Monday, December 31, 2007

"Mind and Spirit" -> Friends That Are Gone

"Wild Bill" is the nickname that I gave him.

Wild Bill was a strong influence, and a good friend, if not a father figure to me.

And now he is no more, but my thoughts of him remain.

I remember he couldn't whistle with two fingers in his mouth, but he could make a bird call by cupping his hands. He used this to summon his daughters, when hiking, as they would say, "I got to to go, that sound is my Dad calling me."

I remember his family in a tizzy because he was considering not going into school due to being sick. I said, "sure, people get sick." His daughter said, "Not Dad, he hasn't missed a day of anything in 20 years." Everybody in the family was relieved when he figured out a way to make it into school.

I remember our 100 mile hikes, and him holding up his foot in by the night time campfire, and saying "not one blister," as my own feet were a blistered mess. He wore thick vibram sole boots that came up high. I wore Adidas flats.

I remember missing his turn off on a trail because of a sign that said that the water was out at a camp site. Assuming that Bill went ahead, I kept going with my friend from high school. When I didn't arrive, he and his daughter were forced to repack their gear to catch up with us on the trail. He was almost mad when he found us. He stated that the only reason he knew where we went was because "of your tennis shoes that leave the most distinctive tracks that I know of." Everybody else was in Vibram boots, and my track stood out like a road sign.

I remember walking into one camp site on one of our long hikes that was situated on a lake, and while Wild Bill was many years older than I was, he was always of good cheer and somehow could figure out how to enjoy the dried and packed food that we had.  I, on the other hand, could hardly stand the freeze dried food and top ramen noodles we were forced to eat.  This particular camp ground had a road into it, and there were several camper-trailers in the local area.  After being on the trail for multiple days, we must have looked beat down.  A woman came out of her trailer and said, "I was wondering if you would like to have theses."  She held out four slices of chocolate cake and two red tomatoes.  I was speechless as Wild Bill talked to the woman for a while and thanked her for the food. I still remember the taste of those tomatoes that were lightly salted and tasted like foods for the gods."

"The way you are eating that, I'm glad that I decided to take her up on her offer," he said with a grin.

I remember thinking that his youngest daughter was tough, and him saying, "that's nothing, you should see Ann, nothing bothers her." He loved hiking with his daughters. It meant everything to him. He would pull up short when he spotted the first flowering of the season, and almost cry with delight, "Look Gretchen, an Indian Paintbrush." If he had his camera, he would take a photo of it.

I remember his wife telling me, "Ann thinks she needs to get a job during the summer, but really, we'll pay for college. Her Dad would prefer it if she would just go hiking with him." She worked instead. I wish I had told her to hike. One of the few things that I that I change with a time machine. I would go back and tell his daughter to hike.

I remember the classical music station being on all the time at the Longwell's house. I mean all the time, even when they left the house. I guess he just thought classical music would scare away the burglars.

I remember his family showing me how holding up 3 fingers meant "I Love You," which I taught my own wife and children.

I remember dating his daughter, and breaking up with her.

While it was all by the Lord's design, the method of my breaking up was young and stupid. When you break up with a man's daughter, he can't have the same relationship with you. I know this as I see my own children grow. And he did love his daughters more than life itself.

The last words he ever said to me was, "It is better to loved and lost, then to never loved at all."

It was Tennyson, as you might expect from "Wild Bill."

And now he is gone. 3 weeks ago. And I only found out tonight.

And as I write this, Delirious's "Summer of Love," which also celebrates a death like this one, comes on the radio.

And much as I might imagine my own passing, there is a bit of heaven's yearning mixed with my profound sadness.

Goodnight, Wild Bill.

William K. Longwell, 71, was a true trailblazer

By Peyton Whitely

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

William K. Longwell

Thousands of hikers routinely use trails on Squak and Tiger mountains now, and one of the main reasons that's possible is because of William K. Longwell.

During the 1970s, Mr. Longwell surveyed, laid out and led the effort to build the 16-mile Tiger Mountain trail system, as well as numerous other trails in the Squak Mountain and Issaquah Alps areas.

He was dubbed "chief ranger" by Harvey Manning, one of the region's most renowned authors on hiking.

Along with Manning, Mr. Longwell was a founding member of the Issaquah Alps Trails Club. He also was a self-taught botanist and ornithologist.

"Going out on a hike with him was a real pleasure," said Joe Toynbee, who met Mr. Longwell in 1969 on a hike with the Mountaineers Club. "He knew all the birds."

Mr. Longwell wrote and published "Guide to Trails on Tiger Mountain," donating sales proceeds to the Issaquah Alps Trails Club.

Mr. Longwell died Nov. 28 at 71 of complications from a lung disease contracted about two years ago, said Toynbee. Mr. Longwell's wife, Mimi, was not available to comment.

"He could hike 25 miles one day and get up and do it again the next day," said Doug Simpson of the Issaquah Alps Trails Club, where Mr. Longwell was a board member for all but two years of the club's 28-year existence.

"He was certainly a major figure in hiking and trail development," said Simpson. "He was a wonderful guy. He did so much for so many people. He probably had more influence on Tiger Mountain than any single individual."

A statement prepared by Mr. Longwell's family quoted a passage from a book he wrote for his daughters:

"Each spring I follow the melting snows up favorite trails, constantly checking the warming process. It's the part of the year I long for, especially after the long winter. ... I try to hike in the high mountains at least 50 times a year. It's the high mountains I prize."

