needs of others, but it is much more difficult to guard against self-serving, than to over serve. It is much easier (even more natural) to be selfish, than to be considerate of others.

Read the brief and decide for yourself. In the meantime, I’ll quote this, “…the four most recent studies, by Dr. Mark Regnerus, Dr. Douglas Allen and two by Dr. Paul Sullins, report substantial and pertinent negative outcomes for children with same-sex parents.”

At this page, http://www.acpeds.org/same-sex-marriage-not-best-for-children, they say:

“While the debate over the legitimacy of same-sex marriage can be viewed from many perspectives, there should be little debate about the effects it has upon children: Same-sex marriage deliberately deprives the child of a mother or a father, and is therefore harmful. The College has sought to defend the child’s position in this debate from an objective, scientific standpoint. Below you will find convincing evidence of the fundamental value of the married, father-mother family unit to the optimal development of the child.”

They provide lots of information and references.

It seems their efforts are in good faith and are well grounded. Common sense supports their assertions. Of course, common sense doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny, but it usually does. It also seems likely the organization is somewhat biased, but facts are stubborn things, and bias either way tends to fall off under scrutiny. It does appear to be an entirely legitimate and qualified organization, acting in good faith. Judge for yourself.

The sad fact is that science, especially the social sciences, are corrupted by power and politics, also by fame and Facebook-likes. Even scientists want to be liked. When there is political pull to be gained, power and prestige, even the simple accolades of reporters and strangers up for grabs, fallible humans, even hardened scientific researches, fall victim of confirmation bias and self-deception. And as Feynman said, we must not fool ourselves, but it is so easy to do so when someone pats us on the back for it.

The fact that is inarguable, people have elevated the wants of adults above the welfare of children. The SCOTUS continues to codify it.

 

The media hates the church. Much of the left hates the church. Most of the radical environmental movement hates the church. When the enemies of the church support something the Pope says, it might mean they take his words out of context or twist them. With Ladato si, that is not the case. It can only mean the Pope has made statements detrimental to the church.

The Pope has espoused political power. Political entanglements harm the church. History is clear on that point. The Laudato si does more harm than good, more harm for all, especially more harm for the church.

Writing for First Things, of course, R.R. Reno reviews Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Sihttp://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2015/06/the-return-of-catholic-anti-modernism. Excellent.

I’ll likely be of similar opinion once I’ve read it myself.

I look forward to Maureen Mullarkey’s comments. She doesn’t pull punches, and she has a keen eye for seeing through the ornamentation and fixing on the essential truth in a presentation. Perhaps a characteristic of an artist.

I think Reno finds a key when he notes the inconsistency of the Pope aligning with science consensus, while at the same time condemning it. Reno says, “In this encyclical, Francis expresses strikingly anti-scientific, anti-technological, and anti-progressive sentiments. [and anti-modern]” If I understand Reno’s use of progressive, I would say antigrowth, antiadvancement. When I use the word progressive, I’m generally talking about the leftist ideology that is akin to socialism. I’m not inclined to suppose the Pope anti-progressivist in this sense. He seems to have socialists leanings as well as I can tell.

Reno indicates the Pope was speaking against globalization, and probably specifically as related to China and its impressive recent growth. I think it is quite important to recognize that China will not pay attention to the Pope, nor to any policies or edicts from outsiders that hinders its continued growth. China is far too big and far too poor to entertain notions of slowing growth and increasing per capita wealth. They have the resources in raw material and manpower. They will use it. They will burn fossil fuels and nuclear fuels as fast as they possibly can. They are finding that fouling one’s nest is a bad thing. They are becoming ever more conscience of decreasing pollution. As their growth and wealth increases, they will afford more and more means of keeping it clean. That is a good thing on the whole.

I note this Reno quote, including a Francis quote:

Another feature of modernity and its faith in progress has been a political commitment to liberty, equality, and fraternity. To be modern is to believe that, for all our flaws, Western societies are more democratic, more egalitarian, and more inclusive than any in history. This is not the Pope’s view. The West is rapacious. He quotes one source approvingly: “Twenty per cent of the world’s population consumes resources at a rate that robs the poor nations and future generations of what they need to survive.”

