27 June 2008

Choose America? The global food crisis

I pull myself from my queen size bed in the morning and complain about the temperature in my apartment (I refuse to turn on the AC because of energy cost). Then I go to the kitchen just to find out I've run out of food again. Eventually I get to my car and the "change oil" light comes on, and my gas tank is once again getting low. Then my day just gets worse because I get stuck in traffic behind someone going 5 mph slower than the speed limit.

As I have a friend without a car right now, I think to myself at least I have a car. Then it hits me: I live in America. I have a bed. I have electricity. I not only have a grocery store nearby, but have plenty others to choose from. I have a job. I have money in the bank. I have a family behind me.

Good thing I chose to be born in America.

Please, let's not be selfish and ignorant, because obviously we did not choose such blessing. Do you know what is happening to people around the world? Many poor can no longer afford to buy food as cost has doubled since a year ago. I recently read of parents who signed their son over to an orphanage since they could not support him. If you are humbled even a little as me, start by educating yourself about the global food crisis: http://www.compassion.com/sponsordonor/global-food-crisis/default

25 June 2008

What is a Theory?

A charge that is sometimes made against evolution, for example, is that it is "just a theory." Evolutionists are quick to point out that such an argument shows that the idea of "theory" is misunderstood. Let's seek to understand it, then.

Science seeks to understand how things work in the universe. In order to do so, we must take things in nature and formulate them in ways that humans can understand. There is always this disconnect between nature's reality, and humanity's nature. You can sense that sunlight on your skin is warm, but the thought in your mind of warmth and warmth itself are two different things.

A theory is, in my words, an attempt at a descriptive abstraction of nature in a way that humans can understand. The disconnect requires that any human description of nature be an abstraction. Because of this, any theory is only as good as our observations of nature. Imagine if everything you see is in shades of blue, and that is all you've ever known. You might develop ideas on how light works based on your observations. Of course, any explanation you give for how nature works will certainly be wrong, since we know that world is not only in shades of blue. Or is it? What is "blue," anyway? How can we know for certain that we all don't suffer from defective senses? But then again what does it matter? We must conclude that science is not concerned about nature in itself, but only about our perception of nature. That is, really, the best we can do.

Now, I carefully crafted my words to say "an attempt." Note well this quote of Stephen Hawking:

"All we ever know is our models, but never the reality that may or may not exist behind the models and casts its shadow upon us who are embedded inside it. We imagine and intuit, then point the finger and wait to see which suspect for truth turns and runs. Our models may get closer and closer, but we will never reach direct perception of reality's thing-in-itself." [As given by George Zebrowski, "The holdouts," Nature, Vol. 408, 14 Dec 2000]

Theories are what science does; they are all it has. A theory can never be proved, it can only be disproved. If an explanation of nature withstands all we throw at it to disprove it, we then tend to think it is true.

A very important facet to a theory is that it can make verifiable predictions of how nature should work in a certain situation. If such predictions turn out to be true, we tend to think even more that the theory is true. For example, Einstein's general relativity predicted that light should bend around the sun. Upon observation, this was confirmed (Einstein's calculated numbers fell within the observation's tolerance), much to the excitement of the scientific community.

So when something is granted the title of Theory, we must know that it has been rigorously tested and has been found to be a very accurate description of reality. The charge that evolution is "just a theory" is the same as charging it as "just science."

Dobson vs. Obama and Religion in Politics

James Dobson of Focus on the Family recently criticized statements made by Barack Obama back in 2006 on the place of religion in politics. Obama's speech can be found here: http://www.barackobama.com/2006/06/28/call_to_renewal_keynote_address.php.

Here is a portion that Dobson addressed:

"And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson's, or Al Sharpton's? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount - a passage that is so radical that it's doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let's read our bibles. Folks haven't been reading their bibles."

Dobson charged that Obama deliberately distorted scripture to fit his own world view and distorted theology (http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/06/24/evangelical.vote/index.html). Obama responded by saying that Dobson is "making stuff up."

Now, I was at first going to criticize Obama's words as well. Then I read a greater portion of his speech, as well as quotes on the site http://www.jamesdobsondoesntspeakforme.com/. If the quote above is actually Obama's interpretation of those passages, we've got problems. However, I think that he is actually saying that anyone with such interpretations needs to go back and "read their bibles."

At first reading Dobson's comments, I thought Obama was implying one ought to leave Jesus at home, out of your day job. In fact, that is the very opposite of what Obama argues. Although I don't agree with Obama word for word, I tend to agree with him far more than Dobson. I encourage you to read Obama's speech and weigh things yourself.

