AWOL on “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey”

Meh.
Meh.

Well, I feel I am somehow doing a disservice and failing at my “job” by not writing much about the new series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey featuring Neil deGrasse Tyson. I love science, and I love writing about it (hence the Works of His Hands articles for the Tomorrow’s World magazine–the newest of which I am currently late in delivering!) and its place and impact in our culture and our faith. Viewing the original Cosmos with Carl Sagan was a watershed experience in my own life as a child. Though it shows its age, the original Cosmos book, a companion to the original series, is still one of the most treasured books in my personal library. I eat this stuff up. The new show is currently a hot topic, and I like it when we have comments and writings on our websites about current, hot topics.

And yet about this whole Cosmos reboot I’ve just been sort of… I don’t know… meh.

Actually, I think that sums it up pretty well: meh.

It isn’t the stink that some Creationists are apparently trying to raise (see the Puffington Host article here — and, as always, caveat navita stans). It isn’t that it will almost surely be presented with an virtually aggressively atheistic, irrational, religion-hating point of view. I’ve come to expect that from some science works and have learned to pick around the garbage for the good stuff.

And, fleshing out that last point, it isn’t that I would be disappointed by Neil deGrasse Tyson expressing extreme ignorance about matters related to God and religious belief. Again, I’ve come to expect that and have become somewhat callused to it. Tyson is clearly an intelligent guy. A worthy successor to the Church of Naturalism’s “Saint Sagan”? He is called that by some, though I’m not sure I would give him that. (Maybe the new series would convince me otherwise.) Still, a very educated guy and, apparently, recognized as a popularizer of science for the masses. But, when it comes to matters related to God, faith, and how it relates to science? He’s an uneducated moron. (And I mean that in the most respectful way possible. I’m an uneducated moron on a number of things. If you’ve read this blog for long, you probably already know that.) He gives criticisms that most philosophers and believing scientists can refute in their sleep. But it sounds good to those of the Church of Naturalism: it plays to the crowd, and, like too many on both sides of issues like this, perhaps that’s all that really matters to him. He can point to the amazing things we see in the discoveries of science, but when it comes to comprehending the implications and interpretations beyond the equations — concerning meaning, philosophy, intent, purpose, and value — he isn’t even mature enough to enter the playground, let alone play in the sandbox.

And it isn’t that I would be shocked to find that the new Cosmos is, in many ways, a chance to selectively choose elements of human history and — whether told straight or perverted here and there with misleading twists — turn them into a winding tale supporting Naturalism as the One True Faith™. Carl Sagan was a master of this in the original Cosmos, and his tales could be woven together into a veritable new book of Acts for the Naturalism Bible. I would expect no less from a Cosmos produced by a new generation in which the attitudes have gotten nastier and the minds of many secularists all the more closed and bitter. I expect the religious sentiment of our greatest scientists to be treated ultimately as hinderances to the true faith of Naturalism instead of any sort of force for good, just as Sagan implied about Johannes Kepler and many atheists imply today (or outrightly state) about Isaac Newton and others. The tapestry woven will undoubtedly be crafted to serve the faith, and tales that disagree will not be welcome or even permitted — banned with the sort of passion and zeal for censorship that such individuals condemn when they believe they perceive such sentiment in religious works but apparently embrace when it serves their own interests.

All of this should be expected seeing that the series is being produced by Seth MacFarlane (as I thought during his Oscars stint: the perfectly reflective representative our culture deserves), who has declared that there is no political motive behind the show (all while explicitly blaming one political party for the country’s scientific ignorance, by the way) and who has praised what the show ostensibly represents: what Ann Druyan (Sagan’s widow & one of the people behind the original Cosmos) has indicated should be a proper marriage of wonder and skepticism. And given the show’s backers, one would be deluded to expect that the romanticized “skepticism” on display will be anything but a narrow, favored “skepticism” wedded to an ironic and complete lack of skepticism as needed to maintain a fundamentally unsupported ideology.

Neil deGrasse Tyson in an image from Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey on FOX (who owns this image). Can't deny it: The images look fantastic.
Neil deGrasse Tyson in an image from Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey on FOX (who owns this image). Can’t deny it: The images look fantastic.

And, finally, it isn’t that I don’t expect the new Cosmos to be anything less than impressive in its explanations, wondrous in its graphics and special effects, and moving and grand in its portrayal of our remarkable universe. Though I find its thumbnail of choice to look a little gross (a human eye surrounded by a reddish nebula that, to me, seems weird and fleshy due to the presence of the eye in the center), I expect that the series will seek to outdo its predecessor in every way, taking advantage of the remarkable abilities we now have to produce CGI images of startling realism and impact. The original Cosmos was a groundbreaker in this area, and if the new one is to stand out, it will have to compete with the seemingly thousands of digital images and video clips that are standard fare now on television programs featured by the Science Channel, the Discovery Channel, etc. The graphics and images seen on a regular basis by the very audience that will be the new Cosmos‘ bread and butter already surpass much of what was seen in the original Cosmos by several orders of magnitude (though, not in the original show’s imaginatively creativity and subtlety, at times). To be a worthy successor, the creators of Cosmos will need to step things up, and I expect them to do so. I am normally a complete sucker for such stuff. And, I admit, the images I have seen (bloody eye mentioned above, excepted) — such as the one of Tyson standing before a window (or whatever) gazing upon a star, perhaps the sun, at an uncomfortably close distance — look fantastic. I expect the best of such things from the series.

So, why am I non-plussed? Why am I so meh?

I don’t know. Meh.

Let me know what you think. Have you seen any episodes so far? What do you think? How does it compare to the original with Carl Sagan? How is Tyson doing? Why do you think I am so meh? Is my mehness justified? I do plan on seeing the series eventually. From what you’ve seen so far, what do you think I should expect?

Positive or negative, your comments below are welcome.

Happy Pi Day! (Teach the controversy…)

pi tau eHappy Pi Day! Indeed, today is 3/14 — a day we set aside across the globe to remember that beautiful number π = 3.14159265…, the ratio of every circle’s circumference to its diameter.

Yet, it isn’t a day without its controversies. [Imagine music turning ominous…]

As I have mentioned before, there is a very good argument out there that pi (π) should not be the famous “circle constant” and that, rather, the ratio that should garner praise and attention is the ratio of the circle’s circumference to its radius, not its diameter. Since the radius is half the length of the diameter, the ratio would be twice as large (2π = 6.283185307…) and has been quasi-officially dubbed tau (τ).