I find that sad. The Pope seems to not understand that commerce and freedom are not zero sum. The more the better-off produce, the more is available for all. The 20% consuming are also producing, and they are producing far more than they are consuming. Energy is a particularly good example here. We need to bring the poor, the undeveloped communities up to the power levels of the west. Ask any missionary in undeveloped lands about how important electricity is, and how often they have to manage without. Inexpensive, reliable electricity (and fossil fuel) is the key to lifting the truly poor out of poverty and oppression.

Reno says:

In effect, the present world system created by European and North American modernity—the world made possible by Newton, Locke, Rousseau, Ricardo, Kant, Pasteur, Einstein, Keynes, and countless other architects of modern science, economics, and political culture—is an abomination. Francis never quite says that. But this strong judgment is implied in his many fierce denunciations of the current global order. It destroys the environment, oppresses the multitudes, and makes us blind to the beauty of creation.

If Reno has captured the intent of the Pope, I strongly disagree with the Pope. The modern world is what we have to work with. I know the Pope put some emphasis on personal, individual responsibility. Yes, I agree. Be the change you want to see in the world. The modern world is actually, quantifiably, verifiably better than any before. MLK Jr. is still correct in his observation that the moral arc of the world bends slowly, but it bends toward justice and freedom. The fact is, the doomsayers may be right, but they have yet to be, and there is more evidence now than ever before that things are actually getting better.

I agree with R.R. Reno. I may alter this and that after I’ve read for myself, but I agree with what Reno says. I agree that the Pope seems to be leading in a dangerous direction. I believe society as a whole is experiencing pain associated with bad choices. I see from history and observing our world today that our choices will continue to be bad until the pain gets much worse. The better choices rest in freedom and respect for the individual at all levels in all of life’s stages and ages. We must first do no harm. We must work with and for others. We must cherish each his own. We must not coerce. We must allow all possible latitude as rational, cooperative children of God. When each of us, well, most of us, can view everyone as equal and of inestimable worth, then we will be back on the right track. Till then, over consumption will continue. The Pope cannot change that. However, market forces correct for such. Shortages result. Pain and suffering ensue. People wise up and work then.

The gods of the copybook headings come to mind.

The world will not overheat if we burn every last kilogram of coal, oil, natural gas, and even the methane clathrates. The systems are hydrodynamic and biologically buffered. Dissipative systems emerge, and the will get as complex as necessary to push back against any perturbation. 1,000 years from now, assuming something else doesn’t extinct human beings, no one will ever think of high CO2 levels, unless maybe they are trying to figure out how to raise them back up some.


Willis’ article is well presented and insightful. The comments, particularly those of RGB, are quite valuable. Some of the comments are good examples of what not to do. Some are educational and valuable.

Willis and RGB contribute greatly to WUWT, and they are among the greatest minds of our time. If you research the site, with the built-in search or your favorite search engine, you will find a wealth of knowledge and insight.

You will understand the global climate better if you read this article and the comments. The time spent reading will prove worthwhile.

While RGB points out that CO2 physically acts to increase global average surface temperature, Willis shows (in this and prior articles) that CO2 is not the only factor, and as RGB points out, more heat doesn’t necessarily mean hotter; it can instead mean faster, or slightly larger dissipative emergent phenomena.

Carbon dioxide is an essential ingredient in life. We must have it, and it has been deficient in the environment throughout human existence. It is likely still deficient. CO2 is no more a pollutant than O2 and H2O. Oxygen is a killer. Water, even more so. We humans suffer more expense and direct tragedy already, directly due to these other two essential ingredients of life than any plausible scenario associated with CO2.

We will burn all of the fossil fuels unless a genius breakthrough occurs. We will run out of all of it before CO2 even begins to become a true concern to the well being of humans and the biosphere.

Mostly, I agree with RGB (and Willis routinely expresses full solidarity with this sentiment) when he says that climate related policies, and even the vast sums spent on climate research are harmful to the least among us. The Pope wants us to respect the poor. That starts not with only small kindnesses, but with cheap energy by every means available.