Mr. Longwell was born in Rock Island, Ill., on April 3, 1936, and moved to Renton with his family as a child. He graduated from Western Washington University with a bachelor's degree in history and continued his studies at the University of Washington.

He taught English and history for 30 years, first at McKnight Middle School and later at Hazen High School in Renton. He also served as the official scorer and statistician for the WIAA State High School Basketball Tournament for 25 years and was the editor for many years of the official printed program.

One of Mr. Longwell's many accomplishments was hiking more than 50,000 miles throughout Washington, Oregon and California, and he kept meticulous records, accounting for every mile, his family said.

His family noted that he was a Renaissance man, with a vast range of interests, including classical music, woodworking, model N-gauge trains, history and literature.

Mr. Longwell also held a strong faith and was a lifelong student of theology, having received early training at the Multnomah School of the Bible, where he graduated after three years and where he met his wife.

Besides his wife, Mr. Longwell is survived by daughters Ann Lockwood and her husband, Robert, and Gretchen Longwell and her husband, David Worth; two sisters, Ardythe Longwell and Tanya Salvino; a brother, Paul Longwell; and two grandchildren.

According to Simpson, no services were held at the family's request. The family suggests remembrances be sent to the Beacon in the City Fund for the First Presbyterian Church School, 20 Tacoma Ave. S., Tacoma, WA 98402, or the Harvey Manning Statue Fund for the Issaquah Alps Trails Club, c/o Douglas G. Simpson, Box 351, Issaquah, WA 98027.

Friday, December 28, 2007

"Mind, Body, and Spirit" -> What We're Made Of (Part III): The Conclusion

No pictures in this one, because we are going to talk about something that no mind can conceived of.

Now that we have the idea of we are made up of three parts, we can look at death. Heaven is sometimes pictured as spiritual beings in a spiritual place. This is counter to what the Bible says. We are not beings unless all three parts are together: mind, body, and spirit. Therefore, we will eventually be joined with a body.

Probably, the longest section of scripture is 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul spends a lot of time talking around the new bodies that we will have. What I find interesting in Paul's writing on this subject is how many words he use to tell us so very, very little. He is not spilling the details on purpose.

Let's stick to the facts of Paul does tell us:

1. There will be a resurrection of the dead.
2. We will have a different type of body
3. We get that body at the last trumpet, when all of the Christians are changed
4. The body we get will be imperishable

Our Lord tells us a few more things, when asked about this:

5. There is no marriage in heaven, and all marriages are no more
6. We are not given in marriage, but we are like the angels (wish I knew more)

The Revelation Of John Tells Us More:

7. The resurrected body may cry, but Christ will wipe away the tears. So, it seems that we can still get ourselves in trouble, but the Lord is there to fix it.

8. It may be possible to be hurt, since there exists a tree to heal the nations (it cannot be metaphorical since there no longer is "sin" to be healed from). This tree is either the same or a relation to the Tree of Life in the garden of Eden.

9. Time is still marked out, since the trees bear fruit monthly.

10. There is activity and the activity will go on forever and forever.

See, we are not spirit only beings, we must find our home in the body. The new body waits us.

I can't wait.

"Spirit" -> Who Was The Serpent?

As long as we have gone back to the garden of Eden, let's look at the serpent in the garden. Not that long ago, one of my children was a bit upset about the whole snake and garden of Eden story. Why did God curse the innocent snake if he was possessed by the Devil?

See, my child had learned the "Sunday School" version of the tempting of Adam and Eve. It is as follows: Satan became a talking snake with legs. He talked Eve into eating forbidden fruit. Eve gave it to Adam. God came looking for both of them, found them in a sinful state and banished them from the Garden. He cursed the snake to crawl without legs, and this is why the snake has no legs.

In reality, we have allowed the sands of time to etch away the true story of the Bible, and with it, we have changed the scripture into a fable and a myth.

Now, if you are willing to hang onto both the inerrancy of the Bible, and the validity of scientific thought, you will hit a couple of problems with the stereotypical evangelical Sunday School telling of the tale.

The first fact that we must over come is that there were obviously snakes without legs long before Adam came on the scene. For instance a fossilized snake remains that lived over 65M years ago, Dinilysia patagonica, has been recovered in very good shape. These animals lived before man during the late Late Cretaceous period. Earlier fossils have been found, but they lack the fine detail of Dinilysia fossil.

The time of Adam and Eve happened much later. Probably no more than 10,000-20,000 years ago. Therefore, the story as commonly told doesn't make sense.

Let's look at a couple of key touchstones:

Genesis 3:1

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"

We are told in Revelation 12:9 who the serpent is:

The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

In this woodcut, we have a thought of what will be the final battle with the snake, and while John tells us of the final battle, he also ties this back to the beginning of man on the the earth with the snake. Satan is there in the beginning of sin, and the end of sin.

So, here we have a tie into the original story. One way or the other, Satan is the ancient serpent in the Garden, since he is the one that led the world astray.

So, we have this link solid in our interpretation. However, knowing that Satan was in the garden is not the end of our questions. What we want to know is what form did Satan existed in. Was he, as we learned in Sunday school, a snake?

Looking at the text, we should have three possible cases, if you assume that Satan needed some type of a body to talk to Adam and Eve:

1. Satan could become human incarnate on this earth in the Garden, ie he had a body
2. Satan possessed one of the humanoids without a soul.
3. Satan possessed a walking and talking snake.

As already stated, I consider case 3 unlikely due to the nature of the curse. If Satan was a snake, and God took away its legs in the Garden, then we must discard the fossilized evidence. So let's look at the other opinions.