I find the argument hard to resist. Read about it yourself on the tauday.com or in the Tau Manifesto. Personally, one of the most winning arguments is the effect on circle-related equations. For instance, the formula for the area of a circle changes from…

A = π ²

to…

A = ½ τ r ²

Now this may not seem like much of an improvement (not to mention it would ruin a lot of “pie are round not square” jokes). But, when you consider how well it matches the form of many other standard equations in nature (e.g., Kinetic Energy: E = ½ v ²; Rotational Kinetic Energy: E = ½ I ω ²; Position of a body falling from rest: x(t) = ½ t ²; Work done stretching a spring: W = ½ x ²; et al.). [My apologies if the spacing in any of these equations looks odd on your computer (line breaks in the middle, etc.). Not adding spaces crammed everything together too much and I didn’t want to take the time to jump into Latex for the formatting.]

I don’t necessarily like what changing from π to τ does to the universe’s most beautiful equation (explained here), but I admit that I am warming up to it as time goes on. (Sometimes, you just have to let go, you know?)

And, I find it irritating that the number e doesn’t get near the publicity that π does, as I am a much bigger fan of e than π. At the same time, begrudging one number’s success and attention just because another is more neglected than it should be seems a violation of 1 Cor. 12:26. 🙂

So, if Pi Day has you in the mood to peruse some blog posts of the mathematical variety, feel free and explore those below. And enjoy the rest of the day!

Here are some links on some math-related questions:

“Any thoughts on fractals, the Bible, and the mind of God and stuff?” Well, I’m glad you asked! Here’s a host of links, some with more material than others. (I’m too lazy to look and see which ones are worth reading and which ones are worth ignoring. 🙂 ):

“Any videos on the pi/tau controversy I could watch?” Indeed! I present the always delightful Vi Hart not the topic…

Actually, a YouTube search would net you several such videos. But, as always, caveat navita stans.

Regardless of how you celebrate it (or don’t), have a great Pi Day!

 

Image of Earth from NASA's Terra satellite

News Reporting Fail: The National Science Foundation Survey

The National Science Foundation has published the results of a survey it conducts from time to time as an “assessment” of Americans’ scientific knowledge. However, some of the sloppy reporting of the results confuses belief with knowledge.

For instance, ABC News online article completely twists the results. In one paragraph, they report:

“Only 39 percent answered correctly with ‘true’ when asked if ‘The universe began with a huge explosion,’ while only 48 percent knew that ‘Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals,’ according to the statement.”

The statement that “only 48 percent knew that” human beings have developed from other animals grabbed my attention. It implies ignorance of a fact, when the statistic probably says no such thing.

The lazy ABC News article can’t take all the blame, as they are “reporting” on a press release about the survey which makes the same mistake:

“For example, only 74 percent of those queried knew that the Earth revolved around the sun, while fewer than half (48 percent) knew that human beings developed from earlier species of animals.”

For people dedicated to science, they are woefully ignorant at interpreting the results of what should be a simple survey. If they can get such a no-brainer wrong, how can they be trusted with interpreting more complicated results?

I say all of this because, if the survey is conducted in the same manner it apparently was back in 2004, what it did was ask if the following statement was true or false: “Human beings as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.” Stating “False” on this statement is apparently being interpreted by many to imply that they are not familiar with popular theories of evolution–as if it is a given that anyone taught the “fact” of human “evolution” would agree with that statement.

However, there are many, well-educated, scientifically literate individuals who are very familiar with the neo-Darwinian synthesis of evolution theory who simply disagree that the statement is true. The survey did not measure ignorance about a fact. It measured doubt about an assertion.

Some reporting did get it right. For instance, the Independent Business Times wrote more accurately:

“The questionnaire also found that less than half (48%) of Americans believe that human beings evolved from an earlier species, while 39% said they believe that the universe began with a huge explosion.”

Also, United Press International reported:

“On two controversial questions, whether the universe began with a large explosion and whether humans are descended from other species, fewer than half in the United States said those are true.”

Actually, kudos to the UPI for the next statement, which–unlike the lazy ABC News “effort”–reflects some actual work performed to help their readers understand the facts they were trying to present (you know, reporting). For instance, the quote above was followed by this:

“The Atlantic said those percentages go up by a significant amount when the questions are rephrased to ask if the big-bang theory and evolution are scientifically accepted.”

Get that? Those surveyed understood that evolution is widely accepted in the scientific community, they simply don’t feel the matter has been proven to them sufficiently. The question measured belief, not knowledge.

(An aside: Some of you out there may think that the only conceivable way one would fail to conclude that humans evolved into their current form from other decidedly non-human species would be if the non-believer is scientifically ignorant, so the interpretations of the results are correct in all these reports. You are free to conclude that. You are also free to tape a rolled up newspaper to your head and declare yourself a unicorn. But don’t confuse the things you are free to declare with reality. Dawkins’ “ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked” comment reveals more about Dawkins’ arrogance and boorishness than it does about those who reasonably doubt the standard evolutionary dogma. Moving on…)

Actually, the UPI did much better. Rather than allow their small news item to be yet another “Americans sure are stupid, amiright?” article, it goes further:

“Generally, U.S. residents showed a knowledge of science comparable to those of other countries with high levels of education, including Japan, the European Union and South Korea, the NSF said. In fact, they did better than EU residents on the question about whether Earth moves around the sun.”

So, more people in the European Union stated they believed that the sun goes around the earth than Americans, and the Americans apparently did not do significantly better or worse than Japan, South Korea, or the EU.

Consequently, the article is almost “dog bites man” news–that is, not really news at all.

But that really isn’t true. There really is a story. The fact that one-quarter of the people surveyed didn’t seem to understand that the earth moves around the sun instead of vice versa is really spooky–let alone that apparently our international brothers and sisters faired about the same. (Of course, given the move by some European leaders to make the EU the center of all life in Europe, it is perhaps not surprising that they thought the EU at the center of the solar system, itself.) (Yes, that is supposed to be a funny political joke.) (Yes, I am aware that it isn’t that funny.)

But it is a shame that there wasn’t more real reporting and that what reporting there was–the UPI report being a notable exception–was so lazy and poorly done. Then again, the survey is more likely than not simply a public means for the National Science Foundation to feel important about itself, so, for them, perhaps it is “mission accomplished.”

[UPDATE: A little more from the articles… The IBT article stated, “Almost 90% of respondents said they believe that the benefits of science outweigh any dangers…” You have got to be kidding me. I don’t know which is worse, the confusion of the response or the inanity of the question. Maybe some context can make more sense of this point. Are the alternatives simply “science” versus “no science”? If so, then it’s a little like saying, “The benefits of food outweigh the benefits of no food.” But if the statement is meant to say something significant, then a blanket consideration is not possible unless the practice of science, by itself, is a virtue, which would make the need to evaluate some research from an ethical perspective meaningless. But tell me that some of the experiments done on children during the Holocaust were all OK because it was in the name of “science.” I’m pro-science, but goofy statements like that reflect a lack of sophistication that the science community–like the NSF which presses this dumb survey–normally accuse others of. It highlights the effort as more propaganda than anything. And, for the record, I have a hard time calling the Big Bang an “explosion” and I’ve heard a number of scientists say that they don’t like calling the Big Bang an “explosion.” When space-time, itself, is expanding, “explosion” just doesn’t really cut the mustard. So, yes, I find that question irritating, too.]

