Category Archives: Science

Astronomical Conjunction

Did anyone get to observe the “conjunction of the Moon, Venus, and Jupiter”:http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2008/12/01/venus-the-moon-and-jupiter/ “last night”:http://www.universetoday.com/2008/12/02/conjuction-images-from-dec-1-08/? We were mildly overcast here in Indiana, but in some ways that actually worked in our favor since the clouds blotted out all the stars and let only the light from those three heavenly bodies through. I kept wishing I had a camera to snap a few pictures of my own, but those two links above should give you a roadmap to photos that others have taken – though I daresay that no picture will ever be able to completely do justice to the view. Isn’t astronomy cool?!

Link Roundup

I don’t generally do link roundups, but in this case, there are a handful of notables, and I don’t really have the time or energy to write about each one individually.

  • “Antibiotics for Sinusitis”:http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=12 – This article from _Science-Based Medicine_ sums up exactly my thinking about the germs floating around out there right now. I’ve been sick twice this winter, and in both cases, I needed high-powered antibiotics to muck everything out, and even then it took two or three weeks to shake it off. From what I’m hearing from folks all over the country, this isn’t exactly unique – the bugs are bigger, stronger, and longer-lasting. It’s likely that over-prescribing antibiotics is one of the prime factors for this.
  • “SpySat stuff”:http://www.badastronomy.com/bablog/2008/02/21/spysat-stuff/ – Is it bad that I ignored all news about the US government shooting a missile at the spy satellite until Phil posted about it (as I knew he would)? Sorry, I just don’t trust the information given back on this sort of thing until I see it on the Bad Astronomy blog, and I have even less use for most of the unnecessary drama that surrounded this particular event. Why must the media blow stuff like this out of proportion? I appreciate Phil’s level-headed presentation of the facts.
  • “Wireless Digital Display Tattoos”:http://gizmodo.com/359018/cellphone-display-concept-designed-by-dracula-is-bloody-ridiculous – Call me strange, but I think this idea is really neat. Of course, I’m the guy who’d love to have a neurological uplink to a computer, too, so embedding a subcutaneous, wireless tattoo interface in my skin isn’t a huge leap from there.
  • “Um, Yeah – Grapefruit”:http://xkcd.com/388/ – xkcd apparently unleashed a monster with today’s comic about fruit. Bear in mind, it’s highly subjective, so his mapping may match yours. (In fact, it’s safe to say that it probably won’t.) Go easy on the guy. Just because he’s wrong doesn’t mean you need to beat up on him.

A Conflict of Viewpoints

Man, I really hate “falling under a label”:http://tamino.wordpress.com/2007/01/17/this-blog-is-different/ that seems to generate so much animosity and antagonism from folks in the scientific community – that being, in this case, Creationist (as opposed to the term ‘denialist’ that is also mentioned). It honestly makes it difficult for those of us who are genuinely interested in the study and research in those fields to actually have calm, rational discussions with these folks because they’ve already labeled us as ‘quacks’, ‘kooks’, and ‘idiots’. We never even get a fair shake to ask our questions because as soon as we do, we’re blown off with some sarcastic, derisive answer. I am actually quite hesitant to identify as being with any one particular camp exactly because of the reaction I know I will get – I _hate_ being written off just out of hand. It kind of annoys me, really.

I’ve deliberately subscribed to RSS feeds from a number of science blogs recently because I want to stay abreast of the things that are being discussed in the scientific community. I have to admit, though, that I have to grit my teeth through just about every single one because the comments and snide remarks directed at Creationists and people of faith who hold opinions and beliefs that differ from those popularly recognized in the scientific community set me right on edge. Granted, a lot of this animosity some of these folks bring on themselves due to ill-informed arguments and general ignorance, but some of it is truly undeserved, as well. There’s something about people of faith being involved in science that almost instantly seems to generate the hostility of secular scientists. It makes it tough on those of us who do belief in a literal 6-day creation but who also want to be involved in, at the least, the discussions going on around the scientific community.

Consider me a true skeptic, I guess, who also holds Creationist beliefs. I know _I’m_ not going to get in your face about things, but I _will_ look at the evidence presented with as impartial a mind as I can.