There has been some arguments for the Hebrew word "nachash," to be not translated to snake in this case. The word literally means "to shine." So, in the root of the word, we have this idea of the "Star of The Morning" (Satan or Luficer) as being present.

Let us go back to using the whole Bible to understand the usage of serpents or snakes.

The first thing to note is our Lord's use of the Lord Snake or Serpent when addressing the pharisees:

Matthew 23:33 (New American Standard Bible)

You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?

This should cause us all to pause. He called a man with the wrong intention a snake or a serpent. So, in one reading of the complete Bible, we can start to interpret the Bible as a whole book. Our Lord establishes that serpent or snake can refer to a man in a non-literal way. Indeed, those that cause others to stumble are termed as a serpent. With our knowledge of Satan from Genesis and Revelation, we might even venture to suggest that our Lord was saying "you are fulfilling the role of Satan, who was the original tempter."

Paul also talks of the serpent in 2 Cor 11:3, using the same greek word:

But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray...

However, the Bible does not exclusively use the idea of serpent or snake in a metaphorical way. So, there is still room for interpretation in each area. And, indeed, the interpretation of each section of scripture may have multiple meanings. However, let us look at the curses place on the snake:

Genesis 3:

14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this,
"Cursed are you above all the livestock
and all the wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.

15 And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel."

Now, verses 14 would reinforce that the serpent was a snake. After all, the scriptures contrasts him with the wild animals, and it says the snake will crawl on its belly. However, this would be taken out of context with verse 15. Virtually, all scholars of the Bible see this verse as a reference to the messiah to come.

So here we have a most puzzling section of scripture. So the normal "Sunday School" exegesis is to say:

Verse 14: Refers to the physical talking snake.
Verse 15: Refers to the non-physical Satan controlling the snake

I think this is a false splitting. So let's look at reconciling the two.

Now, remember that our Lord called the pharisees "serpents?" Those that would come to kill him later were being called out as the seed of the serpent. They did strike his heel, but he crushed the head of snake.

If the seed of the serpent was men, then in my mind, the serpent must have also been a man. I believe that the best "fitting with the facts" is Satan's possession of one the soulless humanoids that walked the earth.

So, what of verses 14? This verse is always used, as previously mentioned, to describe a snake without legs. I even had some teachers tell me that "eating the dust" referred to the way that the snake flipped out its tongue to smell, since it was eating dirt.

While we can read a snake into it, we can also read it in other ways.

I think we must look at the idea of eating dust first. The Hebrew word for dust "aphar" is used 3 times in the 2 and 3 chapters of Genesis. I will suggest that they are all used as substance of man.

1. Case 1: God makes man from the dust of the earth.

2. Case 2: God tells Satan that he will live on eating the dust or substance of man.

3. Case 3: God tells man that from dust man is made, and man will return to dust.

If you read the Bible in this light, verses 14 and verse 15 are highly related. God is talking to Satan in verses 14. You are going to devour man as your substance. You are going to crawl on your belly, while you do this. (A restriction of his power.) God then goes to say that from this, his seed will fight with the anointed one, the seed of Eve, Jesus Christ.

I believe that when Satan fell from Heaven (illustrated here in a print by Paul Gustave Dore for Paradise Lost), he was not strictly removed from wandering the Universe when first cast out of heaven. Isaiah 14:12 is commonly thought to talk of Satan:

How you have fallen from heaven,
O morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!

This is reinforce by Job 1:7

One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it."

It may be hinted in both of these instances that Satan is tied to wandering the earth.

So who was the serpent? It was Satan, and he received a just punishment for his offense. It well not have been a snake. And indeed, Satan's tying to the earth and us may have happened in the garden.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

"Mind, Body, and Spirit" -> What We're Made Of (Part II)

If I said "Lilith" does it mean anything to you?

Today we are going to look at the mythology of this famous icon, and we'll examine if it has some impact our our perception of the composition of ourselves. Hang onto your seats, because the post will zig and zag, but I'll be arguing that long before evolution came on the scene, there was the widespread acceptance that there could be beings that looked like humans, but had no soul. Then I will argue that by taking this view, we can reconcile scripture to science, and restore a true Biblical basis for the sanctity of life.

Ready? Let's go.

We'll start with a painting of Lilith by John Collier, who was one of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of painters. I debated for a while if I wanted to post a bit of a risque painting, but it is illustrative of the myth of Lilith in popular culture in 1892. This painting speaks to an old tradition of Lilith in the Garden of Eden, and having a close relationship with the Devil (pictured here as a snake.)

However, we do not need to go back even 100 years to see Lilith in our culture. Sarah McLachlan created a touring rock and roll venue for three years. The name of this event? Lilith Fair, named after the Jewish Lilith. So we can see that Lilith was in popular culture in 1997.

As a matter of fact, Lilith is even at the edges of mainstream Christian culture. George MacDonald, who was a Christian and influenced CS Lewis's writing greatly, wrote about the Lilith as the Jewish Legend in his book "Lilith."

We can turn back the clock to the renaissance, and see that even the Church of the time had artistic references to Lilith. Michaelangelo's has a picture of Lilith in the Sistine Chapel, which is seen in the second picture in this blog below. For Michaelangelo, he pictured Lilith as the snake in the garden. In this instance, Lilith was Satan's instrument having been transformed into a serpent. However, you should be able to see the strong similarities from the painting by Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, and the paintings to follow him 400 years later.