20 June 2008

Crop circles and number systems

Check out the latest crop circle:

What is amazing about this one is that the number pi is encoded in it. Start in the center and note the length of each segment. The first one is 30% of a full circle, so 3. Then there is a decimal point. The next is 10% of a full circle, so 3.1. Then we have 40% of a full circle, 3.14, and so on. It goes to nine decimal places.

In considering how this thing got in that field, as I was figuring out how pi is encoded I noticed something. Why make 30% of a circle represent the number 3? This means that 100% represents 10. Now you must know that there is nothing special about ten. We happen to have ten fingers and ten toes. But there is no particular reason for when you turn ten years old that it must be "double digits." Look at nine apples, then look at ten apples. Why should nine apples require one digit, and ten require two? There is no intrinsic natural reason, except maybe it is easier to count on our fingers.

What I am talking about is number systems. Probably the next best known number system to decimal is binary. In binary, two is double digits. Remember this? "There are 10 kinds of people: those who know binary, and those who don't." (If you aren't catching on, "10" in binary is two.) Why not encode pi in a crop circle in binary? You can see the string of zeroes and ones for pi at http://www.befria.nu/elias/pi/binpi.html, for example.

So the whole thing is fishy. There is no natural explanation for pi to be encoded in this crop circle, especially in the formalism of decimal numbers.

Conclusion: the aliens that made it have ten fingers.

19 June 2008

Teen pregnancy: An unchanging God in a changing world

Seventeen teenage girls in Gloucester, Massachusetts are pregnant. It has been discovered that some of these girls agreed to a "pregnancy pact" where they would all get pregnant and raise the children together. You may read the story at http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,369290,00.html

The psychiatrist quoted in the article attributes this behavior to a search for something genuinely human in the midst of a cyber world. I think that is a valid point. I am not that much older than these girls, but I do know that the internet is far more common-place now then it was even five years ago. This young generation does not realize the explosive rate of development of the technology revolution; it is normal life to them. Likewise, we do not realize the effect this has on them. Our society has changed so quickly and drastically in the past decade that it is difficult to predict or accommodate for the ramifications.

This illustrates a basic concept of nature: a transient. I mean a transient as opposed to something that is steady. In electrical engineering, there are "steady state" signals and transient signals. Basically, a transient is the result of a change. Eventually the effects of the change diminish and we get back to steady state. So the principle is that any change in the way things are will produce a transient. We can take this deeper when we look at the rate of change. The basic principle we find then is that nature reacts strangely, perhaps unpredictably or violently, when the change happens quickly. Make abrupt changes in your everyday life and note the differences. One example is quick acceleration, like when a light turns green.

Therefore we might say that this teen pregnancy issue is due to societal whiplash.

What can we possibly do in a society like this? Is there nothing unchanging or firm that we can hold to? "I the LORD do not change," Malachi 3:6. "He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us," Psalm 62:6-8. I suggest that the principles by which God commanded us to live by remain true for all people at all times. Obedience is to our benefit; God knows how he made the world to work, and He told us how to best live. No matter how things change, God's truth transcends all cultures and societies.

One such principle is parenting. "And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise," Deuteronomy 6:6-7. Obviously, that does not describe many homes in America. I have no doubt that a lack of Godly parenting played a role in these young girls' decisions.

Oh God, may I seek to embrace these truths in my life.

What do you think?

17 June 2008

Things you ought to know #1

This is the first installment of "things you ought to know." There may never be any more, so at least the first one will be numbered.

Backslash vs Forward Slash

You ought to know the difference between a backslash and a forward slash. Look up at the address bar of your browser right now. Those are forward slashes. Any web address will contain forward slashes. If you state a web address with backslashes, it is likely wrong. Since forward slashes are so common in this context, we usually just call them slashes. Here is how you can know which is which:

Start with a vertical line: |. Think of it as standing on two feet like a person. Now, since we read left to right, a forward slash will look like it is leaning forward: /. A backslash will look like it is falling backwards: \. Got it?

Regarding 'rithmetic, you ought to know that a forward slash usually denotes division: 1/2 means "one-half" which is the same is "one divided by two."

blogging begins

Well, I've decided I'm going to try this blogging thing. For now, the title of my blog is "RRR" which, as you know, stands for Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmetic. That's mostly what I do all the day long. I might change it though, because it's cheesy. Fitting for me, yes, but it's more of a melted nacho cheese whereas I am more of a sliced pepperjack kind of guy. Mmm...cheese...I enjoy it just like you will my blog.