So, I guess I’d just like to see the hostilities dialed back.

Comet McNaught

Looks like yet another cool astronomical phenonmenon is going to pass me by before I’ll get to see it. I’ve been checking the horizon every night for the past several days in hopes of being able to see Comet McNaught, but unfortunately, I’ve been hampered by consistent cloud cover. And the weather report for the next several does not look promising or encouraging. It’s a bummer, really. Seems like every time something cool happens in the night skies, I miss out. Last time Haley’s Comet traveled past, it was the same thing – heavy cloud cover during the prime viewing time. I did get to see Hale-Bopp, at least, so I guess that’s something. Looks like I’ll just have to content myself with seeing photographs of McNaught.

Christians and Scientific Discussion

I stumbled across another interesting “science blog”:http://highlyallochthonous.blogspot.com yesterday, this one focusing primarily on Earth Science. In “this entry”:http://highlyallochthonous.blogspot.com/2006/12/truth-in-science-on-newsnight.html, Chris Rowan makes a couple of statements that all scientists (especially _Christian_ scientists) should take into consideration:

Furthermore, to properly interpret criticism you need a firm theoretical understanding of the theory you’re criticising.

This is one the primary reasons why lately I’ve tried to curtail myself from writing on topics about which I have very little knowledge and expertise. There are few things so embarrassing as making a dogmatic point only to find out you’re wrong and then have to backpedal.

I’ve watched a number of Christians debate certain scientific points, and it quickly becomes evident that these folks clearly have a less-than-adequate understanding of the other side of the argument. So most of the time arguing is spent trying to get the Christian to understand the point that the secular scientist is trying to make, rather than actually debating the merits of the argument itself and the supporting (or damning) evidence from both camps.

And let’s be clear – “evolution can’t explain x, therefore ID” is not an example of the scientific method in action, and “an unspecified intelligence at some point did something to DNA by some unspecified mechanism” is not a scientific hypothesis. When you make some positive hypotheses about the nature of God- sorry, The Designer- and when and how he has done his designing, and show (by experiment, not assertion) that your hypotheses explain the facts better than evolution does, then biologists might start taking ID seriously.

In the field of science, I’ve seen researchers on both sides of a lot of issues fall into exactly this kind of trap. Most commonly, it is the Christian scientists ((Let me be clear here – when I say ‘Christian scientist’, I am _not_ referring to the particular philosophy/religion/cult of Christian Science; I am merely making a distinction between the average secular scientist and the scientist who possesses a belief in a creator God.)) who will make specific claims, only to have them fall under the weight of evidence from evolutionary scientists.

As a result, I have to wonder how much of science from Christian research organizations is founded on actual evidence and research and how much is simply airy exclamations based on theological beliefs. Don’t get me wrong – I do believe the Bible to be accurate, and I believe in a literal, 6-day creation and intelligent design. But I fear that far too many scientists who are Christians try to make science fit into theology. I believe that science and theology _can_ complement one another, even when they seem to be in opposition. ((I attribute this to the fact that mankind’s understanding of the universe is finite and that there is likely no way possible that we will ever be able to understand everything, even under the best and most rigorous scientific study.))

I believe that Christian scientists do a great disservice to both science and theology when they try to force scientific evidence to fit their own personal theologies. I think that fear plays a large part in _why_ they try, though – science and rationality sometimes have a way of shaking one’s faith in the existence of God, especially when they seem to support the traditional Darwinian evolutionary viewpoint. But rather than facing their fear and examining fact, far too many Christian scientists take information gleaned in the scientific community and try to force it to fit a specific mold. Consequently, they come off looking like fools and their research is quickly debunked as garbage. ((For the record, I’m sure that even if they had indisputable evidence backing their claims, there would be those in the scientific community who would laugh and scoff. You always have naysayers.))

At any rate, it’s a little food for thought, and as always, this entry is open for discussion and debate. And I believe that reading through Chris’ site may inspire some interesting and new story ideas.

Arguments

Boing Boing: Dawkins: Why There Almost Certainly Is No God

I grow weary of continual “he said, she said” rhetoric. It’s a major part of why I’ve more or less tuned out politics, why I’ve even, to some extent, tuned out of religious and philosophical discussion recently. This is more of the same.