Final Thoughts on the Nye / Ham Debate

Thanks to everyone for their comments on the previous post. From what I see here and on Facebook and in some discussions here and there, it seems as though insights and opinions differ, but not too starkly. I mentioned then that I would share my own thoughts, so I will do that in this post.

First, though, a few links. I was able to put together a commentary on the matter for the Tomorrow’s World website. The need to aim at 650 words or less limits what you can say, and the audience will be rather broad (including mostly people who did not see the event), but it is an opportunity to direct folks to additional alternatives, including our own understanding of the biblical record. That commentary is here: “Creation vs. Evolution: Bill Nye and Ken Ham Are Both Wrong!” Here’s the leading paragraph:

When science-advocate Bill Nye faced off in debate Tuesday night against Ken Ham, CEO of Answers in Genesis, the issue of creationism vs. evolution gained a rare degree of media scrutiny. Nye had called the teaching of creationism “a dangerous choice,” and promoters saw the opportunity for a profitable public event. Certainly much attention came to the subject. But, amid all the controversy, was there something that both participants missed?

(Click here for the rest)

Also, I thought that Elizabeth Dias of Time magazine had a very funny “blow by blow” report on the whole thing. It can be read here: “What You Missed While Not Watching the Bill Nye and Ken Ham Creation Debate.” My favorite bits of her work were her tongue-in-cheek comments about Ken Ham’s “drop the mic” moments. Very funny. (Well, my sort of funny.)

And the irritated reaction of Intelligent Design scientists was very understandable, and they went to the Internet to make their (pretty good) points. They published several pieces in Evolution News and Viewslisted here in this search. Among them, I enjoyed “In the Ham-Nye Debate Not So Much as a Glove Was Laid on Intelligent Design”–which points out the very real distinction between Intelligent Design work and the work of Creationists–and “The Ham-Nye Creation Debate: A Huge Missed Opportunity” — which discusses, well, exactly what the title says. (They also encourage you to listen to a more serious and enlightening debate between Intelligent Design theorist Stephen Meyer and UC Berkeley paleontologist Charles Marshall.)

However, back to the point of my post. In one of his ENV posts pointing out that the science of Intelligent Design and Creationism are not the same, David Klinghoffer made an insightful summary comment: “Isn’t it interesting that Bill Nye chose to debate Ham, then, where their respective views are incommensurable and no meaningful conversation is possible.”

This is a great way to summarize much of the Nye/Ham debate. In some ways it might as well have been a discussion about which spices bring out the flavor of barbecued unicorn.

Yet, there were things to be seen, and each fellow made some good points, not all of which were related to the “official” question being debated, which was “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era?”

The question, alone, embodies a number of problems. “Creation,” for instance, could mean many things. The implication is that Ken Ham’s favorite understanding of the events of the book of Genesis is “the” understanding, and Mr. Ham spent precious time here and there defending his position not against Mr. Nye’s arguments, but against the idea that there are other possibilities, highlighting the problematic use of that word without qualifiers. Also, what constitutes “viable”? It’s a good word, but “viable” clearly differed in the minds of the debaters While that wouldn’t be enough to make it a bad debate–indeed, the positions could have (and sort of did) revolved around just that point: “What does it mean to be a viable model?” But the participants could have profited the audience with a clearer presentation of their positions on how they individually determine a model’s viability.

However, the fuzziness and lack of focus in the debate was rooted in the fact that each man had motives other than the simple question at hand. For instance, Ken Ham wanted to ensure he had the chance to share his faith to the hundreds of thousands who were/would be watching. (The video on YouTube currently sits at more than 827,000 views.) Also, he wanted to demonstrate that it is possible to believe in the Young Earth Creationism model he supports and still be a working, active scientist. That isn’t relevant to the debate, technically, but is a part of the contention motivating the debate, to be sure. On Bill Nye’s part, he seemed to want to give religious people permission to think differently than Ken Ham and to make the pitch to the viewing audience that America is going to fall behind scientifically in the world if viewpoints like Ken Ham’s are taught to our children. Again, this last point isn’t relevant to the viability of Ken Ham’s Creation model, but it is a big part of the impetus behind the debate.

Those things said, let me try to boil down my observations and reactions to the debate.

Overall, I agree with Evolution News & Views’ statement that the biggest victim of the debate was the Truth.

On one hand, it is great to see discussions of this sort on a bigger stage. Origins should matter to us. But on the other hand, this debate helped to cement in the minds of many, I believe, that these two individuals represented “the” two sides of the issue. It is not a two-sided issue, and these two, together, certainly did not represent the universe of possibilities. Our own contention, for instance, represented in today’s commentary, is nowhere to be found. Intelligent Design is nowhere to be found. Neither is the view of many with whom I would disagree (theistic evolutionists, et al.) but whose views I respect as serious attempts to understand the issues at hand. Consequently, this debate served to simply solidify the stereotype that the issue of origins is a matter of science vs. the Bible. And that’s a shame.

The best impression, overall, on the official question of the evening was made by Bill Nye, in my opinion.

It doesn’t mean I agree with him, to be sure. And both men made points that the other left hanging, so it isn’t as though the matter was truly settled, even in “debate” terms, if you will. If it had been a boxing match, there was no “knock out,” and the match would have come down to the judges.

And if I were the judge, I’d say that while neither man really “won”, the better impression was made by Bill Nye. I thought he did a good job of pointing out that the scientific evidence seems to contradict Ken Ham’s model and he suggested the idea that since there are many religious people in the world who don’t see things as he does, maybe he doesn’t have the Bible right, either.

On this second point, he was weak, and had he done as Ham did (which I will mention in a moment) by presenting testimony from, say, theistic evolutionists–even big namers, such as Francis Collins–he would have been more decisive. It would have robbed Ham of the force of his claim that the Bible must be considered as evidence that his position is true.

However, it seems as though this would have contradicted the heart of Nye’s approach, which is that such considerations should not enter into the interpretation of evidence, at all.

That doesn’t change the fact, though, that his examples meant to damage the idea of a young earth did a good job. The “winter-summer” cycle present in what seems to be 680,000 years of snow fall; the number of new species that would need to be generated daily over 4000 years from Ham’s choice of “kinds” (did his homework there, props to Nye); the pressing of the issue that even one fossil of a struggling animal, swimming for dear life during the flood, showing up in a “wrong” strata would disprove his case and that finding it would make you a “hero”; the lack of kangaroo fossils between the ark’s understood resting spot in the Middle East and Australia… All of these combined to give the edge to the idea that Ham’s model isn’t viable. Well, that’s too strong. They gave the edge to the idea that his model is “less viable than advertised.”