RGB is correct when he says:
“At heart, all poverty is energy poverty. The units of energy are the units of work, and work, one way or another, is wealth.”

http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/

Watts Up With That?

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

I got to thinking about how I could gain more understanding of the daily air temperature cycles in the tropics. I decided to look at what happens when the early morning (midnight to 5:00 AM) of a given day is cooler than usual, versus what happens when the early morning is warmer than usual. So what was I expecting to find?

Well, my hypothesis is that due to the emergence of clouds and thunderstorms, when the morning is cooler than usual, there will be less clouds and thunderstorms. As a result the day will tend to warm up, and by the following midnight it will end up warmer than where it started. And when the morning is warmer than usual, increased clouds and thunderstorms will cool the day down, and by the following midnight it will end up cooler than when it started. In other…

View original post 1,665 more words

I always enjoy reading BioLogos. The site is an extraordinary resource in so many regards.

I shared this on my Facebook page without comment. Then I shared it again with a short comment.

http://biologos.org/blog/embracing-faith-accepting-ambiguity

Now, after reading it a second time, I just have to write more.

This young woman opens her story in a depression suffered six years ago. Her depression was at least part physical, but it seems clear it primarily arose from a lack of truth and understanding. She had never found sound teaching and solid information. She had been led to believe she had only one option, of accepting or rejecting fundamentalism. She described it as thinking her only options were a fundamentalism she could no longer believe, and empty agnosticism. While certainty is certainly absurd, claiming ignorance in the ultimate sense is, in my view, irrational. I consider agnosticism as the abandonment of all reason.

Our story-teller explains that her upbringing had been fundamentalist, Pentecostal, and settled. She said any questioning was simply not accepted. The truths were known. That was not much different from my own upbringing, but my Baptist grandfather was a man of science. (An eye doctor, but he could have been anything, from a machinist to a physics or mathematics professor. He was a practical engineer, inventor, tinkerer.) He helped me learn to question everything from my earliest years.

I forget how early I started. I never accepted any notions of a young earth. From earliest school days, the unimaginable age of the earth and universe were given. I would unreservedly rebuff any assertions regarding merely some few thousand years for earth. It was just not reasonable.

It took me longer to come to grips with evolution. Gradually, by about 20 years of age, I accepted that biological evolution and common descent were simply how God created man from the dust of the earth. I accepted it based on general science, but since some of the breakthroughs of genomics, there is simply no excuse. Nothing, absolutely nothing in any aspect of every facet of science having anything to do with life in any way, including human life, makes sense without a Darwinian evolutionary framework. Theodosius Dobzhansky made this statement in the early 1970s, long before I realized it. Theo was, and remains, right. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nothing_in_Biology_Makes_Sense_Except_in_the_Light_of_Evolution. It has only been recently that I became aware that people have been thinking like I do for so long.

These words of hers are particularly worth repeating:

Nearly every day for the first year or two after we moved, I prayed the words of the Roman centurion over and over and over again, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” Sometimes it was all that I could manage, but over time I realized that I wasn’t clinging so hard to those words anymore, and I became more sure that even if everything else that I had ever believed passed away, I knew that Jesus was the Son of God, and that was enough. From there I began slowly and painfully and uncertainly reworking my faith.

I don’t suppose I’ve ever fallen so deep, but I’ve had similar times. Jesus is enough. Sometimes, that is all that matters, all that is real.

By the way, it has never been any aspect of science that has hurt me, only people, usually in betrayal of trust.

Impressive list of authors she found to help her learn truth: Matthew Paul Turner, Madeleine L’Engle, C.S. Lewis, Donald Miller, Scot McKnight, N.T. Wright, Timothy Keller, and Greg Boyd.

She mentions that questions specifically about evolution didn’t come up with her for a long time. She’s not specific, but I suspect it was after college and marriage. For me, it was early. I accepted it very young, but drew a distinction at the special dignity of humanity being in the image of God. I now can hardly even remember what my arguments were. I now see the miracle of in-breathed-ness as simply something God did at the right time, and science and biology will never be able to define it, much less pin down the when of it.