Where did Lilith come from? We arent' sure, but the first recorded Jewish history is The Alphabet of Ben Sira (800 AD). This work consists of a compilation of earlier sayings and a commentary on these sayings. In one of these commentaries in this writing, the story of Lilith is told. I tend to believe that since much of the book simply captures previous oral history, Lilith probably existed outside of this work orally.

In the Alphabet of Ben Sira, Lilith is portrayed as the first wife of Adam. The story does not conflict the Biblical account, but supplements it with a mythical creature. If you lived in this time, you would have heard the entire story as such: Adam was created first out of the ground. God used him to work the garden. God noticed that Adam was lonely, so he formed another creature out of the dirt and brought him to Adam. This woman rejected the authority of Adam, and said that she would not live with him. She was banished from the garden, but also cursed to kill children. Eve was formed from Adam's side as not to be rebellious but a partner.

Now it has even been debated that Lilith is found in Isaiah 34:14 (translated in most versions as "owl" for the word Lilith), the real fleshing out of the Lilith legend came in The Alphabet of Ben Sira (800 CE). This really is not clear, but it is clear that Lilith probably was stolen from the Sumerian culture. So it appeared that the Jews probably stole the the framework of Lilith, and brought it into their own culture.

So, if we look at what Lilith was, we would say, "Lilith was an example of another created being that was a contemporary to Adam and Eve, but did not come from Adam and Eve."

By this time in the posting, you may be asking "why are you talking about Lilith? This has no basis in the Bible."

This is not about the idea that there was a Lilith. It is that the Bible story can be read to allow other beings to exist at the same time as Adam and Eve. When people would read the Bible, they saw open gaps in the text that allowed another mythology to creep in.

Long before the idea of evolution, multiple people thought that other beings could have existed at the same time as Adam, and these beings would look like a human.

You might say, "well this is just a reimagining of the Biblical account. I think that is like the Gnostic Gospels that come up with a different Christ."

So, let's ignore the popular myth of Lilith, and let's turn our thoughts toward Orthodox teachers of the Jewish faith.

Moses Maimonides, a highly respected Jewish Rabbi who was born in 1135 AD, spoke to some of this. His best know work "Guide for The Perplexed" addresses the thought about if there were creatures without a soul. In his writing he talks about this, and he bluntly states that there could be creatures without souls. I list a section from his writing below:

And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat (va-yoled) a son in his own likeness, in his form" (Gen. V. 3). As regards the words, "the form of Adam, and his likeness," we have already stated (ch. i.) their meaning. Those sons of Adam who were born before that time were not human in the true sense of the word, they had not "the form of man."

So, here we are told that it was possible that human but "without the form of man"--by which Maimonides meant had no soul--could have come from Adam. By his recognition , Seth was the first son after Cain and Abel with a soul.

Maimonides was not a heretic. He is widely accepted, although this part of his writing is not highlighted in much Jewish teaching today. His point is clear: what made a man a man was the soul. It was not the intelligence.

So, we see that for many, many years, Jewish reading of the scripture could accept soulless humans. However, more than this, some Jewish reading of the scripture also considers the earth very, very old.

The modern Orthodox Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, suggests that the Bible, and certain Rabbis before him, considered the universe much, much older. Once you can accept an old earth, then evolution, which needs very long gaps, becomes more possible. Shimshon Refael Hirsch an orthodox Jewish Rabbi leader in Germany, said that evolution would not contradict the Bible in the 1800's, just as Darwinism was taking off.

While the Jews obviously miss the Gospel message in the scriptures, I believe that they have a good grasp of many of the fine points that we Christians may miss. Just because somebody misses one point, does not mean that they have missed it all. While the vast majority of Orthodox Jewish thought rejects evolution and an old earth, I think it is important to realize that even before any real evidence for evolution existed, there were some that said that the Bible could be reconciled on either a time period or alternative being path with evolutionary evidence.

I am not suggesting that we should base our Christianity on Jewish tradition, but we can look at if this viewpoint could be supported by scripture sola.

The most powerful argument for a soulless humanoid is simply asking "Who Did Cain Fear?"

The summary of the Bible story of "Cain and Abel" is that God banished Cain for murder of his brother. This happened, as can be seen in this woodcut, because Cain offered a sacrifice with the right intentions. Cain, a farmer, offered the sacrifice in the wrong way.

Let's pick up the verses from here:

13 Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me."

15 But the LORD said to him, "Not so [e] ; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over." Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 16 So Cain went out from the LORD's presence and lived in the land of Nod, [f] east of Eden.

The question we all ask in Sunday school, and gloss over is presented here: Who did Cain marry? Who did Cain fear? How did the world get so populated in such a short time?

The answer in Sunday school is that "Cain married his sister, and the other people on the earth was his brothers and sisters." Just ignore that we are never told that Eve bore one girl by the time Cain was around. A bit disturbing?

This explanation makes zero sense. None. Marry his sister? Ewwww.

However, imagine that humanoid life did evolve, only without a soul. These creatures made small groups. They had what we might call "pretty good artificial intelligence." They were missing one thing. They did not have the spark of life in themselves.

If these beings did exist, then having Cain find a wife was trivial. We have a perfect answer for his fear of the great beyond. The Bible falls into sense, and with the anthropological evidence.

It is not only this section that is made easier. Genesis also make other comments that fall into line once you accept this thought. For instance, Genesis 6.

1 When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.

Again, in Sunday school we normally hear that perhaps it was angels breeding with man. Zero sense.