It isn’t that Ham didn’t score points. His comment about how 90% of the other dating methods disagree with a billion-years-old earth (I wish his print had been bigger in that slide), his example of trees being found that were found fossilized in rock, in which the trees were dated at 45,000 of years old, while the rock encasing it was supposedly dated at 45,000,000 old — all of these did have their effect, I believe. But, in the end, they weren’t enough, in my opinion, to counter the weight Nye’s examples seemed to carry. (At least some of his examples. His picture of various skulls and the claim that they needed time to evolve, for instance, seemed to fall flat.)

And Ham’s argument that the data must be interpreted was made well, though I think it could have been made better. Even just a few more choice examples–like the recent case of a single discovery, in particular, one single skull, throwing much vaunted human “family trees” into disarray–would have better illustrated the under-appreciated role assumption plays in building our understanding of the data. If Ham didn’t drop the ball on this, I do think he fumbled it a bit. That’s a shame, because those who are a part of his Answers in Genesis team have serious credentials and could have provided a number of easily summarized examples. All Ham could do was refer to those papers vaguely, mentioning that they are highly “technical”–meant to be a positive description (and it is), but surely coming across to some as a bit of a smoke-screen.

So, in the vague battle that this debate represented, on the issue that was supposedly at the heart of the matter, I think the edge was had by Bill Nye.

On one of the important “between the lines” issues–that teaching kids Creationism will mean we will no longer be able to practice good science–Ken Ham won the point.

Ken Ham trotted out a number of videos of various, credentialed scientists with PhDs in solid scientific fields who passionately vocalized their support for Ham’s Creation model, including the inventor of the MRI. Their appearance wasn’t, in my opinion, strong enough to win the main, “official” question in Mr. Ham’s favor, but they did help to win the day for one of the underlying motivations behind the whole debate: The idea, pressed by Mr. Nye, that we are risking destroying science education in America if parents teach Creationist ideas to their kids. The existence of these working, active scientists in their fields of expertise seemed to be living proof that Nye’s point was too strong–that his viewpoint was driving by either ideological beliefs or by ignorance of the caliber of people who claim belief in Creationism.

That was an important win for Ken Ham, and regardless of the official “result” of the debate–whatever in the world that would be–it was a win for the credibility of his organization and museum.

And given the extreme nature of the Young Earth position, the softer claim–that one cannot do good science unless one believes in evolution–was also refuted by those examples. Richard Dawkins’ statement that those who do not believe in Darwinian or neo-Darwinian evolution is either “ignorant, stupid, or wicked” is simply either ignorant, stupid, or wicked, itself. And Ham did a good job of showing the statement for the lie it represents.

(On this last point, it is a shame that the overwhelming focus of this debate was the age of the earth. Every other interesting element of origin-related discussions was marginalized, I believe. A real shame, and part of the stereotype reinforcement effect I mentioned above.)

In short, if the statement to be debated was Bill Nye’s claim that (my paraphrase) “Unless our young people abandon these Bible-based ideas of Creation and embrace evolution America will fall desperately behind scientifically,” that point would have been lost to Ken Ham.

One other point: Ken Ham also did a pretty decent job of defending elements of the story of Genesis against criticism. The kinds-into-species ratios is worth further thinking, and I think Nye scored a win with that one. But other points, such as his claim about the unfeasibility of a wooden ark, fell short. His comparison to the experience of the USS Wyoming, along with the accompanying chart of boat sizes, was an excellent attack, and I give him credit for it. But Ham defended well, pointing out that other cultures (I believe he mentioned China and Egypt) have done much better with much larger than his example. And his on Nye’s claim that a handful of “unskilled workers” couldn’t have built such an ark–a standard trope of anti-Genesis folks–Ham’s response was a surprisingly effective and humorous dismissal: “Why would you say Noah was unskilled? I didn’t meet Noah. Neither did you.” (By the way, that is Elizabeth Dias’ record of the comment, which she humorously characterized as Ham’s first “drop the mic” moment.) Of course, if you believe that Noah was called and personally spoken to by the Omniscient Creator and Designer of All Reality, there is not an issue with his level of previous boat building expertise, regardless of what it has been, let alone when you consider the stated lifespans of the day. Those points could have been made, but Ham’s dismissal was better: effective, short, and sweet.

There were some surprises that added to both the enjoyment and the frustration of watching the debate.

For example, Bill Nye mentioned the discovery of the Big Bang as a “plus” for the naturalistic science. That is comical, because the Big Bang story is actually a cautionary tale of what happens when scientists are too afraid of the theological implications of their work–a fear which delayed the acceptance of the Big Bang for quite some time. (In fact, “Big Bang” was a derogatory term coined for the theory–a fact that was conspicuously absent in Nye’s discussion of the term’s origin.) More on this can be read in the Tomorrow’s World article, “Where Did the Universe Come From?” When all the information is considered (initial entropy conditions, et al.), the Big Bang theory is powerful evidence for not only a created universe, but an intelligently crafted universe. Even the fad of the day–multiverse concepts–have not diluted the power of the Big Bang theory and its current mutations as evidence.

However, Ken Ham was not in a position to capitalize on this and did not even seem to bother. (Other than in his later “Bill, there’s a book that tells us where matter and energy came from” comment, which was fun.)

It was a nice treat to see Ham make the point that science depends on assumptions that cannot be scientifically proven, namely that the laws of logic are dependable and valid, that there are trustworthy laws of nature to be discovered, and the uniformity of nature in the universe. (To advertise myself, this week’s Tomorrow’s World program–“What Is Truth?”–makes a similar point, though it differs in that the point is made by a fellow my wife believes is more handsome than Ken Ham. 🙂 )

However, Nye could have capitalized on those points by granting them for the sake of argument and then stressing that it is those very three principles–the laws of logic, the laws of nature, and the uniformity of nature–that allow us to extend what we experience today into the geological record to understand what occurred in the past, and they are the reason why the “old earth” conclusion is drawn. It’s not an undefeatable point, but one I think he could have made some points with by using his opponent’s points against his own position.

Bill Nye made some false and misleading statements, I notice, but I don’t think he did them knowingly or purposefully. For instance, he mentioned the Tikaalik fossil as a good example of evolutionary theory making a prediction and being shown to be right. However, since its discovery Tikaalik has been demonstrated not to be the link that it was thought to be, neither in nature or in timing. Also, his argument that nature is not “top-down” like in Ham’s model but is “bottom-up” is under increasing attack within the pro-evolution community. Those points were well-covered in one of ENV’s articles, but it is possible as a “popular” scientist and not one up on the latest discussions or publications, maybe he wasn’t aware of these things.

On the “top-down” model of life’s development–a model much more in line with the idea of a Creator and Designer than modern evolutionary ideas–even atheist Thomas Nagel seems to have moved to search for alternatives to evolution, considering purpose-oriented natural laws as a God substitute. Nye is behind. But, frankly, most public, pro-evolution folks seem to be behind on this.