Mainly noting for my own mental processing, she indicates they had four children in the space of about six years up to last year, 2014. She mentioned being busy as a mother. Busy indeed. Blessed indeed. They thought to homeschool as an interim. Liked it. Kept homeschooling. Again, blessed!

Another quote-worthy comment:

As I began researching which curriculums I wanted to use next year, I realized that all of the Christian homeschool science curriculums were likely to be written from the young-earth creationist perspective. I did not want that for my kids, so I began researching other options. That’s when I discovered BioLogos. The BioLogos team helped me find a science curriculum, but much more than that, they helped me to practically and articulately answer questions of how faith and science can be reconciled.

To this, I relate! Ask my wife. She too.

Our family moves in fundamentalist and Wesleyan circles. It comes with the territory of taking one’s faith seriously and homeschooling, especially when raised that way.

I expect to run into young-earth views and antievolutionary views, and I expect some derision, but I don’t expect hate and viciousness. Sadly, that is exactly what we occasionally see. Sometimes first person, in the flesh. Other times, more secondhand. There are periodicals we used to get, but not anymore. We dropped/avoid such because of articles that call me sinner, or compromiser, or worse, because I don’t accept their take on a few bible verses that they interpret in nontraditional ways. (Yes, check the history. YEC is a modern, post-WWI phenomenon that was based primarily in fear, but also in racism–which included southern US racism, anti-German racism, and anti-Semitism.) It is hardly compelling, but it is noteworthy that the majority of Christians reject young-earth notions and accept evolution, at least in a general, nonspecific sense.

So, for our family, finding or assembling curriculum for our scientifically inclined boys has been a challenge. My elder son is as adamant about all things science, and more so than me, with the exuberance of youth. The younger cares less about all things controversial, but the intricacies of all of creation enthrall him. That includes most all scientific topics as well as all things artistic.

Many talk about “world view.” They use it as a code word meaning narrow fundamentalist dogma.

To me, worldview must be summed in commitment to truth. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus is truth. I cannot cotton to lying for Jesus. I’m certain Jesus doesn’t either. Clinging to a narrow interpretation of certain scriptures does not make a worldview. Simply refusing to accept obvious, demonstrable facts and processes is dishonest. In all practical aspects life, that is lying. I seem to remember scripture explaining that liars have their place in the lake of fire. Literalist somehow have a more liberal view on that than I do.

Our story-teller explains that her growth and realization was slow, gradual, even halting. She supposes it is that way for most of us. I suppose so too. I tend to forget, though, that I have been at this longer than she has lived. I literally have been building my faith, my views, my understanding of all things science for over four decades now. Hardly any time at all. I’m still such a novice. However, I have much more experience than most people addressing such issues.

Life is a nonstop journey, with scarcely time to rest. Thank God there is a rest in Him. Still, though life is often hard, and often challenging, even thrilling, it can be so ridiculously shallow if we don’t deliberately dig deep. There is more to everything. The ultimate question, why, is never completely answered. There is always more. There will always be more. Always.

If you didn’t click the link and read her article, you really should, especially those last two paragraphs.

 

Good article here at The Breakthroughhttp://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/issues/nuclear/five-surprising-public-health-facts-about-fukushima.

My summary is that the scare over the nuclear incident harmed many immediately and long-term, the data and facts show little danger ever existed from the nuclear plant problems and long-term danger is too little to detect. The reaction was the problem, not the nuclear fallout. Fukushima was tragic for several reasons. The nuclear problems were minimal, and our engineering was sound. It was simply overwhelmed by the forces of nature, forces which we are now accounting for better. The net result is this nearly inconsequential contribution to the horrific disaster will be even less in the future.

Journalist Will Boisvert said of the forced evacuations and initial restrictions imposed by officials, “another instance of alarmism that causes more harm than the risk it’s trying to avert.”

That statement is particularly important. The ancient truism, “First, do no harm.” Don’t make matters worse when there is no real and quantifiable likelihood of making matters better in the long run.