Again, we are told that after Seth, "men began to call upon the name of the Lord." Clearly, as the spiritual nature of the descendants of Adam and Eve mixed with the population, the soul knew that it could call to the Lord.

In reality, there were two types of humans. Genetically compatible. Those with souls and those without. Now, you might say, "well this is just offensive, how can you believe that there were beings that look like man, and even spoke, and wouldn't have a soul?" To this, I would answer Balaam's Ass.

There may be two instances in the Bible where non-humans speak (and in reality, I believe it was only one instance). Balaam had a donkey that spoke to him, and saved him from destruction. Now, never had I heard that Balaam's ass needed a soul to do this. Neither do we hear that Balaam's ass spoke beyond one short time period, when it saved the life of Balaam.

If you read the story of Balaam in Number 22, you will see that intelligence was given to Balaam's animal for a short time period. Now, I guess that we could all get to heaven and find a special place for the donkey, but I bet you that there isn't. If Balaam's Donkey could get intelligence without a soul, I think we can state other beings can also.

The characteristics of these new humans? A richness in all that they did. The cultural anthropologists call this behavioral modernity (or sometimes the Great Leap Forward or Upper Paleolithic Revolution). Somewhere between 10,000 to 50,000 years ago, man became incredibly creative, and he began to plant seeds for the first time.

To go back to the aforementioned story of Cain and Abel. As we know from the Bible, Cain was a farmer. Abel had a flock. Agriculture only developed 10,000 years BC. This is all part of the Upper Paleolithic Revolution.

In light of the scriptures and the evidence that we have, this idea that a humanoid creature existed before Adam is the only answer.

However, it also poses problems. Could there be men today without souls if you were to accept my reading of the scripture? The problem is that the Bible is very silent on how the spark of eternal life is distributed. While we know that death of the spirit came from Adam, and the resurrection of the Spirit comes from Christ, we are not told explicitly to whom and how the spirit is given to all men. However, it would appear to me that the soul tracks the parents. If either parent has a soul, then the child will also have a soul. Since all people descended from Noah, then all people must have a soul. In a stealing from genetics terminology, the flood served as a genetic bottleneck to collapse non-soul beings into one genome (or soulnome).

Now, the conclusion to our line of thought today. The idea may be strange and unsettling. However, to counterbalance this strange thought, it is the easiest way to hold to the inerrancy of scripture and the evidence. It is clear from an extremely rich fossil record that Homo Erectus has been around for at least a couple of million years. There is little doubt that Homo Erectus look almost exactly like modern man that lived in small hunter-gatherer tribes and did tool making and probably had speech.

At first our minds would state, "wait a minute, if they looked like us and have intelligence, why wouldn't they have a soul?" Because intelligence and looks does not mean that they are made in the image of God. To go back to the previous post, a correct reading of the scriptures says that life is about having spirit. It is the spirit that is eternal, not the body, not the memories, and not intelligence.

It is because of this we treasure the deformed child. It is because of this we take care of those on life support. It is because of this we hate abortion.

In contrast, ethicists such as Joseph Fletcher, in his book humanhood, have argued that you are not human unless you have an IQ of 40 and are self conscious. If this is your viewpoint, than euthanasia is just a short step away.

Being made in the image of God doesn't mean that we have smarts, or language, or religion. Being made in the image of God means that we are made of spirit.

Monday, December 24, 2007

"Mind, Body, and Spirit" -> What We're Made Of (Part I)

If you look at the heading on this blog, you will see that it celebrates the triune nature of man. My view is in the minority and not commonly held. In fact, I believe in a view that I might term a Conditional Unity Of Triuneness (with apologies to Erickson and his conditional unity).

To understand the triune nature of man, you must first understand the context of the debate, which normally revolves around just man being 1 or 2 parts.

This classic split is either dualism or monism (sometimes with a bit of trichotomy mixed in). The dualist believes that the essence of "self" is the soul. The soul is the blend of both Spirit and conscious. What is import to note in the dualist view is that there is only two pieces: the body and the soul.

This is seen all the time in literature and popular culture. In this idea, if the soul leaves the body, the soul that is released from the body has some or all of the memories and often similar or the same form as the deceased person.

This is often referred as "your ghost." The form of the ghost varies. We all know Casper the Friendly Ghost. The only vestige of the child nature is the shortness of the ghost. If Casper thinks hard, he can remember some of his previous life. However, many times, the Ghost (or Spirit) part can remember everything. In the famous movie "Ghost," Patrick Swayze, after he is dead, sees his spiritual self as the same as the physical self, only he can do things like walk through walls. This view of a soul is not unique to western culture.

It is hard to find a culture that is much more different than the west than to look at the Japanese. In the Japanese manga and anime "Bleach," when a soul leaves the body the only sign of being a spirit is having a "soul chain" hanging from one's chest. Regardless of the culture, there is an idea of the "essence" of man separate from the body.

In the picture from Bleach, we have the soul being separated from the body. The soul looks just like the body. It then goes on to function much like the body.

In contrast to this, the monist believes that all is wrapped up in the body. The mind dies with the cessation of the body. If you are an atheist, this is generally your belief. The conscious mind is nothing more than the synaptic brain that we all have. I think we all know who is the classic monist. He is the scientist of the day. He is the skeptic. He is the atheist. The branch of ideology that this person often espouses is the positivism viewpoint. The positivist believes that what we see is what we see, and the only real data is data that we can sense.

In the fight between dualism and monism, the monist can point out that the evidence points to the physical mind also being the conscious mind.

