Monthly Archives: October 2014
Sariah’s list isn’t going to be as wordy as mine, in fact, I’m going to make it mostly pictures of the brands or items that I know she’d like and doesn’t have. Again, I must say that you needn’t buy anything but I know you are going to anyways so here’s some idea. All of the pictures are links to pages for the item (I hope I did them all correctly).
Beados – We got Sariah a starter set of these for her birthday and she loved it. It is a set where you can place the beads down in a pattern and then spray them with water and they will set together into the picture. Very similar to the things we would make with the beads and then iron them to melt them together as kids, only less burnable things.
Polly Pocket Wall Party – We have a lot of these on her wall and are only missing the Pet Park, Cafe’, and Juice Bar. We don’t have anything else Polly so a pool set or whatever in this same size would fit in nicely.
You can never go wrong with My Little Pony. Sariah and Daddy love it.
A gift that isn’t a toy that will be thrown to the side in favor of another. A gift membership to the Nashville Zoo or Adventure Science Center.
Some art never goes amiss. Swirlz for painting and The Pottery Room for glazing pottery.
A magazine subscription for kids. May just spark a love of reading.
Gift Card for movies (Great Escape in Clarksville) or theater shows (Roxy in Clarksville, or something in Nashville)
ABCMouse.com is a great website and Sariah had a blast playing with it for a short while.
A gift card for Amazon, Walmart, some food place, ice cream place, anything will be appreciated and enjoyed. Ok, so it got wordy but I can’t help it. Hope it gave you some ideas.
It’s that time of year again already. I’m sure we’ve each either been asked or popped the question ourselves; What do you want for Christmas?
This post will be both talking about Santa and my own letter for those in my family who want some idea of want to get me. In thinking about this post I thought I’d look up some references to letters to Santa, what I’ve found is cool. First and foremost, there are a lot of websites designed to send a letter to Santa and to ensure your child (or you even, I guess) gets a response from ole’ Saint Nick.
Sariah knows, I think, who Santa is and that he is associated with Christmas and giving. I don’t see her having lacked anything in her childhood from not believing that Santa was a literal being who gave gifts. The story is so ridiculous when we grow up that I actively worked to not have her believe it and keep some people from speaking as if he were more than simply a good character to know with attributes to emulate (charity, altruism, cheerful).
I have been accosted for taking this position but I couldn’t care less. I don’t think it favorable to teach your child to believe something you know to be false. I couldn’t think of a way to explain having taught her to believe the story and then her asking the unavoidable questions; How does he make it to every house in one night? Why do some kids get more toys than other kids? Why do some of the bad kids get toys and some of the good kids not?
I don’t want to make this post about the story of Santa but everything I do now brings up my skeptic mind and how I am adapting as a parent each and every day. I must say that I don’t feel any emotion either way to those parents who do teach their kids, or allow them to believe, that Santa is factual, nor do I have any feelings about my having believed in Santa. I do remember the night I found out Mama got the stuff out of the trunk of the Festiva though (duplex, bunk bed, hanger in her foot, retainer screw, it all jumbles together but it’s in there somewhere).
Just for fun, if you haven’t ever heard of it, check out the Krampus, the antithesis to Santa.
The nicest website I found is one we probably don’t visit that often, the United States Postal Service. The USPS has this planned out very nicely. They accept all letters and even set up a way for volunteers to “adopt” a child and buy from their list. Their Santa section is appropriately filed under the category “Corporate Social Responsibility”. I know they can’t focus on every letter that passes through their hands but I like that they feel it is their social responsibility as a corporation in that position to take care of as many letters as they are able to.
I wasn’t aware of the adoption process that the post office has but perhaps Crystal, Sariah, Sophia, and I will participate or even our lab at work could take a couple letters and contribute this season, it could be our “corporate social responsibility” too.
Before I get into an actual list I want you all to know this is only being put together because I will not be left alone and allowed to say that I really, truly, don’t need anything for Christmas. I don’t say this to be humble or modest. I say this because it is true. I have a great life. My family and friends are the best anyone could ask for and material possessions pale in comparison to seeing each of you.