More could be said, to be sure, but I have other things to do this afternoon!

If you missed the debate, in a sense you didn’t miss much. Nothing has changed. Most everyone who felt this way or that still feel this way or that. But it was a good airing of two particular points of view. There are better comments about the debate than mine, and those interested should shop around the links I have provided, as well as others. For me, I’m feeling done with this! Or, actually, not too done. I hear from my brother-in-law that there is a bit of tussling going on over on Facebook about my commentary today. I think I will poke my head in and take a look. But after that, I’m done! 🙂

Again, feel free and add your own thoughts below.

After the Bill Nye / Ken Ham Debate – Your Comments?

Well, it was quite a debate! For those who didn’t see the Bill Nye / Ken Ham debate live, it is apparently going to be archived at debatelive.org for a while, so you can still see it.

If you saw it, what are your thoughts? I have some definite opinions, but I’d like to hear from other folks first. I enjoyed a good conversation with Mr. Tyler Wayne from my Cincy congregation who called me immediately after, and I think he made some good points. What are your thoughts? Feel free and leave them below, but be nice and respectful! No need to be uncivil.

I will try to write some of my own thoughts in a later post, perhaps tomorrow, after I’ve heard from you guys. Y’all hear from me all the time. 🙂 What do you have to say?

[And, by the way: I hate to push my “God and the u-bit” post too far down on the list already. Please feel free to visit it, as well, and leave a comment if you like. Apparently, it’s Science Day!]

[Update: While it is still archived, you should be able to view it here, embedded below. If you do, please feel free to leave your comments and observations below. Again, I will try to write my own thoughts later, but I want to hear from you, first! And for those who haven’t been there, you might check out my review of the Creation Museum from our visit about three years back. — WGS]

God and the u-bit

Science on the brain, today…

Tonight, Ken Ham of the Creation Museum just south of us in Kentucky and Bill Nye of “The Science Guy” fame will debate the question “Is creation a viable model of origins?” I had hoped to get tickets, but given that they sold out in two hours, that wasn’t going to happen. However, it is apparently going to be broadcast live (sign up at debatelive.org, where I think it will be broadcast), so I will watch if I can.

I don’t think the truth of “origins” will come out in the debate — I subscribe to an old earth but a young mankind, created at the re-creation of the earth, which neither men subscribe to. Ken Ham is a Young Earther and Bill Nye is an Evolutionist, so I think both miss the boat. And I should add: I’m open to learning I’ve missed the boat, as well. Since I can’t swim, successfully making it to the boat is important to me. However, the Old Earth/Young Mankind model is the best I’ve seen so far in reconciling all the data as thoroughly as possible while leaving open vast possibilities for new details to be discovered, and I am glad that is what we teach. Actually, some of the first few posts I made on this blog were about such things, now that I think about it. Here they are, in all their ignomin… er, I mean glory:

But I am still interested in the debate. I am also interested in how they conduct themselves. The inability of some to discuss/debate such matters with civility is irritating. Christian apologist William Lane Craig always impresses me with his ability to be respectful and courteous, even under harsh conditions (such as the first few “discussions” with physicist Lawrence Krauss in Australia, recently). I’m curious to see, given the formal structure of the debate, if Ham and Nye are able to keep the discussion respectful and courteous — and ditto for the audience.

20140125But that’s actually not what I was going to write about! (Editorial Department at TW: I appreciate you!) I was reading in New Scientist this past week about the u-bit, a theorized entity in one particular maverick strain of quantum mechanics. New Scientist loves sensational cover blurbs (and they are pretty good at writing them), and the u-bit was the cover story, with this tease: “To make quantum theory real, we must create the most powerful entity in the universe.” Great tease, huh?

The article is worth a read for those who can stomach science content. I think its a good one. Here is a link–“From i to u: Searching for the quantum master bit”–but you might need to register to read the whole article (since I have a subscription, I don’t always see “please register” pages). Here is a (poorly condensed) summary of the idea…

Quantum mechanics–one of the most successful-yet-counterintuitive scientific theories in history–relies on the presence of poorly named “imaginary numbers.” I have discussed these on the blog before (see “About that equation…”), but to put it very briefly: an imaginary number is one that produces a negative number when you square it (that is, multiply it by itself). When you square positive real numbers or negative real numbers, the result is always a positive number (since “a negative times a negative is a positive”–the old rule from your school days, proven to be true here). So, since all “real” numbers are never negative when you square them, any numbers that would be negative when you square them must be “not real”–or imaginary. So, we have the number i, where  = -1 just like 1² = 1.

Because they aren’t like the “regular” real numbers, many people assume that the imaginary numbers are just that: purely imaginary entities. However, we discover their presence in many applications and physical theories in our very real universe. As the New Scientist article describes: “In geometry they appear in trigonometric equations, and in physics they provide a neat way to describe rotations and oscillations. Electrical engineers use them routinely in designing alternating-current circuits, and they are handy for describing light and sound waves, too.”

Still, there has been something dissatisfying to many in their use in quantum mechanics–the currently reigning King of the Theories in describing physical reality–and in calculating its related and ubiquitous (and highly confirmed by experimental evidence) probabilities. Consequently, some have undertaking the challenge of recasting quantum mechanics in a form that uses only real numbers and has no imaginary number component whatsoever. Apparently there hasn’t been much success–coming close, but still needing the existence of something to “play the role of the imaginary unit.”

The theory that Dr. Bill Wooters and his students Antoniya Aleksandrova and Victoria Borish have come up with dispenses with the need of the imaginary unit, but only works if one hypothesizes the existence of the u-bit. The u-bit would be some element of reality that, in some way, is entangled with every other bit of information about every other particle, wave, field, etc. in all of existence. Mathematically, it would be represented by a two-dimensional vector, which is probably what gives it the ability to replace the imaginary numbers, since combinations of imaginary and real numbers, called complex numbers, are two-dimensional numbers by nature. But physically, the theorists have no idea what in the world the u-bit would actually be. Their theory only says that whatever it is, if it exists, it is rotating very at a great rate. (What sort of science is this where the only thing you can discover about an entity’s existence is how fast it must be spinning? Welcome to theoretical physics! 🙂 ) And, as the article describes, this entity could successfully act as an “omnipresent conduit of information” tying all things together.

Dr. Wooten’s speciality is in the information side of quantum mechanics, and that clearly influences the theory.

One familiar with the Psalms may not be able to help himself from recalling Psalm 139:7-12,

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall fall on me,’
Even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.”

The idea of information being at all times and from all places available to an omniscient and omnipresent God seems like an idea of pure theology. Yet, here we have a purely physical theory of the universe that involves a theoretical artifact that smacks of the same sort of omniscience and omnipresence.

