Friday, February 7, 2014

Science believing Christian's response to creationist Christians

The problem with the Nye/Ham debate was that it accomplished little and further polarized both sides. As an ex-YEC I can say with all honesty that I know and understand Ken Ham's arguments. And let me tell you, no amount of scientific truth from Bill Nye or anyone else can change Ken Ham's mind on the subject. As I have learned in my own life, change truly only comes from within.

There are those of us who fall somewhere in between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. Well, actually much closer to Nye, but we also happen to believe in a God who creates through naturalistic processes. We believe that you can be a Christian and a believer in evolution. More specifically, we believe that there is deeper meaning and purpose found among the chaos and beauty of the universe. This is what separates us from pure materialists.

Matt Stopera from BuzzFeed was on hand at the debate and he came up with a clever idea. He asked to 22 self-identified YECs to write a question or message to "the other side." What he got highlights some of the problems with a fundamentalist view, namely that it drives intellectuals away from the Christianity because of it's blatant denialism and science illiteracy. So, I decided I would write a response to my fellow believers who happen to be YEC.

Let me say right now that I don't think I am better than these people. I'm not trying to make them look stupid or make myself look good. What I am trying to do is first, show non-Christians that not all Christians are fundamentalists, and second, let free-thinking Christians know that they are not alone in their beliefs.

Here is the article:

Here is my response to the questions (well the ones that are questions anyways):

1. Bill Nye, are you influencing the minds of children in a positive way?
He probably is. He had is own T.V. show for kids that was excellent and inspired many to think and learn in more critical ways as well as providing solid science education.

2. Are you scared of a Divine Creator?
I personally believe in God so, no. We probably would have some sticking points on what a divine creator is though.

3. Is it completely illogical that the Earth was created mature? i.e. trees created with rings… Adam created as an adult...
Let’s take this question one step further and ask if God would create a fossil record or remnants of supernovas that are mucholder than 6000 to 7000 years just to make the universe look “old.” Yeah, that’s a little illogical, and misleading.

4. Does not the second law of thermodynamics disprove evolution?
Sigh, no. It’s about an overall increase not an increase within one system. The earth is not a closed system.

5. How do you explain a sunset if their is no God?
“Their”? Seriously? Well, I believe there is a God, and granted, sunsets are beautiful. But, there is a completely natural explanation for sunsets, I assure you.

6. If the Big Bang Theory is true and taught as science along with evolution, why do the laws of thermodynamics debunk said theories?
They don’t, see question 1.

7. What about noetics?
Well, I have leanings toward monistic idealism so we could probably talk. Not sure what angle you are working to fit this in with a literal interpretation of Genesis though. This is a weird question.

8. Where do you derive objective meaning in life?
From the fact that “I am”.

9. If God did not create everything, how did the first single-celled organism originate? By chance?
From the beauty and complexity of self-replicating proteins and enzymes, from chemicals that arrange and copy themselves simply by the way the bonds are arranged and how they attract other specific bonds in repetitive ways. By chance from a completely naturalistic standpoint. By the thought processes of God from another standpoint.

10. I believe in the Big Bang Theory… God said it and BANG it happened.
This is not a question so consider this not a response ;)

11. Why do evolutionists/secularists/humanists/non-God believing people reject the idea of their being a Creator God but embrace the concept of intelligent design from aliens or other extra-terrestrial sources?
Should be “there” not “their”.
What are you talking about? Maybe you are referring to transpermia? This isn't a way to sidestep life arising from natural processes but rather one theory about how life arose on earth specifically.

12. There is no in between… the only one found has been Lucy and there are only a few pieces of the hundreds necessary for an 'official proof’.
Simply not true. Lucy is one in a long string of potential ancestors found. There isn't a perfect linear progression from all of these fossils to us either. By studying the fossil record and genetics we see that there were many starts and stops as well as a lot of interspecies breeding.

13. Does metamorphosis help support evolution?
It probably evolved as a way to alleviate competition of resources between young and mature insects. It worked really well and nature has had a very long time to refine the process.

14. If Evolution is a theory (like creationism or the Bible) why then is Evolution taught as a fact?
Because that is what is observed in nature.

15. Because science is 'theory' – not testable, observable, nor repeatable, why do you object to creationism or intelligent design being taught in school?
Science is not a theory. There are just too many issues with this question for me to answer it. Also, intelligent design is NOT the same as creationism. If you were a true disciple of Ken Ham you would know this.

16. What mechanism has science discovered that evidences an increase of genetic information seen in any genetic mutation or evolutionary process?
Quite a bit actually. Next?

17. What purpose do you think you are here for if you don’t believe in salvation?
I’m going to guess you mean what is our purpose outside of God? We can never be outside of God. We can choose not to show love at times but we are always a part of God. God created the cosmos, we made of that same matter. Our consciousness flows from God’s consciousness.

18. Why have we found only 1 ‘Lucy,’ when we have found more than 1 of everything else?
See #12. Lucy represents a single step in a long line of stops and starts.