It’s interesting to me that the religious say this nation was founded on Christian principles and that secularists say it was founded on secularism. In truth, this nation was founded, in part, on religious freedom, granting each citizen the right to worship as they see fit. So it’s increasingly ironic that Christians and secularists alike continue to try to force their way of thinking on others via politics and strong-arm techniques rather than through the power of persuasion and one-on-one discourse. Regardless of who is right and who is wrong, I don’t believe there is any room for anger, hatred, bitterness, and strife in the mutual pursuit of truth. And let’s face it – aren’t both sides looking for truth? Naturally, different people are going to arrive at different conclusions. People are going to disagree, sometimes even violently so. That, unfortunately, is the nature of humanity. It doesn’t make it right, of course.

I guess what bugs me the most when I hear this kind of dialogue being spouted in a public forum is the fact that so much of it is laced with anger and bitterness. I can understand, to an extent; frankly, I find my hackles going up everytime I hear someone harshly criticizing my own beliefs. It’s a natural reaction; no one likes to be told they’re stupid and foolish for believing a certain way. No one likes to be made fun of. But just because those emotional reactions rise up does _not_ mean that we should allow them to rule us and govern our reactions. Just because I’m angry and hurt at what someone said about me, whether directly or indirectly, does not give me the right to respond with anger of my own. Don’t you see? That just makes the problem worse.

“A soft answer turns away wrath…” Words to live by, folks. Do you hear me?

Finite to Infinite

I’ve been delighted that a “friend”:http://fadingdust.wordpress.com of mine has joined the ranks of bloggers. He never fails to stimulate my thinking, and his “entry”:http://fadingdust.wordpress.com/2006/09/03/evil-problems/ from the other day is no exception:

bq. As to another application, while studying philosophy here in seminary, I’m curious about Plato & Natural Theology. Philosophy has always been ‘searching’ for a conception of God that is ‘pure-God’, consistent, full, beyond disbelief. But it’s a search without an end. Who’s to say your conception of God “is”? You conception of God will never be The Concept of God, it will always only be Your Conception of God, in-so-far as it’s based only in your head & not in external info (like God’s own self-revelation).

As usual, I’m taking one piece of his monologue and running in a slightly different, but related, direction with it. Yes, I like philosophical rabbit-trails. They’re fun.

He’s correct in saying that no conception of God will ever be consistent, full, or beyond disbelief. Ultimately, none of us can ever have a concept or understanding of God that is comprehensive and total. God is, by definition, infinite; we as humans are, by definition, finite. It is simply impossible to fit the infinite into the finite. The finite will never be able to contain it all, let alone comprehend it or understand it. This is the nature of the created to the Creator. He will always, ever be so much bigger than us that all we will ever be able to understand of Him will be just the very, very tip of a massive iceberg. In point of fact, it is safe to say that our human (finite) understanding of an infinite God will always be infinitely small.

This is exactly the reason why faith is a necessary factor in relating to an infinite God. We have to understand that, since we are infinitely smaller than Him, there will always be an infinite number of things about Him that we simply cannot comprehend or understand, that will be forever beyond our reach to see, know, or experience. This is why faith is absolutely crucial to our ability to relate to an infinite God. We have to trust that God is good, despite the fact that He does not reveal everything to us, knowing that we are simply unable to grasp all that knowledge.

This is also why science will always fail to fully explain everything that exists and happens in the universe. Science is, by its very nature, a finite tool. It is a construct of finite men and so is inherently limited. Because the ability of men to see and know and understand is limited, so too is science limited in the same ways. Science _is_ a useful tool for learning more about that which finite men can experience, but science can never be the all-encompassing, comprehensive tool of study that mankind would like it to be.

Faith and science are not mutually exclusive tools. They are, in fact, complements to one another, particularly when wielded with wisdom and patience.