A lot of truth in this comic…

That doesn’t mean that the u-bit, in fact, exists. Hardly! Drawing that conclusion so quickly would be both bad science and bad Bible study. 🙂 Let the experiments be designed! Let the searching begin! Frankly, I think the odds are not in the u-bit’s favor, though I’m open to discovering I’m wrong–actually, I would be delighted to discover I’m wrong. And if it is found to be real–whatever it actually is–I’m not saying that we would have somehow discovered physical evidence of God’s Spirit in the universe. There be dragons in such thinking, unless there were to be powerful cause to conclude such (and it is hard to imagine cause powerful enough to dogmatically conclude such a thing). Yet, it is still fascinating! Knowing that there is a spirit in man and that, yet, his mind represents–as best we understand it–the union of a physical brain with the human spirit, I’ve often wondered how that interaction occurs–how it actually takes place. The ideas of Roger Penrose and others about the quantum-level dymanics that must exist in the brain, with Heisenberg uncertainties, wave function collapses, etc., and their possible relationship to consciousness and free will have always been a fascinating possibility in my opinion for enabling the spirit/brain interface, but, still, who knows? I won’t pretend to. And the possible existence of an entity, the u-bit, that is entangled with every single bit of information in the entire universe? As New Scientist describes it, “interacts with everything else in reality, dictating its quantum behavior”? OK–that is fascinating.

And the potential theological flavor of such an entity, of course, would make some nervous. Let me discuss that last…

New Scientist, which is sometimes rather assertive in it’s proactively anti-God stance, anticipates thoughts such as those above and tries a preventative measure in the early part of their magazine, where they publish editorial/promotional introductory essays about the current issue (p.5 in the print edition). In a small section (a couple of paragraphs) titled, “The u-bit may be omniscient, but it’s no God particle” (the print edition simply titles it “Not the God particle”), they write:

“Now we have an entity more befitting of the title [God particle]: the omniscient, omnipresent and unseen ‘u-bit’… Some will pounce on the fact that science needs such an entity to explain the universe. But the existence of a u-bit would be no more profound than the existence of natural laws. Let’s leave God out of it this time.”

There’s a lot of worldview packed into that statement, but to unpack just one element, “leaving God out of it,” here, is what some scientists would like to be done but which simply cannot be done–not completely. And scientists’ commitment to such a sentiment has clouded their judgment, before. The idea of a universe with a beginning was long fought against primarily because it had positive theological undertones–frankly, more than undertones, but outright theological implications. The idea that some get physicists get upset when people see theological implications in their work seems all the more weird when, in cases like the Big Bang theory, it was their own aversion to theological implications that delayed their own acceptance of a theory now taken as common understanding. Do they fault the public for noticing the same things they did–theological implications–or for not sharing the same distaste for those implications?

Of course, the theological biases of the past shouldn’t be held against the scientists of the present (unless they reproduce then), and major contextual ideas shouldn’t be overturned on a fad. And, frankly, I sympathize with the sentiment of some scientists who worry that the statement “God did it” will cut off scientific research. Understood wrongly, I see how it can do exactly that.

For instance, if we discovered a Big Bang was the beginning of it all and claim “God did it,” what more would we fail to learn? Should those scientists currently exploring what may have prompted the Big Bang or preceded it simply stop their research? Is there no more to learn beyond that? I guess what I am saying is that it would be a shame if the statement “God did it” was a means of cutting off study and research into “How God did it.” Does that make sense?

For instance, consider gravity. If we simply looked at the planets and saw them orbiting the sun in such a wonderful order according to beautiful laws, and then we–rightly–gave God credit for what we saw, knowing that the “ordinances of the heavens” (Job 38:33) bring Him glory, should we stop there with the understanding that “God did it”? Isn’t a natural desire to what to continue to learn, if possible, how He does it? Is gravity simply communicated by a particle, like the graviton, or is it a field? Is the idea of gravity as a distortion of the fabric of space-time the best way to look at it? I believe there is much wonder to be seen in continuing the process of discovery–that is, if anything, knowing that God did it should drive us all the more to explore it and learn about it, knowing that the works of His hands are truly worthy objects of our attentions. “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter” (Proverbs 25:2). When we explore such things–strive to understand them more fully–aren’t we participating in the glory of kings? Isn’t the knowledge that “God did it” terribly motivating?

For another example, consider instinct. We marvel at the way animals make vast migrations having never been taught the way, how salmon return to spawning grounds to which they have no map, and how a vast amount of living information is transmitted from generation to generation in the animal kingdom through instinct. Yet, we still do not have a grasp on how this works. As someone once said, “instinct” is a good example of how we can give something a name and, by doing so, think that we understand it when, in reality, we haven’t a clue. Clearly, we’re seeing a wonderful element of design in God’s Creation when we see instinct in action, yet is that the end of the exploration? Is there no reason to explore further to see how instinct works? Recognizing that “God did it” should not be the end of exploration and experimentation–it should motivate us to wonder how He did it, and how it works.

Science is a noble practice, and just because some do it without a full understanding of the truth is no reason to beat up on them so. To be sure, I fault many of them for being willingly blind to the implications of their discoveries (he says, knowing he has many faults of his own). As I have said before, it is a human endeavor and thus suffers from human faults. Yet, at the same time, it is a marvelous pursuit. And scientists don’t have to fear the statement “God did it” if it is a spur to further investigation as opposed to and end to all questions.

I really have no dog in the hunt when it comes to the u-bit. I am comfortable in accepting the imaginary numbers and complex numbers as denizens of our very real world if they are needed. As I’ve mentioned, my favorite equation has i as part of its beating heart. But I am also fascinated at the possibility of discovering some additional element in the universe that may rid quantum mechanics of the need for them while displaying such fascinating qualities, knowing that the spirit realm and the physical realm must interact in some way. Is there such a thing as the u-bit? I have no idea whatsoever. But whether its for very real prey or very imaginary snipes, I am enjoying the hunt.

And, regardless of however irritated the editors of New Scientist may become, let’s not leave God out of it.

Finding God in Geometry Class

There's a reason I named my first car "Euclid" (Frankly, since Euler is pronounced "Oiler", it seemed a confusing option...)
There’s a reason I named my first car Euclid (Frankly, since Euler is pronounced “Oiler”, it seemed a potentially confusing option as a name for a car…)

This post deserves to be much longer and deeper than it will be, but I’m still going to post it while I have this brief opportunity.

Plato once said, “Geometry aims at the eternal.” For me, this statement was very true as a 9th grade geometry student in high school, except that it is missing a capitalization: “Geometry aims at the Eternal.”