19. Can you believe in ‘the big bang’ without 'faith'?
Yes. It’s when you try to answer the deeper questions about the causes of the big bang that you begin to rely on faith.

20. How can you look at the world and not believe someone created/thought of it? It’s amazing!!!
I like your question the best because you associate creation with thought. That’s really deep and it just so happens to be what I believe about God’s creative process. And yes, it’s amazing.

21. Relating to the big bang theory … Where did the exploding star come from?
Let’s sit down and have a long, long talk about science literacy in the U.S. today. If you think the big bang was an exploding star then you really aren't ready to debate anything science related. I mean really, this is a little sad. And, if you went to a public school, it speaks volumes about how we support and fund the education process here in the U.S.

22. If we came from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?
We didn't come from monkeys. Modern primates share common ancestry. Thanks for playing though.

I'll end with a quote from Neil deGrasse Tyson:
"One of the biggest problems with the world today is that we have large groups of people who will accept whatever they hear on the grapevine, just because it suits their worldview—not because it is actually true or because they have evidence to support it. The really striking thing is that it would not take much effort to establish validity in most of these cases… but people prefer reassurance to research." 

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Dark Demons of Extremism

We all suffer from bouts of extremism, some of us more often than others. This sickness is the result of being so near to an issue that it eclipses your view of the rest of the world. Most of us however, quickly recover from these temporary afflictions of ego. We can safely autocorrect ourselves back on the healthier path to a more open minded world view. But sometimes a person places themselves so close to an issue that they are sucked into it, like a star being ripped apart on the edge of a black hole. This is where an individual passes the point of no return. They unknowingly create their own event horizon. It is in that moment, when the boundary has been crossed that they have succumbed to the dark demons of extremism. These are the fallen angels of our own good intentions. We must slay these demons before our own ego allows them to manifest. If we do not, they will posses us and use our bodies for their own desires.

What is their desire? Violence. Violence against those who would show love and compassion to others. As we watch events unfold around let us recognize that some people are driven by extremism. Let us take a moment to reflect on our deeply held beliefs. Is there something inside of you that you would be willing to chose over showing love for another person? If so, you might want to take a step back and take a wider view. Don’t allow yourself to be sucked in too deep. Remember that the greatest thing you can do in life is love other people. Everything else passes away.

Monday, February 25, 2013

an enjoyable evening

i imagine death as a quiet evening gazing at the stars
labouring to breathe and lying in pain
my final breath is exhaled with my spirit
i can still hear those around me say
“what a shame”
the light fades to black as i marvel at how it is so easy to go
the last flicker of comprehension wavers like a candle flame
now i am only a smoldering ember
just as it was when the light first roared to life
as i am about to dismiss all that is me
a thousand tiny fires spring to life above me
i sit quietly for an eternity and ponder their meaning
after a short while the sun rises again
eternity is washed from view

beyond me

when i gaze into the reflection of a quiet pool i see the world beyond
though the cares of this world drag me down i still find relief
in the decaying leaves that i trod underfoot
for i am reminded of the infinite cycles of life and death
i take solace in the rays of sun that stream down through green leaves
it is comforting to know that nourishment comes from afar
we are adrift in an endless ocean of glittering black
and like a fowl that glides silently across the pond
our lives leave ripples that spread out slowly across all time
i will find comfort when winter comes for me
i will not waste away though the cold chills my bones
because i know that summer comes again
and the forest blooms once more


the rock's story

i am a rock on a cliff
overlooking a river
you glance at me then walk away
without hearing my story
so i will tell it now
though i doubt you would listen
i was born from the remains
of collapsed stars
a trail of interstellar dust
stretched thin by the tug of gravity
gravity, which won out in the end
and pulled me back together
swept up in the tide and piled
high until the Earth appeared
for eons i cooled and rested
until i lost my fiery glow
then i waited through heat and winter
crushing cycles of hot and cold
shaping me, breaking me
making me who i am
watching life spring forth
only to be beaten
then fight it’s way back again
slowly it takes root all around me
i may look old, and worn, and weathered
but i am still young
i watch trees sprout, grow, and die
all within a blink of an eye
i feel the moss crawl around me
in swirling eddies of tickling green
night and day are a blur to me
then you come along
and pay me no mind
but i will still be here
when you are dead and gone
watching over the cycles
that make me who i am
long ages will pass
i will watch the sun set on life
for the final time
then i will wait here
lonely, with my brothers
until the Sun expands and consumes me
i will glow once again
then with an explosion of light
my guts will be propelled back into the void
and i will wander among the stars
till at last the rocks
are gathered together again
and my story is told anew


Friday, August 3, 2012

Are we so alone?