It may be futile to say this but Crystal, Sariah, and Sophia are set, spoiled really. You needn’t buy them anything either. Maybe I will get Sariah to make out a list and have a post for her too. Sophia could care less yet and Crystal can set up her own blog for her list, or maybe a guest post!
So, that said, this is my list and it by no means all-inclusive. I have done my part so when I ask you I will not accept the answer ‘nothing’.
Gift Card (Amazon, Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot, Fandango etc)
Wireless Headphones, Keyboard, and/or Mouse
Any book from this website (I don’t have any of them and they’re signed copies)
Headlight (1997 Ford F-150)
I am a dad, scientist, lab rat, atheist, brony so anything from those genres is welcome
I have been thinking lately about items that are nicer/collectible (not necessarily expensive though)
I still like the sun/moon/star things
Harry Potter and MLP are always a hit
a new tattoo is working in my brain
Many people would say that my treatment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been unfair but I maintain that it is truthful. I do not see criticism as disrespectful or insensitive, nothing is above critique. I am completely opposed to Elder Packer who is quoted as saying:
“I have a hard time with historians… because they idolize the truth. The truth is not uplifting; it destroys. Historians should tell only that part of the truth that is inspiring and uplifting.”
Once again the church has put itself out there by producing something undoubtedly directed at its critics. Like the recent essays on LDS.org (see the links below), the video below is set to face a pivotal part of the LDS faith, Sacred Temple Clothing. (http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/temple-garments)
Like many other videos from the church, this one is produced very well. It explains the garments fairly well and takes away some of the secrecy that has surrounded them for the nearly 180 years since Joseph Smith, Jr introduced them. First, I must point out a few parts of the video that need to be examined beyond a cursory glance at the video. Just a fun part to point out is the guy at 0:50 and how enthused he is at holding a plate to catch crumbs during a Catholic sacrament.
Twice, the video shows or speaks of Buddhists when referring to a religious garments being worn to “show their inner most devotion to god” at 0:41 and again at 1:30. Though they do wear certain garments, a distinction must be made when Buddhists come into the conversation. The video states that “the saffron robes of the Buddhist monk” (1:30) are worn as a “devotion to god” but this is a mistake, mainly because Buddhism isn’t devoted to divinity, the Buddhist doesn’t believe in a god.
Was the Buddha a God?
He was not, nor did he claim to be. He was a man who taught a path to enlightenment from his own experience.(http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/5minbud.htm)
Explaining the robes:
The robes serve not just as a kind of uniform to remind the wearer that he or she is a member of a larger universal community…Above all, they remind the wearer that he or she has committed him or herself to high spiritual ideals — to master the Dharma, liberate oneself and show others the Way. (http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/buddhistworld/robe_txt.htm)
Continuing in the video, at 3:20:
“There is nothing magical or mystical about temple garments, and church members ask for the same degree of respect and sensitivity that would be afforded to any other faith by people of good will.”
It is true that many sources from the church state that the protection afforded to the saints who wear their garments is merely a spiritual protection.
When you wear it properly, it provides protection against temptation and evil. (LDS Manual, True to the Faith, p.173)
But, then there are the ‘stories’.
Some Mormon lore also invests the garments with a power to protect — there are stories about people who got through car wrecks, floods and other calamities unscathed, and thanked the godly power of the underwear. (Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/26/AR2007122600781_pf.html)
Beyond this article, which tried (just as the video above) to demystify the garments, even the leaders of the church itself speak of the powers of the garments.
Though generally I think our protection is a mental, spiritual, moral one, yet I am convinced that there could be and undoubtedly have been many cases where there has been, through faith, an actual physical protection, so we must not minimize that possibility” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 539)
In his book about the history of Mormon temple worship, David John Buerger wrote:
“Early on, the garments were seen as protecting those who wore them. This idea was underscored by the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in the jail at Carthage, Illinois. Neither Joseph, Hyrum, nor John Taylor had been wearing his garment. Willard Richards, who had, escaped unscathed in the attack.” (The Mysteries of Godliness, 146)
Buerger cites several early LDS sources that confirmed and propagated the belief that Willard Richards was spared injury or death at Carthage because he was wearing his garments.