That was an important year for me. While the years leading up to it and those immediately following it were certainly important as well, including the manner in which they complemented my 9th grade year, but that particular year saw my introduction to high school geometry. I had been a good math student, though not the self-starter I should have been, I believe. (Bad memory from 7th or 8th grade there–can’t remember which.) And I enjoyed math to a certain extent, I think. I remember in Algebra I class in Middle School finishing my work early and being allowed by the teacher to peruse some of the books on her shelf. The books were beyond me, to be sure, but the symbols I discovered there fascinated me and introduced me to the concept of mathematics as a language. I think it was the moment that I moved into a real interest in the subject, though not to the extent this would be true later.

But it was the next year–in Geometry class with Mrs. Paula Russell–that things really changed. I’m not sure if it is still as prominent today (this was before “Informal Geometry” had really caught on), but proofs were still a HUGE part of high school geometry work: assuming postulates, proving theorems, etc.

Seeing a mathematics based on clearly defined assumptions, using those to prove theorems–more complicated and less obvious statements–and then building on those theorems to prove other theorems, etc. was something transformative for me. Though mathematical points, lines, and planes were abstractions and not truly real world objects, it felt as if I were in a completely new universe with new objects to play with and examine. Yet, it wasn’t that it was a new universe that was somehow unrelated to our own. Quite the contrary: It seemed a deeper universe–something more fundamental, on which our own universe was built. A bright, glorious, beautiful place, where the pillars of reality might be seen and touched and felt in some magical way.

I had always been a “science kid” as far back as I can remember, and the idea that we live in a universe that could be mathematically described was not new. But the fact that this is an extraordinary reality about the world had not struck me, perhaps because I didn’t yet see mathematics unshackled from its applications. I don’t know. But I saw it unshackled in Geometry class. For the first time, I saw a truth such as this one I quoted from Clifford A. Pickover on Twitter yesterday:

I felt, perhaps for the first time, that I was sitting at God’s desk and looking at instruments unique to His own work. There seemed something eternal about it, as if those of us in class were simply exploring a place that, for all intents and purposes, had always existed in a way that the physical world around us simply hasn’t. A infinite place that was both workspace and playground. And there was something glorious about it.

These words and descriptions certainly didn’t come to mind back then, but the sentiment was there. And it came at an important time for me, in which my religious sentiments were undergoing a transformation, as well, and I do believe that this class played an active role in that transformation. That such ethereal objects as points, lines, and planes–postulates and theorems and proofs–could be made so very nearly tangible to me, added a tangible sense to God and His realm and thoughts to me, as well. The order in His Creation became so much more real to me that year. Well, that’s not quite right. Rather, my awareness of the reality of order seemed to change in nature a bit. I had known it was there (my science books had always emphasized that), but the fact of its presence became a startling thing–something wondrous and mysterious and not to be taken for granted.

To take things up to a melodramatic level (and I will take them back down in a moment), it reminds me of Job’s statement in chapter 42. It was not that before his trials Job did not know God–I dare say that even then he likely knew God more fully than virtually anyone reading this blog post could claim. Yet, through the trials and God’s lesson at the end of them, he makes the remarkable statement:

“I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know… I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” (v.3 & v.5)

Geometry class certainly did not propel me to such an understanding as Job surely had! Wow, would that be a pretentious claim. 🙂 But, it did have that sort of clarifying and enriching effect on me. The God I knew after that class was richer in detail, fuller in substance, larger in scope, and more different in kind. It’s not a coincidence to me that my 9th grade year was the year God seemed to accelerate His calling in me. It has always been a benchmark year in my life.

These thoughts have been on my mind recently, as I’ve been examining my relationship with numbers — moving from seeing them in a platonic “numbers are real” sort of sense to something else — and, thus, with mathematics, too.

And it highlights the role good teachers play, especially in mathematics. I was blessed with Mrs. Russell. In the hands of a lesser teacher, perhaps I would have been distracted by various “school dynamics” and not been free to really discover what an amazing subject I was studying. I guess I can’t know for certain, but regardless — having Mrs. Russell as my teacher was a very good thing, and I will always be grateful.

Beyond that, I think I will just say that you never know what God may use in your life to help you see Him more fully. For me, He showed up in my Geometry class, and my life has been different ever since.

Nice video about the Kalam Cosmological Argument

Just a quick post… I posted a new video I came across on our local congregational website concerning the Kalam Cosmological Argument for God’s existence. I have commented on that argument before here on the blog (specifically, here: “The Kalam Cosmological Argument and Unwin’s Pursuit of P(G)”), and I thought the video by Dr. William Lane Craig’s organization was very well done. It’s concise, it gets the point across without getting lost in minutia, and it is pleasantly and professionally produced.

Feel free and watch it for yourself. And you might use it as a spur to do what I recommended to my congregation: Take advantage of this Sabbath to ask someone why they personally believe that God exists and share your own reasons, as well.

The video is here, below. (And, as with all such links and embeds, the standard caveat applies.)

(And for those who have never read it, please consider our booklet: “The Real God: Proofs and Promises”)

World’s Largest Volcano — and it’s an Aggie!

TamuMassifI missed this News & Prophecy update (subscribe to receive free weekly prophecy updates here) about the super-massive volcano that has been discovered close to Japan: Tamu Massif — as large as the state of Arizona! That’s even bigger than the one under Yellowstone, which is quite a monster all by itself.

I was going to make a joke about “Tamu” in the name standing for my alma mater, Texas A&M University, until I discovered that it isn’t a joke: The “Tamu” really does stand for my alma mater! It was apparently named that by Dr. William Sager, a professor with the Texas A&M College of Geosciences.

Though I don’t see any news of the volcano causing trouble these days and it is apparently in active, I wonder just how many of these powerful beasts there are around the world and what role some of them might play in the earthquakes and other geological activity we see in the Scriptures playing a role in the end times (e.g., Luke 21:11, Rev. 6:14, et al.)

Just another Jesuit, government-owned, mind-controlled goober rediscovering his blog

Howdy! I am not sure (and I am too lazy to look back and tell), but I think this is the longest I have ever been away from my blog! And it hasn’t suffered too much in my absence — there was traffic looking for a number of things, even though I wasn’t writing anything new. I’ll get to that in a moment.

First, let me say that I hope all of you had a wonderful Feast of Tabernacles! Ours at the Lake of the Ozarks was amazing. Many asked me if it would be there again next year, and all I can say is that (1) I don’t know, (2) the overall impression of people who attended is positive, (3) let HQ know if you want it there again, and (4) talk to God about it, since everything depends on where He chooses to place His name (Deut. 14:23, et al.).

The messages were powerful (the ones I heard, I should say; I didn’t listen to my own 🙂 ), and left me really wanting to come home and make of my life something worthy of Christ’s coming Kingdom and something that represents a taste of that Kingdom now. Wherever you were, I hope that your Feast was just as uplifting and edifying as ours was. I’m tempted to dive in and discuss the messages and other highlights of the Feast, but I think I’d rather save those things for another time — give myself time to go over my notes again and work to make what I learned a part of my life and not just my blog posting. However: for the record, it was awesome. My thanks to everyone who came to the Lake of the Ozarks for God’s Feast and my thanks to all who served with me in any capacity at all — you made it a wonderful Feast for my family and for each other, and I pray we take all God gave us and do some good with it!