It's September 2003. The Hubble Space Telescope is pointed at a particularly dark region of space near the constellation Orion. It takes four months for the telescope to capture enough photons to make a usable image of this unusually dark region of sky. The orbiting telescope is the photons' final destination on a 13,000,000,000 year journey. When those photons left their individual sources, our galaxy, the Milky Way, was just beginning to form. Our own star, the Sun, and home planet, Earth, were about 8,500,000,000 years away from formation.
It is hard for us to fathom numbers so large or distances so great. The speed of light in a vacuum is 186,282 miles per second. At that speed, it takes just over eight minutes for light leaving the sun to reach earth. Some of you may have a car with mileage near the 186,000 mark. Imagine racking up that mileage in one second. In just over eight minutes you could rack up somewhere around 93 million miles on your car if it could travel at the speed of light. As of 2010 the world record holding car for mileage had nearly 3 million miles on it. That car was purchased in 1966. At that rate it would take another 1,320 years to reach the 93 million-mile mark. Light is fast. 13 billion light years is an unimaginably far distance. If light can travel 93 million miles in eight minutes, imagine how far it could travel in 13 billion years.
Now let's think about something small. The area of the sky that the Hubble Space Telescope photographed was 1/13,000,000th of the total area of sky. Imagine trying to view the night sky through a straw held at arm's length and you might get some idea of the area of sky photographed. This small area of the sky near the constellation Orion was chosen as a target because of how dark this region is. With most telescopes the only thing that shows up here is the blackness of space. Understand that the image captured is not unique to this area of the sky. A similar image could have been captured if the telescope had been pointed anywhere else in the sky, provided the light pollution from our own galaxy was not blocking the view. So what did the HST see?

Galaxies. Lots and lots of galaxies. Here is a link to a larger image on Wikipedia:

*note that you can click on the picture to make it larger, and you should!

Before you dismiss this picture as an interesting curiosity I hope you take a couple of moments to ponder what is actually pictured here. Our own galaxy, the Milky Way, an ordinary barred spiral galaxy, is somewhere around 100,000 light years across. That means that light takes about 100,000 years to cross the diameter of our galaxy. Our galaxy contains somewhere between 100,000,000,000 and 400,000,000,000 stars, of which, the Sun is only one average yellow dwarf star. Our galactic neighbor, the Andromeda galaxy, is roughly 220,000 light years in diameter and may contain up to 1,000,000,000,000 stars.
It is at this point that I have to stop and wonder. Are we really alone? Do we inhabit the only planet in the entire universe that harbors life? Looking at the Hubble Ultra Deep Field image above, I personally would have to answer, "probably not."
The Hubble Ultra Deep Field image is estimated to contain somewhere around 10,000 galaxies. When you stop and think that within any 1/13,000,000th of the area of the sky you are likely to find somewhere around 10,000 galaxies, a profound sense of smallness should begin to well up within you. We inhabit one planet, orbiting one star, out of a few hundred billion stars, in one galaxy, in a universe that contains hundreds of billions, if not trillions, if not infinite galaxies.
Who are we to stomp our feet and declare that we are unique? We haven't even made it to Mars yet.
The Earth is full of people who will tell you what to believe about God, about religion, about everything. But, when you look at a photograph like this one, all of that noisy chatter seems to melt away. Looking at this picture gives me hope. It also strips away any religious pride I might have. We have only scratched the surface of who or what God truly is.
I was raised to believe that we are the only "people" God has ever created. But that seems like such a narrow interpretation of the Bible now. How many other stars, in our own galaxy or others, have planets orbiting stars with advanced life forms declaring that they are only living thing in the Universe, that God loves them above all else? It just seems silly when you look at a picture like this. Surely civilizations rise and fall across our own galaxy. Surely every galaxy in this picture supports some form of life, or many.
If you do not personally believe this to be so, you are welcome to your opinion. In fact, there is not yet one shred of evidence that life does, in fact, exist outside of this tiny planet called Earth. But let me make one thing clear. If we are alone, then we are so utterly alone, to a point that we have a loneliness that is without remedy for all time. And for those who would stand up and say that we are not alone because we have God, I would ask a simple question. Why would God create such a grand universe, that exist at such a scale it can scarcely be comprehended, and yet, only place life on one small rock so insignificant that it barely registers even at the scale of our own solar system, let alone the scale of our galaxy or universe?
It is easy to pretend that other populated worlds do not exist. There are only a few thousand stars visible in the night sky. And in populated areas, where the majority of the world's population lives, the number of visible stars probably ranges from a few hundred to twenty or so. It is no wonder then that our thoughts rarely turn to what lies beyond our own atmosphere. Prior to a hundred years or so ago, when our skies were not clouded with light pollution, the stars were visible to all. Yet, our technology was not so advanced as it is now. Long ago, when people looked at the heavens they wondered what those tiny points of lights were. Now we know. They are stars, like our own star, the Sun. It was only about a hundred years ago that we realized our galaxy is not the only galaxy. There are countless others. We know that now. Knowledge advances.
Is there any reason why we should not advance as well?
I am confident that one day our technology will advance to the point where we can finally answer the question of whether or not we are alone in the universe. When that question is answered, it will answer a fundamental part of the question of who we ourselves are.