Not only were people directly and immediately harmed by the forced evacuations, substantial resources were diverted from obvious use in alleviating immediate suffering of thousands. We really need better education in these matters. The information is available. We don’t need research and grants. The information is already accumulated. It is a matter of personal initiative. And I’ll state frankly that LNT is false and its use and imposition causes harm, harm that cannot be justified.

We live in a radiation filled environment. Millions of years, and we are going strong. There is a threshold for all types of radiation, and most of what we encounter with all sorts of radiation exposure are simply not dangerous. We will live longer and die happier if we just don’t worry about it.

Of course, yes, that can be taken too far, but we have a long way to go from where we are before we need to start worrying about not worrying enough.

Awesome! A four-times lensed view of Refsdal, the first exploding star we can see through a supermassive lens.

Hubble image

The four yellow dots indicated with arrows are the one exploding star, lensed and mirrored by the gravity of the galaxy between us and that exploded star.

Apparently this is relatively common, the lensing and mirroring of distant objects by closer masses. However, this is apparently the first super nova we have observed.

Note, we are observing a star explode today. The star is 9.3 billion light years away.

One light year equals 5.87849981 × 10^12 miles. One light year distance is nearly 6 trillion miles. Thus, the light from the exploded star has travelled 54,670,048,233,000,000,000,000 miles, 54.67 x 10^21 miles, or over 54 sextillion miles. (Trillion, quadrillion, quintillion, sextillion, septillion…) Since the speed of light is constant at 186,000 miles per second, for us to observe it right now, it has to have been travelling for 293,924,990,500,000,000 seconds, which, of course, works out as about 9.3 billion years. (Thus the convenience of the light-year as a unit of distance that gives us a natural measure of how long the light took to travel that far.)

In other words, we are observing today something that happened billions of years ago.

Now, this article, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150305140437.htm, talks a little about the star and the galaxy (and the galactic cluster in the vicinity) that is lensing it, and it tries to explain simply. It does a good job.

I’m writing to point out the use of models in their work.

We see the exploding star today. We are observing it. We can measure the spectrum of the four yellow spots and determine they are, in fact, four images of the same thing, the same exploding star. There aren’t four, just one.

We need cosmological models that include real-world mathematical constructs to make sense of four images of the same thing around a galaxy roughly halfway between us and the exploding star. We need very good and precise mathematical models to be able to explain the four images positioned as we see them. We can use the mathematical models as predictive tools. These astronomers are using these tools to predict that the images will change in certain ways, given our understanding of the intervening galaxies and space, and if our models are correct, the images will change as predicted.

Probably, however, what we see will change slightly different from predicted, and the astronomers, physicists, cosmologists, and mathematicians will get busy and improve the models to make them fit what we actually observe.

Observational science.

Look at it. Figure it out. Test what you figured. Change what you figured. Do it again.

When the real world behaves as you expect all the time, every try, then your model works and you can have some confidence that you are not fooling yourself. We do this all the time when playing catch. We instinctively construct a physics-and-mathematics (calculus) based model in our head, and if our bodily-coordination is good, we throw and catch and have some fun. Mathematical models are good things.

The caution is that we must not fool ourselves, and we must keep in mind that we are the easiest to fool.

Test, check, recalculate, have others check the work, the tests, and the calculations, and do it again. Then we are observing the world and interacting effectively with it and learning.

In cosmology and astronomy we learn all the time. Lots of things change as we figure better ways to test and better ways to watch and observe. We keep looking, and there’s so much to see that we cannot help but learn and improve our models.

For me, the fascination of the article, of knowing that the lensing is going on and the event is dynamic, the fascination is watching to see how the scientists change their model of dark matter. Dark matter is scary stuff. Not because we cannot see it, but because it is so hard to figure out. It has the stench of magic about it. The more we figure it out, the more we wash away the magic, but until we can routinely model it accurately, and until we can observe it and test it, it is difficult. Science observes. Dark matter is really hard to observe. Wind is something that at first glance is hard to observe, but we know how to observe it. We model the matter and energy involved, we can compute it in detail. Then we watch what the wind does. We watch the trees sway, we watch the leaves blow, we feel the breeze on our faces and blowing through our hair. (Nice, isn’t it.)