With the prophet, the highest power on earth (from the point of view of the LDS obviously), speaking of “actual physical protection” and stories like that of Willard Richards it isn’t hard to imagine why people outside of the faith would designate them as “magical” when the stories abound within LDS lore of the power they have; not just a power to resist urges or remind one of their covenants.
Hank Stuever, of the Washington Post, recounts a story of an encounter with a member of the LDS church ending with Stuever asking the man if he was wearing his garments.
“That’s a rude question,” he said, and grew quiet. Well, I told him, I had to ask. The Mormons welcomed the world, after all, and showed us what they’re all about. Showed us almost everything. (Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/26/AR2007122600781_pf.html)
Almost. After watching this video (more than a few times I’ll tell you) I was left wanting more. The video made no mention of the veil for women nor of the symbols on the garments.
Also at 3:20, the video shows a woman selecting garments and then a set is laid out on a table for showing. Strangely and very clearly both at 3:20 and at 1:55/2:10 it doesn’t ever show the veil that women are made to wear during parts of the
secret sacred ceremony. The only remark that could be seen to reference this is in the statement “men and women wear similar clothing” at 2:22.
Another item that isn’t mentioned in the video are the symbols that are part of the garments. The compass, the square, the slit on the knee all representations of potentially good qualities but unrecognized in this video. To say they weren’t mentioned because they aren’t particularly interesting is in itself intriguing. The church has strict rules to follow when discarding garments.
To dispose of worn-out temple garments, members should cut out and destroy the marks. Members then cut up the remaining fabric so it cannot be identified as a garment. Once the marks are removed, the fabric is not considered sacred. (https://www.lds.org/handbook/handbook-2-administering-the-church/selected-church-policies?lang=eng)
In the end, the video is well made and informative if not lacking in certain points. Many of you know that I was a member of the church but never went so far as to get into the temple. How then do I know so much about the goings-on? The internet! I will end here but below this will be a set of links that anyone who watched the above video from the LDS should check out. The above video was produced, edited, scripted, and set out to very carefully give certain information. Don’t stop there!
Google is your friend.
and many others will give you ALL of the information.
Essays from LDS.org / MormonThink.com
Women and the Church – LDS / MT – Not out yet.
THE FINE-TUNING OF THE UNIVERSE
One of the most astonishing pieces of evidence for the existence of God is called the fine-tuning of the universe.
Only if a Designer had specifically created our universe with the intention of supporting life would we exist.
The author has made up this fact about a designer being needed. In an easy thought experiment, leaving out the idea of a creator/designer, we can imagine an infinite number of universes to have existed before ours that by simple numbers would eventually come up with the right conditions for life to exist. The only universe that would come to the conclusion that it had been designed for life to exist is the one where life emerged.
The author continues by quoting Richard Dawkins from The Blind Watchmaker, but doesn’t actually show the context of the quote. The quote is:
The physicist’s problem is the problem of ultimate origins and ultimate natural laws. The biologist’s problem is the problem of complexity.
The quote as shown above makes it seem like physicists have a “problem” explaining the natural laws of the universe and that biologists have a “problem” explaining complexity. This is completely the wrong presentation of the word ‘problem’, Dawkins may have done well to use a thesaurus but who am I to tell such a man as he what to do. When we are working on a “problem” in math we don’t explain it as that equation is hard to explain or work out (it may very well be but that isn’t the definition of the word problem in that context). The word problem can be used pertaining to something difficult or a dilemma but it can also be used for a puzzle, mystery, or question. If you read the quote in context below you are clear that Dawkins uses the word problem pertaining to an enigma not a complication.
Universe Starter Kit
You can imagine the tuning of a piano or an instrument as another example of the necessity to calibrate something to a precise position for it to function properly.
What if the piano didn’t exist? Would we then understand the necessity for a piano to be tuned? No, just as in the thought experiment above if the physical constants of the universe didn’t allow for life in another instance of the universe we wouldn’t be asking these questions. The only way for us to be able to answer these questions is in the universe where the constants are able to support life. What about another universe where some of the constants were different than ours but a different type of life emerged? Can you imagine that civilization debating the same thing as we?