The most famous example of this was Phineas Gage, a railroad worker that was involved in an unfortunate accident. The accident involve having a piece of steel driven through his head. While it looked as if Gage was going to die, he made a full recovery. Almost.

There was a change in Gage. The man before the accident was not the man after the accident. The man after the accident was crude with poor language and a temper. His emotions had turned completely to a new path.

The point is that having your brains scrambled changes you personality. From John Gage, to lobotomies, to Alzheimer's disease, all the evidence is that your physical brain is your emotion. If you modify the brain, your personality changes. If you cut out part of your brain, your memory vanishes.

The intersection of the mind and brain has been laid out in popular culture by V.S. Ramachandran, Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of San Diego, who has written several popular books on the brain. Ramachandraneven had a patient that had a separate left and right hemispheres of their brain, which is normally connected side to side. Although this extremely uncommon, it is not unheard of. One side of your brain can actually communicate with the outside world, while the other side can also communicate to the outside world. For example, one side of your brain may control the speech functions, while the second side might have access to motor skills. Thus if you want to communicate to either side, you should ask a question and depending on the written answer or the verbal answer, you would be talking to two sides of the brain.

In this case, Ramachandran asked one side of the brain if it believed in God. The answer was yes. Then he asked the same question to the other side of the brain. The answer was no.

He brought up this story at a conference, and he used this as an example of how man must not have a soul. He then asked, "if this man dies and goes to the afterworld, is he going to hell or going to heaven?" To Ramachandran and his peers, if the brain was driving by the soul, both sides would be in unity. Obviously, to him man could not be dualist based on the data that he had seen with the patients that he treated and worked with.

The idea of dualism is not a modern idea. Indeed, the formal idea of dualism goes all the way back to Greeks, and Plato talked about it in his writings. Plato pointed out that although cups many come in many shapes and sizes, we always recognize that each cup is still a cup. So, he supposed that each cup in this world must reflect an idea from another world. There was a perfect spirit world, with perfect cups. All cups reflected this perfect cup idea. The idealized cup was always perfect, while the earthly cup was imperfect.

This idea of the "perfect" was reflected in Platonic thought. Some have claimed that this philosophy has found it way into Christian thought in the idea of Grace vs Nature. Grace is where we should strive for the better and more perfect calling of Grace in our lives. The natural man is bad. The Spiritual man is good.

There is now one other movement that generally comes out of the charismatic movement, although some roots of this movement go back to Clement of Alexandria and Origen. This is one of Trichotomy.

In this view, humans have three parts:

1. The body
2. The will and emotions (soul)
3. Something that relates to God (Spirit)

Now, this viewpoint is similar to the dichotomous view of man, only it seeks to neatly divide the human experience into three buckets. Why is this popular for charismatics? Because of the gift of tongues.

See, charismatics would like to make out that the Spirit exists outside of the soul. Therefore, when you speak in "spirit tongues" you leave the mind and the will behind. You are constantly trying to look inside for the spirit and subjugate the will and the body. I would agree with those that argue that the trait of this movement tends to be anti-intellectualism. The brain is actually bad, and the spirit needs to lead in all cases.

I want to suggest that all of these views are wrong (monism, dualism, and trichotomous) because they are not Biblical, and a careful reading of the Bible would suggest a third way. To understand the third way, we must understand what "Life" is.

I believe that man is a mixture of at least two parts: Spirit and Body. For the vast majority of humans, these two parts result in a third part, which is commonly called the mind and self consciousness. All of these three parts operate together in a seamless whole, and if you don't have a body, you don't have life. If you don't have a spirit, you don't have life. Since the vast majority of us have a functioning body with a functioning brain and spirit, we then also have a mind.

I call this Conditional Triuness. Once we die, to return fully to life, we must be reunited with a body. The Bible refers to our bodies as tents. A person without a tent is not a home. On the other hand, an empty tent, without a person, is not a home. It is the combination that creates a home.

Now, my wife and I have lived in many places. Once we have moved to a new city, and we have found our house, we make our home. When we are standing on the steet together, we don't have a home. Quite frankly, I alway love it when I get home.

When the Bible talks about life, it doesn't mean it just in a breathing way. We see this from the beginning. Adam and Eve were told that if they ate from the Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would die. I believe that they did die in that day. Their spirits fell out of fellowship with God, and when their Spirit lost clarity, they became broken. The broken man was a dead man. As Paul tells us, through Adam, death (spiritual) was introduced into the world. To be alive means that you have a spirit that is clean before God. However, just having a spirit does not mean that you are alive.

To be truly alive, you also need a functioning body! The scripture reiterates on multiple occasions that Christians will be bodily resurrected. See a spirit without a body is dead. A body without a spirit is dead. The mind (and I'd rather say mind, since soul is so polluted as a term) is the intersection of these two things.

Strictly speaking, this makes me sound as a dualist, and in some sense I am. However, I think that the "appearance" of the mind is so important that it should and must be called out as a separate thing for most people. This is why I prefer Triuness.

When our Lord was asked what was the greatest of all the commandments, he repeated what was said in the Old Testament: We should love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. In a couple of instances, in the Bible, we have just three of these things noted. However, if you read carefully, you will see that regardless of if we see it as three items or four items that we must love the Lord with something other than our spirit or our body.

The Spirit part is separate from the mind, yet it makes up the mind. The body is separate from the mind (and is fallen), and it also makes up the mind.

Paul describes just this in Romans chapter 8:

6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

In what may be the most insightful section of scripture about the relationship of mind in relationship to both the body and the spirit, Paul calls out that the mind is trapped, as it were, between the old sinful nature (that is our bodies) and our Spirit.