I also learned during the Feast from my brother-in-law, Wade Brown, that someone out there believes that I am a Jesuit — or, at least, a Jesuit-controlled lackey — due to the fact that our Church falls under 501(c)(3) taxation guidelines (hence the title of this blog post). We laughed about it, because such a thought is, of course, stupid. It’s interesting. The sort of people whose minds are so corrupted and twisted as to swallow “whole hog” the sort of conspiracy drivel that would equate 501(c)(3) with Jesuit control of your church and government ownership of your members are the same sort of minds that you cannot reason with in any way whatsoever. I know. I’ve tried.

For instance, if I don’t make the statement, “I’m not a Jesuit nor am I controlled by Jesuits,” then I will be accused of “admitting” I am by my silence: “See, he didn’t deny it! I’m right!” Yet, if I do make such a statement–in fact, let me do so right now: I am not a Jesuit, nor am I controlled by Jesuits–then the response is “Well, he’s lying, just like Jesuits do!” You can’t win with such people. Their mind is set, and the facts are irrelevant.

Actually, the other response that such conspiracy addicts give is, “Well, he says he isn’t controlled by the Jesuits, but he doesn’t know about the top dealings of his church.” Yes, that’s right. I attend every single Council of Elders meeting, am blessed to be able to speak openly and privately with Dr. Meredith and Mr. Ames and Dr. Winnail and Mr. Wakefield on a regular basis, occasionally sit in (as do lots of folks on their own visits) on Dr. Meredith’s weekly meetings with his executives, and have unfettered access to the individuals who are actually running the Church under Jesus Christ, and yet I have somehow I’ve missed the giggling Jesuit Ninja hiding in the closets of Charlotte, North Carolina. You’re brilliant.

Unbelievable.

(Oddly, the people Wade mentioned to me don’t seem to care that they slander the person they claim to respect: Herbert W. Armstrong. He placed his corporation sole under the exact same 501(c)(3) taxation status up until the very day of his death in 1986. I suppose he was a Jesuit/Government/Reptilian Overlord/Freemason/Zionist puppet, as well.)

And there was a new one I hadn’t heard before: In the same exchange with my brother-in-law, it was claimed by the accuser that the Council of Elders of the LCG votes on matters and is a democracy. Really? Wow… I’ve been attending all of these Council meetings — both in person and in our phone conferences — and somehow I’ve missed every single vote they’ve ever taken to the point that I had no idea we voted at all! Why, the Council must take those votes when I am taking a bathroom break. Oooo, or maybe when they tell me we are all breaking for lunch, they let me leave the room while they furtively spend a few seconds electing someone or voting for something behind my back! That’s it! Why, those devious Jesuit/Zionist/Alien/Illuminati/Government mind-slaves!

Wait, wait, wait… Maybe there is another, more rational explanation… Maybe I’ve never participated in even a single vote in any decision during my tenure so far in the Council of Elders because we actually don’t vote, because we are actually an advisory council just like Mr. Armstrong’s was, because we actually believe in our own doctrinal positions on voting and government, and because the person who said otherwise has absolutely no idea what he is talking about. Hmmmm… I suspect that is more likely. 🙂

(In other 501(c)(3) news, I notice that one person who said that 501(c)(3) entanglements come with government control and force you to limit your message now takes what kind of donations for his website? Come on, you can guess! That’s right! He has now found a way for him to be comfortable with taking 501(c)(3) donations, himself. Wow — this stuff is like the gift that keeps on giving.)

Enough about all of that. It was good for a laugh at the Feast with my brother-in-law (thanks, Wade!), but, frankly, it is pretty sad. The devil has some people so wrapped up in conspiracy hooey that they not only can no longer think clearly or see straight and not only slander people without even the slightest of evidence, but they have also erected an idol of their conspiracies and don’t even know it. Yes, any time foolishness parades itself, it can be funny (I’ve put on a few parades like that, myself), but knowing that the root of it is an individual caught up in the devil’s deceptions and so entangled by them that they don’t even know the spiritual harm they are doing to themselves is just tragically sad. That’s part of why the lies that some of those individuals say about me don’t really bother me all that much. Just watching them flounder so helplessly in their own spiritual, emotional, and intellectual filth turns my desire, instead, to requesting of God that He do whatever He needs to do to prevent me from ever falling into such a spiritual tar pit.

And requesting of God, too, that He help such individuals in whatever way He can. I’ve spent, literally, hours and hours answering their questions (even though they wrote under an assumed name), and it did no good. I’ve spent time digging through online public archives and have sent them documents with Mr. Armstrong’s signature, and it does no good. God is help them, to be sure, if they are willing. But until then, it’s clear that there’s nothing I can do for them but pray.

Wow — I thought I said “enough about that,” above! Move on, Smith! All that gum-bumping (or, typing, I suppose) from one thing my brother-in-law had a laugh about at the Feast… Sorry about that! Moving on!

In other news, even though this blog has languished in neglect for about two-and-a-half months while I played at various camps (thanks for your prayers for those), did a TWP (which went great! 130 new folks!), taped some new programs (thanks for your prayers for those, too!), and worked on the Feast that has just concluded (woo hoo! the Feast!), the blog still got a good bit of traffic! Searches took people to various posts, and it has been kind of fun looking at what garnered people’s attention while I was away. Here are some of the posts people Googled their way to during the last few days of my absence…

And, perhaps one of the most obscure posts to receive some Google-love while I’ve been AWOL:

Finally, a post I was surprised did not receive much attention while I was gone, since it is usually a regular search engine stopping spot:

Actually, someone even asked me about that question this past week at the Feast, which was a happy moment. 🙂

Traffic on this blog has never been a big thing for me, else I would take the time to do more SEO, keyword analysis, etc., etc., etc., which is what Internet people do. (Though if you are interested in knowing how to do that, talk to an expert!) It has been, as I said way back at the beginning, a chance to keep my writing muscles active, provide a place for my congregation members to hear from me more regularly, and to post some TW news now and then, as well as — I hope — a source of at least a little traffic for the Work’s websites, lcg.org and tomorrowsworld.org. But given the weird, eclectic collection of stuff I have rambled on about over the years, it is interesting to see some of what people have been coming across over the last few days given that I haven’t posted anything new for a couple of months.

And speaking of rambling, I’m done! As is probably clear from the title, there wasn’t much of a point to this blog post other than to get my feet wet again, so it has, indeed, been pretty rambly. If that has made it unprofitable for you, please feel free to keep your receipt and request a refund. 🙂

Now that I am back posting, I hope to write again soon — hopefully on something a little more worthwhile!