Astrophysicists tell us that there were dozens of physical constants (such as gravity) and quantities (such as entropy) that had to be carefully adjusted (fine-tuned) in order for there to have been a life-producing universe.
As much as this sentence seems correct one, single word throws it to the ridiculous; adjusted. I won’t say many or most but I have great confidence that there are very few physicists that would use that word when speaking of the physical constants of the universe. It is more likely that they would say ‘there were dozens of physical constants (like gravity) and quantities (such as entropy) that had to be carefully in sync in order for there to have been a life-producing universe.
The author explains many of the physical constants using an analogy of the creator god at a table with dozens of knobs as he/she is fine-tuning the creation of the universe. The author of course states this all as fact when there is no way for him to know any of this, but he takes this moment to again point out that anyone who doesn’t believe his specific supernatural claim is wrong.
For intelligent people to dismiss such overwhelming odds proves no amount of evidence can overturn their predetermined stance that there is no God.
The anthropic principle states that the universe was designed for the emergence of conscious life. “The universe was made with humans in mind.” The author presents this with the following analogy.
Imagine you arrive at a hotel room and all your favorite things are there already: your clothes, your favorite foods, pictures of your family. It would be safe to say that someone knew you were coming to that room and prepared it for you.
It is easy to see that the anthropic principle is accurate because our houses and businesses were provided and furnished even before we had evolved into homo sapiens. It is great that the entire surface of our planet supports life, that we wouldn’t die in the void of space on our way to one of the other life supporting planets throughout the infinite universe.
Hopefully you can understand the ridiculous nature of this principle. The universe, our planet even, is not able to support life in every aspect. The only way you should believe this principle is if you believe something like ‘Last Thursday-ism’, in which the entire universe was developed last Thursday with everything we have now produced perfectly for us, memories and all.
COULD THE UNIVERSE POP INTO EXISTENCE?
The author quotes Stephen Hawking from his book The Grand Design about the possibility that the universe could have popped into existence ex nihilo. “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.” As I have mentioned already Hawking speaks of quantum mechanics that allows particles to pop in and out of existence.
This is in contrast to Newton’s laws of physics, which assert that objects were set in motion because they were influenced by other objects.
I’m not absolutely positive about this but pretty sure Newton’s laws break down and are not relevant at the quantum levels. The author surely knows this and knowingly omits the information from this book. Also, Occam’s razor comes in again.
To the average observer, it seems as if the discussion is over.
Definitely not. Theoretical physicists like Hawking are not done with their theories. They aren’t done examining and understanding. The answer may still change, the discussion is not over.
If science shows that everything could simply pop into existence without apparent cause, then God as a needed First Cause is rendered unnecessary.
Unnecessary? Yes. Completely proven false? No.
However, in their rush to eliminate the need for causality, atheist scientists fail to mention that without the laws of nature, nothing would take place at all.
A thought experiment. Imagine the theory of quantum mechanics accurately explains the creation of the universe. Imagine dozens, hundreds, even thousands of universes popping into and out of existence. The laws of nature different in each instance. Who would question the laws of nature being correct if a universe emerged that couldn’t support life?
No one. The only iteration of the universe that can question the laws of the universe’s “fine tuning” are the ones that support life. We don’t know, nor can we likely ever know how many times the universe has come into existence without the “fine tuning”.
The author fails at analogizing the laws of nature to the Wizard from OZ. ‘Pay no attention to those laws behind the curtain.’ The laws are not problematic to my position, as I explained above.
The world consists of things, which obey rules.
So where did the laws of physics come from? They must be assumed in order for particles to pop into existence.
Actually, that is a bit backwards. When thinking about the “laws of nature” you must change the way you think about some words. Gravity isn’t simply a law that must be followed. It is a scientific theory that most accurately describes the way particles in our universe attract each other. If at some point in the future we find out that some particle or other didn’t act that same way the theory (law) would be changed. The “laws” aren’t unchangeable facts about the universe. With sufficient evidence for a law breaker, the law is adapted to fit the new information. All that said it is very unlikely that the Theory of Gravity will be changed very much, only slightly adapted, but think back to Newton.