Once we have dark matter down like wind, no problem. Until then, it is intriguing to watch and see what we have been getting wrong and how we are correcting.

Journal Reference:

Patrick L. Kelly et al. Multiple Images of a Highly Magnified Supernova Formed by an Early-Type Cluster Galaxy Lens. Submitted to arXiv, 2015 [link] http://arxiv.org/abs/1411.6009

You can download the 17 page paper here:

Cite as: arXiv:1411.6009 [astro-ph.CO]
(or arXiv:1411.6009v3 [astro-ph.CO] for this version)

Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). “Hubble sees supernova split into four images by cosmic lens.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 March 2015. .

http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2015/08

http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2015/08/image/

http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2015/08/image/e/format/web_print/

Again, awesome.

This is another item I wrote on Facebook, and decided I wanted on my blog as well.

My beautiful and intelligent wife happened upon this article (http://www.reasons.org/articles/have-quantum-physicists-disproven-the-big-bang), and she commented to me that she thought is was sad that people base their faith on something other than their relationship with God. That is, setting your faith in anything but God Himself is idolatry. There are people who hold the bible as idol, and there are people who hold science as idol. There are also people who hold science as their entire religion, but that is another (and sad) matter.

Mary also took exception to Dr. Ross’ take on Hebrews 11:6 (one of my favorite scriptures).

I very much appreciated Brother Hugh’s example of “knowing” his wife exists, but I agree with Mary that Dr. Ross overreached with his version of the scripture. ESV translates “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (http://biblehub.com/hebrews/11-6.htm for plenty to study.) Dr. Ross interpreted that to say if we would diligently seek out evidence for God, we would find it. I don’t accept that thinking. That is not consistent with my own experience nor our understanding of history. God governs in the affairs of men, but he does so with hiddenness. (http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2014/07/divine-hiddenness-and-human-disclosure “I think it more suitably functions as a proof of the fittingness of revelation.”) God leaves us with the option of thinking we did it ourselves, or that we just got lucky.

It seems only fair to me.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us plainly that it is impossible to please God without faith, and we MUST believe in order to come to Him at all. Like it or not, understand it or not, this is the way it is. While I hold there is evidence for God, it is only evidence, and it can always be explained other ways.

Like it or not, ready or not, nuclear fission will provide most of the power for society in the future, fairly near future, for a very long time.

Too many factors to forecast the timeframe, but it is inevitable. It is certain.

Forbes ran this article about the movie, Blackhat.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2015/02/20/hollywood-versus-reality-nuclear-thrills-in-blackhat/

I don’t think I’ll ever bother seeing the movie. I sure didn’t get the nuclear bit of it in the trailer.

I doubt I could stomach the bad science and tech.

For as bad a Chernobyl was, it was tiny as disasters go. Russia and Ukraine had and continue to have far worse problems.

As bad as Fukushima was hit, it turned out trivial. An inconsequential blip in the sad devastation of the overall catastrophe.

Nuclear power plants, even intentionally, cannot result in catastrophes. Chernobyl was a one-off. It was a bad design that only the Soviets would use. It was their baby. They had pride involved. Not only was it their idea, but they had confidence in their engineering ability to control it. Props. They did a good job for a long time. It was hard. The design was bad and inherently unsafe. It was good engineers and scientists that kept it from killing many times. It was political hubris that caused it once it did happen.

Anyway, all of the nuclear power plants running cannot do what Chernobyl did. Even the Soviets abandoned the idea and replaced them as fast as they practically could.

Nuclear fission power is the safest option we have. It is the most sustainable too. We can reasonably expect to power all our needs with nuclear fission for many centuries, even with optimistic estimates of growth and development. Even if we get to 10 billion people. We almost certainly will not get to that many people. Given a bit of prosperity and good odds that children will make it to adulthood, people don’t have too many children.

Of course, we could roll back the clock just a few centuries, when half of all people died before their eighth birthday. Sad isn’t it. Let’s not go back. Windmills are a sad and harmful attempt at. Let’s quit with the windmills. Windmills suck.