See the brain is intrinsically tied to the body and generally it is the body that drives poor behavior. For example, most meth addicts don't want to be on the drug. However, due to the way the brain is receiving dopamine, they find themselves pulled to the drug. Most people don't want to be overweight, yet the hypothalamus silently drives them to eat. Cigarette smokers want to give up, but the brain gets addicted to the nicotine. This is the sinful nature of man being driven to live according to the body.

Yet, there is a part of being a Christian that rejects all of this. A desire to be faithful to ones spouse. A desire to feed the poor. A desire to put our selfish desires behind us. This is the Spirit's influence in our bodies.

Since the body brings the bad, and the Spirit the good, it is tempting to "only" live by the spirit. However, this is like trying to make yellow with just one primary color. You can't.

However, the body does die. And there does appear to be a gap between the resurrection, and death. Can the spirit function at all separate from the Spirit?

To this, I have no idea, and I don't believe the scripture is clear. In cases like this, I simply say, "if it isn't clear, probably isn't worth debating." Generally, however, I think the Spirit can have a form of conscious thought without the body.

The mind is the intersection of the Spirit and the Body. It is not the body, and it is not the Spirit. It is the result of both of them. If you mix red and green together you get yellow. If you want yellow, you need to have two colors in equal amounts.

Without the body, you have no mind. Without the spirit, you will have no consciousness.

You can have a human that was born that may be missing most of its brain. Our brain is made up of multiple structures, and if the brain stem and the base reptilian brain exists, a personal may have the ability to continue to breath. In this case, the mind that is left has no mixture of color. It is simply flecks of red and green mixed together.

In Christian theology, this person has life because it has both a body and a spirit. Now, the mind is weak or non-existent, but the person is alive. While we are made up of three things, all evangelical agree that having just a body and a spirit does create life. The first life was created by God when he put a spirit into a clump of dust to create Adam.

This is why there is such a gap in culture over abortion. To those without belief in Spirit, the aborted baby is not a person. Why? Because there is no intelligence. Until there is intelligence, there is no person.

One believes that there is life. The other doesn't.

If the the soul and body can exist without a brain, the question becomes "can a body and brain exist without a soul." The answer is yes, for Christians. I think that most people would recognize that their dog can be highly intelligent, but certainly does not have a soul.

The question can a creature look like a man, but have no soul?

The answer, surprisingly enough, is yes. And this is the only way that we can understand the Bible.

Details to follow.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

"Mind & Spirit" -> Misuse, Abuse, and Interesting Godel

Einstein said that the reason for going to Princeton's "Institute for Advanced Studies" was so he could take walks with Kurt Godel.

It is reported that the rest of the center's staff always wondered why the gregarious Einstein seemed to love the time with the quiet Godel. Perhaps, it was simply because he had found a mind as brilliant as his own.

When you start to think about metaphysics and math, you might suspect that Einstein, with all of his work that disclosed that time could slow down, or that light is both a wave and a particle would often get quoted to show that all things are relative, and there is no objective truth. However, as Alan Sokel discloses in his book, Godel is really the most abused. As a matter of fact, Alan devotes a whole chapter to how the liberal art and philosophy majors abuses of Godel's work.

So, who was Godel, and why is he so abused?

Somehow, Godel often gets cited as proving that "math is bad" and humans can't know anything because all math has contradictions.

This is maddening thought, and simply misreading the implications of Godel's work. (Which is repeated in Church's lamda calculus or Turing Halting problem.) What Godel pointed out is that our math is always going to be incomplete!

It might be worth just a bit of history on math here as it will help us understand how we got to this point.

It has alway been thought that if we had a "really good" set of axioms, that we could construct an air tight structure that would basically allow us to derive absolutely every theorem that was out there. In the early 1900s, the great mathematician David Hilbert declared that this was an important task that must be done. His call to action was called Hilbert's program.

Whitehead and Russel decided that they could layout a system that could answer Hilbert's call. This airtight system was the Principia Mathematica. However, every time they tried to come up with a system that could describe everything, they ran into paradoxes. A more mathematical way of saying paradox is "inconsistent." So, they couldn't find a consistent axiom system that you could derive everything.

So, what is an inconstant (paradox) system?

I think most people know about Russel's paradox, and I have mentioned this before.

Basically, it just means that you can set up a logic structure "sort of like" the following, and get a paradox (or inconstancy in math talk):

a. The next line is false
b. The above line is true

Obviously, both a and b cannot be true.

So how do you get out of a paradox? Well in our case above, we can simply say "don't allow a second line to describe the first line."

We solved the paradox! How? We outlawed it. So, to make sure that we can't accidentally create paradoxes, we come up with an axiomatic system to prevent them. Today, we use Zermelo–Fraenkel as our axioms (abbreviated ZFC), and it does not allow the first line to refer to the second line nor vice versa. Therefore, we have no paradoxes.

However, what was the consequence of outlawing the second line?

Well, this is the rub. If we want a system to basically describe everything, it turns out that we needed the device that we outlawed!

So, we have two choices:

1. Make up axioms that will have paradoxes that can be derived, but describe everything.

2. Make up axioms that can't describe everything, but don't have paradoxes.

Now, you might say, "isn't there a third option of a complete system with no paradoxes?" Dr. Godel proved the third option does not exist!

To give you the short version, mathematicians (and more importantly engineers) simply use #2. Crisis adverted.