Bits of Burning Rock

I hadn’t realized until my wife and I moved back out to the country just how many shooting stars fall in a given night. Nearly every time I am outside, in the dark, to feed the horses, whether it be early morning or after sunset, I usually see at least one or two. ((My wife is slightly bitter – she has yet to see a single one.)) I don’t remember ever seeing so many as a kid, but then again I grew up in the mountains, so maybe it was a factor of having less sky to work with. And living in the city was never conducive to star-gazing.

Seeing shooting stars has a way of sparking the creative juices. It makes one think of what might be out there in the black. One recent night in particular had a particularly high showing of shooting stars – as I stood watching, listening to horses quietly munch their hay, I saw at least half a dozen streaks of light. ((BTW – think about how fast an airplane appears to move across the sky and then think about how fast shooting stars move and you begin to get a sense for just how fast those little meteorites are moving!)) Then the image came to mind of a little girl and her father lying in the grass just outside their home watching a meteor shower, and a new story was born. Of course, given the way my mind likes to twist things, the story’s ending is a little bit disturbing.

But that’s a story for another day.

_Keep your eyes open; ideas can come from anywhere._

Attraction Kills?

Men Pay the Ultimate Price to Attract Women – Yahoo! News

Personally, I like this part:

bq. “Women live longer in almost every country, and the sex difference in lifespan has been recognized since at least the mid-18th century,” said Daniel Kruger at the University of Michigan. “It isn’t a recent trend; it originates from our deep evolutionary history.”

So, what, an observation of 250 years or so automatically generalizes to how-many-million years of human existence? That’s some good ‘science’, that.

Or this:

bq. Males of many species must fight vigorously for the right to mate. Think of rams butting heads. Spectacular male bird plumage is another example of biological effort required to succeed, effort that uses energy and can shorten a life.

Hm, haven’t seen too many guys butting heads late…. oh, wait. Coupla guys over there right now… nevermind. Oh, and that plumage! Never seen a classier looking guy/transves… er, yeah.

Strange, though, how this kind of ‘evidence’ will probably be taken as hard scientific fact by most people. There’s not one thing in typical human male behavior, anatomy, or physiology that would suggest to me that the male body works harder at acquiring a mate than does the female. He doesn’t (usually) literally, physically butt heads with other guys, he doesn’t grow specialized feathers that are more brilliant than those of the female (doesn’t grow feathers at all, or brilliant colors, unless you want to count that ghastly Hawaiian shirt), he doesn’t secrete pheromones or anything of the like in order to attract a mate. ((A study I saw recently _did_ suggest that men and women do produce some small amount of pheromones, but it did say, too, that it wasn’t a significant enough quantity to make any kind of real difference in normal ‘mating habits’ of the typical adult human.)) I guess we’re just going to have to keep looking for mates the way we always have – through our darn good looks and dashing personalities.

Really, the high stress of our daily lifestyles and the drive to perform that nearly all men have _still_ makes more sense with regard to our comparatively shorter lifespans than does this theory that it is our bodies somehow striving to produce something in us to make us more sexually appealing to our female counterparts.

Finite to Infinite

Science and rationality cannot _disprove_ the existence of God, just as they cannot _prove_ the existence of God because God is far larger than anything that exists. Nothing that we have available to us can ever explain something that large. It’s just like the way the “created”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=498 can never be anything but less than the Creator. Science and rationality are so much smaller than the Creator that they cannot ever hope to prove, let alone explain, His existence. Science and rationality are products of a limited universe. There are boundaries, by definition, on what we can see and know. God, on the other hand, the Creator, is by His very nature, by His very definition, infinite and boundless. It’s kind of like trying to fit a miscroscopic point to an infinitely large three-dimensional figure – it simply cannot be done. The finite point can never be made to fit to an infinite figure because by its very nature it is limited, finite. So science and rationality are to God. They are the finite point, and God is the infinite figure. Science and rationality and philosophy and theology all are limited because they must be able to fit inside the finite, and thus limited, minds of finite, and thus limited, men. So they, by their very nature, will only ever be able to describe an infinitely miniscule part of an infinite being. If you find any or all of these woefully lacking in their ability to describe and define an infinite God, it is because they _are_ woefully lacking, as ever will they always be woefully lacking.

Yet, God allows us, His finite created beings, to know and understand some miniscule part of Himself. How “wild”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=467 is _that_?