I wrote this on Facebook, in response to a First Things article, http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2015/02/unscientific-obstinacy, and decided I wrote too much for Facebook. So, I’ve duplicated it here.

To Mark Bauerlein’s article:

Good point.

Are we alone in this galaxy? Yes. Yes, we are alone. There are no aliens who might visit. Think. If they could, the almost certainly could have done so at any time for the last several million years. People pretend, but there is no evidence. We have lots of evidence that they have not come, but we also have lots of evidence that they are not out there.

We have looked too well for too long to suppose we simply haven’t noticed them yet. There has been too much time for them to have not made their presence known, intentionally or for lack of caring. Nobody is there. Fermi noticed.

There is still the question of life. Well, the nature of the universe, the laws of physics, seem to make life, in some recognizable form, inevitable most everywhere we might find liquid water. However, if it could get off its planet, it most likely could have been doing so for millions of years, given the obvious fact that most of the planets in the galaxy had millions, even billions of years longer to work at it. So, there is probably life, but the chances of it having even the sense of a rat is vanishingly small.

There is also the question of the rest of the universe. Well, if you factor in the vastness, there is simply no knowing. While I assert the one data point we have implies the odds of others in any way resembling us, with hopes, dreams, desires, and drives, drive to spread amongst the stars, those odds are vanishingly small, but with the unimaginable vastness of all of space and so many galaxies, it is simply impossible to know.

We cannot know. We can never know.

If we find someone, then we will know. If we don’t, even for 100 billion years, we still will not know. It is impossible to prove we are alone in the universe.

We are alone in the galaxy. Accept it.

We cannot know if we are alone in the universe. Accept it.

Time and energy. The requirements for interstellar travel are doable. In fact, assuming humanity survives, we will populate the entire galaxy, probably within several tens-of-thousands of years, at least within hundreds-of-thousands, but the requirements of intergalactic travel are too great. It is not possible in any imaginable engineering sense. Sure, we may figure out some workaround. Perhaps there is something akin to a stargate. Star Trek warp-type drive is useless in this regard. Intergalactic space is too immense. The void is too barren. There is NOTHING between here and there. No possibilities of resources for refueling or repairing. Nothing. It is not possible. If something like a stargate is developed, then we can expect to populate many galaxies, but never most. The universe cannot be supposed so enduring to allow us the opportunity even if we could jump from galaxy to galaxy in a wink. We would still take billions, many billions, of years to populate and buildup and explore just thousands of galaxies. And frankly, there is no reasonable possibility of anything like a stargate existing, ever. Even an ansible type communication is impossible as far as we can suppose. Perhaps, but probably not. (I recall greater minds than mine have been proven wrong with such statements, but there is much science, experimental record, and well-tested theory behind such a supposition.)

So, is there really a scientific case for God? Yes and no. First, regardless of the evidence for God, it says nothing about God, that is: the who, the what, the why, the motive. These are mostly questions science, testing, cannot address. (As with students, academic testing may be used to assess progress, at least in some limited degree, but it can tell us nothing of the person. [And children are people first.])

There is no scientific or philosophical evidence or case that proves God in any way. There is evidence. There are cases to be made that are reasonable, but they are not definitive. Thus, the scripture tells us that to come to God, we must believe, and that we must believe that God is a rewarder–that seeking is fruitful. It is certain, without faith it is impossible to please God. The just shall live by faith. Faith is not science. Faith should be reasonable, not blind. Faith should be faithful, not obstinate. Science should be rational and natural, not forced and dogmatic. No scientism. That is far worse than any superstition ever.

Are we special? Well duh!

Love


Yes, biodiversity is a problem for any young-earth supposition.

The simple fact of extensive extinction is a horrible problem for YEC. The population estimates are absolutely impossible in the time frame of only several hundred years. It is impossible to reconcile the stated basis of YEC claims with the reality of only 1 in 1000 species surviving on earth to modern times. (The ark was supposed to save them all. Why let 99.9% die off shortly thereafter?)