Newton may have had that apple fall on his head that gave him the idea of gravity but he had no idea of super massive black holes that could bend or even trap light. The law of gravity was formed before some information was available, it wasn’t an immutable law of nature then because since we have found things like Hawking radiation that escapes black holes. Science is adaptive, you mustn’t think of the laws as set in stone as the author is alluding. The laws don’t direct the actions of the universe, they only explain those actions in terms that we can understand.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
I must digress for a moment and acknowledge how obscure and pedantic this discussion may sound to many. In spite of this, it must be addressed because it is within this obscurity that the proof for God’s non-necessity or non-personality is asserted.
The nothing that so many spend so much time on is the nothing from before the Big Bang (or creation). What was there, or here, before the universe began? This problem of nothing isn’t just for the atheist, the author points out that this nothingness can be so defined as to eliminate god from the equation. Michael Shermer is quoted:
God, therefore, would have to exist outside of space and time, which means that as natural beings delimited by living in a finite universe, we cannot possibly know anything about such a supernatural entity. The theist’s answer is an untestable hypothesis.
I must point out that the god question isn’t actually untestable if some religious traditions are true. Miracles and divine intervention are physical, temporal, acts in our world by this supernatural being. If this being can act on our universe, physical evidence can be produced, the problem then lies in its reproduction.
Ironically, Shermer goes on to propose multiple untestable hypotheses about why there is something rather than nothing.
Correctly, the author comments that Shermer makes “hypotheses”, not claims. Shermer doesn’t live his life predicated on his hypotheses, he uses them as a basis for further action and inquiry.
However, the universe can be observed, its properties ascertained, and its theoretical implications, including the existence of a causal, personal Agent beyond space and time, be put to rigorous scientific testing. Therefore, the theory that provides the best explanation is believed to be true.
Again the author speaks well but the rest of his arguments don’t follow. With this great statement about “rigorous scientific testing” for a “causal, personal Agent” you would think the author would propose some test(s) that could be performed, but, alas, no we are left wanting yet again.
Another mistake Shermer makes is to assume that just because we as humans are limited by our finite existence, the Creator is not limited by space and time and can choose to make Himself known to His creation.
I may have understood this incorrectly or the author stated it incorrectly but what I got from this sentence is that the “Creator” can’t make himself known. ‘Another mistake Shermer makes is to assume that the creator is not limited and can choose to make himself known.’ That’s what I got out of that sentence without some extra words. If you understand it differently let me know. Obviously by the next few sentences, the author doesn’t believe god is limited so I am forced to think this is simply a misstep in the book or a misinterpretation in my head.
WHY IS THERE SOMETHING RATHER THAN NOTHING
Recounting a story of an interaction with a student about the beginning of the universe. The author proposed two choices about the beginning of the universe, 1-it began unaided or 2-someone/something began it, the student proposes “Maybe we aren’t really here at all.” Speaking of the student the author makes a very good point.
People say anything they want, regardless of the evidence or logic, and expect the idea to be given equal consideration to other, far more reasonable voices.
I will agree with the author, that student’s point is ridiculous. But also the author’s quote is very useful for my argument and others, namely, the argument about Intelligent Design being taught to our students. Just because someone has a different view doesn’t mean it earns equal respect to reputable scientific standpoints.
The author attempts to ridicule Richard Dawkins as he ridiculed the student above by attacking Dawkins’ position on the “why” question.
In fact, in a debate with John Lennox, he stated that the why question was what lured him into his career in science. It wasn’t a silly question when he asked it.
The problem with this is that Dawkins didn’t just start his career in science, that was more than a few scientific discoveries and decades ago. When we are children we believe in Santa and when we grow up we realize that belief was silly. Dawkins was only being honest saying that the why question got him into the field, he has since come to the conclusion that asking why is fruitless. I leave you with a Bible verse
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child:
but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
-1 Corinthians 13:11
THE LOGIC OF FAITH
Maybe a person can’t articulate her or his faith logically, but that doesn’t mean faith in God itself is illogical or irrational.