Not only are the South American ungulate species problematic for YEC all by themselves, there is the further fact that the majority of ungulate species are clean. Accordingly, there were not just a single pair of each of these different ungulates on the ark, but seven pairs, making it that much more remarkable that they all died out. (Seven mating pairs gives much better odds of surviving than only a single pair.)

Note, contrary to YEC assumptions and rationalizations, the bible explicitly defines kinds in Leviticus 11 (and elsewhere). Kinds of ravens; kinds of hawks; at least three locust/grasshoppers, each specified after its kinds, and beetles after their kinds (though the word might have been another set of locust type insects). Kinds is not genera or family, but species, or from Leviticus (and the bird list is reiterated in Deuteronomy), we must allow subspecies, by the modern definition. By the way, what bird or insect of any kind goes about on four feet? (Four, not six, not two–four. Leviticus 11:20, אַרְבַּ֑ע, not to mention bats listed with the birds.) Using the biblical definition of “kinds”, there would have been many thousands of clean ungulates on Noah’s ark.

Further, you mention the birds. The bible doesn’t delineate what birds are clean, but rather gives an explicit (though hard to define) list of unclean birds. Accordingly, it is reasonable to assume from the express statements in the bible all the extinct birds were clean, including the enormous flightless birds. Thousands of those too on the ark.

A side note on clean: given the many generations Noah preceded Moses, what’s up with “clean” anyway?

Naturalis Historia

Life is incredibly diverse.  Millions of species fill the seas, land and skies of our little planet.  It seems as if there is no end to the discovery of new animals, plants and other life forms.  As a biologist who teaches a class about plant diversity, I can always count on discovering a new group of plants that I have never seen before which is always exciting.  But what blows my mind even more is the thought that what I see living around me today is but a tiny fraction of the diversity of life that has lived on this Earth.

A slide from a recent presentation I made on the discovery of deep time illustrating the mind-boggling estimates of number of species that have lived on earth versus the number alive right now. The images are of extinct marine reptiles on the left and cetacean alive today on the right. Image: Joel Duff the mind-boggling estimates of number of species that have lived on earth versus the number alive right now. Extinct marine reptiles on the left and cetacean alive today on the right. Image: Joel Duff

When you begin to look at fossils, the animals alive today can suddenly seem a bit mundane. And…

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Things matter, or nothing matters.

I choose to suppose that things matter. That supposition leads me to believe God is. (Either God is, or God is not. That is about the same statement. Further, there is a reason, or there is no reason. Again, pretty much the same statement, and I just don’t think it is reasonable to assert there is no reason.)

Now, if any of these words mean anything, then I find that it follows that I freely choose. I can change my mind, but I am determined to find truth as I may and adhere to facts and reality as well as I can perceive.

I chose to write just now. It is not a mechanistic, chance confluence of quantum effects at the subatomic level with electromagnetic and chemical effects at the atomic level. I happen to be more than a machine.

There are issues we may need to address if we manage to create machines that can rationally choose as well, but that is not yet and a subject-heading for another day.

Dr. David Bentley Hart penned a retelling of a conversation he had with his dog. He wrote at First Things, http://www.firstthings.com/article/2015/02/roland-on-free-will. (First Things is an excellent source of insights on many subjects.)

Dr. Hart supposes the event was a dream, but Roland is obviously one smart pooch.

Roland says, “…and the rational freedom of the spirit, which is always striving to subdue the brute. Oh, what’s that lovely line from Yeats about the soul? ‘Fastened to a dying animal?’ Anyway, there’s something truly free there, something that isn’t the creature of an unhappy childhood or a frustrated hunger—it’s spirit, nous, Geist—something that can convert the countervailing tempests of physiological urges into the elations of reason set free. Well . . . this is something dogs understand very well.””

Excellent observation. Likewise, “Every aspiring young materialist dreams of growing up to be a robot.” Which is so simple minded, even silly. Yet, it seems so true of so many.

The saddest part of reductionist materialism is the ultimate hopelessness. It really does suppose there is nothing real, that there will be absolutely nothing in the long run.

The bottom line for me is that it is all real, and I really do have freedom, and I really am responsible for myself.

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