For that person it actually is. If you can’t articulate the basis or confidence in a belief it is by definition illogical. A person may have an experience that confirms 100% that the Christian god is true and exists, but that subjective evidence is only logical for use for that person. A systematic belief in a god based on second and third hand (or worse) stories from thousands of years ago is irrational.
The author brings up the cosmological argument, made most famous by William Lane Craig. The basic steps are as follows:
1-Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2-The universe began to exist.
3-Therefore, the universe has a cause.
Step one is undoubtedly true. The key phrase is “begins to exist.” This obviously would not include a Being with no beginning.
And I’m sure the author simply forgot to mention it wouldn’t include a universe with no beginning. As you will remember the Big Bang is a proposed theory in science the mathematics and science breakdown as we near the singularity so the hypothesis of a rebounding universe (big bang, big crunch, big bang, etc) still fits and would still be considered infinite.
Step two is as close to a physical fact that there is.
Step three is a cause that must itself be uncaused.
Dan Barker probably refutes this argument much better than I so I quote him here.
The curious clause “everything that begins to exist” implies that reality can be divided into two sets: items that begin to exist (BE), and those that do not (NBE). In order for this cosmological argument to work, NBE (if such a set is meaningful) cannot be empty, but more important, it must accommodate more than one item to avoid being simply a synonym for God. If God is the only object allowed in NBE, then BE is merely a mask for the Creator, and the premise “everything that begins to exist has a cause” is equivalent to “everything except God has a cause.” As with the earlier failures, this puts God into the definition of the premise of the argument that is supposed to prove God’s existence, and we are back to begging the question.
Beyond the logical refutation of the argument by Barker, a philosophical argument isn’t enough to prove something physical. The philosophical evidence is but the proof of the possibility of such a being. If the being can interact with matter and our universe then physical, demonstrable, evidence can be found or produced to prove its existence.
In anticipation of the disagreement to what I just said, No, if god were to produce evidence to prove his or her existence, it would not take away free will. It would not make us into automata. The devil (and Adam and Eve), supposedly, had perfect knowledge of the existence of god and chose not to follow him.
THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE BIG BANG
Many in the skeptical community would try to downplay the notion of a definite beginning because of the religious implications.
This is ridiculous, the author wants to make it seem that everyone in the skeptic/atheist community are completely against the idea of god. Ardently opposed to the slightest implication that a god could exist. This is not true. This is not the position of a skeptic. A skeptic simply holds back their confidence in a claim until it is proven beyond doubt. Remember the gumball analogy? Holding out your decision doesn’t automatically make you a contrarian.
Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington would echo this same reluctance: “Philosophically, the notion of a beginning of the present order of Nature is repugnant to me…I should like to find a genuine loophole.”
Please note that Eddington didn’t say ‘Philosophically, the notion of a beginning of the present order of Nature is repugnant to me…so I refuse to believe it is true.” Also, strangely enough he begins his statement ensuring that the reader understands he is talking philosophically, not scientifically.
Trying to conceive of what could have existed before the beginning or caused the beginning is mind-bending. However, the logic of connecting the evidence for a beginning of the universe to a Creator is too challenging to ignore.
I don’t think this came out the way the author meant it to. First and foremost the author says thinking about before the beginning is “mind-bending” but continually claims that he knows what was there before and during the proposed creation event. As for the second sentence I think it was supposed to mean that connecting the evidence we have with a supernatural creator is too good to ignore.
“Evolution has the Devil’s fingerprints all over it!”
“Evolutionary Darwinists need to understand we are taking the dinosaurs back. This is a battle cry to recognize the science in the revealed truth of God.”
“Atheistic evolutionists believe that nothing created everything – a scientific impossibility. It couldn’t happen. So they redefine the word ‘nothing’ to mean ‘something,’ so that in their unthinking minds, they can justify their foolishness.”
These are just some of the most upsetting quotes that I have ever come across as a student who studies science for fun as well as for a proper education. A lie has entered the church through the leaders themselves: believing in Evolution is a sin, anti-christian, and is the epitome of evil in the eyes of the Lord. I am curious to learn what today’s Christians really know about our modern definitions of…
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