So, while there are paradoxes in math, we neatly solve any "real world" issue by simply living with systems that are incomplete.

ZFC is the most common basis for derived works, and (cross our fingers) nobody has been able to create a inconstant result by ZFC. So, people use ZFC, and everybody can still do their PhDs, using this axiom set.

The rub is that there are things which may be intuitively obvious and may not be solvable in ZFC. (Although ZFC has shown itself robust, as we have solved Fermat's Last Theorem, Bieberbach Conjecture, etc. However, the point is that there will be things that are true that cannot be be proven (without having axioms that could be used to derived paradoxes.))

The more interesting thing to say is that math cannot derive "everything."

If you do some reading on the history of math, this is major flip-flop. Before Godel, paradox was absolutely not accepted in mathematics. The prevailing thoughts was "we will find a complete system that is consistent, and we will not stop until we do." After Godel, the writing was on the wall that to do any "useful" work, math needed to accept that all systems were incomplete (or face the problem of dealing with paradoxes).

After Godel, it was accepted that there could always be limits to our ability to derive everything from a given set of axioms. Steven Hawkings mused on this in a lecture stating that as Godel proven we cannot derived everything, perhaps we were at the limits our of ability to unify everything.

Now, how do we interpret this? I see three ways we could use it:

1. It says nothing. Math is a man made system that has no larger purpose than to be a tool to solved limited scope math problems. Math can't derive everything? Good, we never wanted it to.

2. It cracks the foundations of mathematics. Man can't know anything for sure, because if we can derive everything, we have to allow for inconsistencies.

3. Math is a tool that is 100% reliable in its limited scope. However, there are things which may be true that you can't prove from a limited set of axioms. This may have implications that not everything in the universe can be derived, and there may be theorems that are perfectly true that we can never prove.

The last way is the best way of using Godel for apologetics. In my younger days, I used to refer to this as God's dirty footprints across our smug self satisfaction. It proves absolutely nothing, but it does open the door.

I do think that it is somewhat interesting that the main problem with paradoxes revolves around self reference, and Christianity/Judaism is the only religion where the monotheistic God refers to himself as

"I am that I am" (or better translated "I be that I be")

Friday, November 23, 2007

"Body" -> Let There Be (Bicycling) Light Part II

Now, I've left you in the dark after my last post on bicycle lighting, so lets brighten it up.

During the last post, we talked a lot about the psychology of bicycle lighting. At the end of the day, you want the brightest light that you can possibly get. This is to not only allow drivers to see you, but also gauge your distance to them.

We'll work through this together by first talking about the various technologies that are on the market today for your lighting needs. In the later part of this post, I'll then give you some specific ideas of what systems you should buy.

There are four primary technologies used for white lighting:

1. Incandescent (with subset Halogen and argon)
2. LED
3. High Intensity
4. Fluorescent

In general, the efficiency is in rank order above. Fluorescent are the most efficient for general lighting and are certainly the best for a home environment, but because of other challenges it does not work well for bicycles.

However, the gap is closing on all the top three. Let's look at some numbers.

In general, you should think about brightness in terms of lumens. If something is brighter, it should have a higher lumens rating. However, this is only part of the battle, to get an idea of efficiency you want to know how many lumens per watt is created.

Now, like most specifications, lumens can be manipulated and don't completely describe the brightness of a light. With all these shortfalls, lumens is still the best measurement.

Since most bicyclist want small light batteries, higher efficiency lights are preferred. What your really want to know is how many lumens per watt of input are created.

In general, here is the following ranges:

Incandescent bulbs: 10-15 lumens per watt
Compact Fluorescents: 40-50 lumens per watt
T8 (Standard Fluorescents): 70 lumens per watt
T12 (1" Fluorescents): 90 lumens per watt

Incandescent bulbs have been around forever, and the best of this technology "halogen," really isn't very efficiency. Not compared to the rest of the technologies, as we can see above.

Now, if you are familiar with those funny yellow colored low pressure sodium lights, they can generate 180 lumens per watt! This is a type of High Intensity Discharge lamp. They are the winners of the lighting wars, but nobody would want to do a bicycle light around them.

The two best technologies for bicycle lighting is a normal HID light or Light Emitting Diode (LED) based light.

A good HID will produce about 50-60 lumens per watt. A little better than a compact fluorescent bulb, but not as good as a T12.

Some of the best LEDs out today will produce about the same amount of light as an HID, or 50-60 lumens per watt.

Now, a HID light is any light that uses high voltage to arc across a gap to make light. As a matter of fact, the low pressure sodium light above is a HID light. LED lights are different from normal lighting. They rely on electricity being generated by electrons cross a semiconductor barrier (called a p-n junction), and part of that electricity being converted into light. The LED light is a miracle of the semiconductor age, and it has only been around in a practical form since 1962.

However, as we write this post today, you can bin the LEDs and get as much as 70 lumens per watt. For example, the Cree 7090 XR-E LED can theoretically be over 70 lumens per watt. I have read that Cree has a roadmap to get to 100 lumens per watt.

The new high technology LEDs are expensive, but they are pretty fool proof. All that you need with these new LEDs is a good heat sink. The HID lights are simply more complicated from an integration standpoint as mentioned before.

A good Cree LED will last around 50,000 hours (less if you over volt it), which is going to be a lot longer than most of use want to be in the saddle. LED lights are extremely rugged as mount the LED so that it stays cool in operation.

So, now that you have some ideas of the technology, I am simply going to tell your what to buy:

1. The Home Brewed Path

If you enjoy experimentation, I would buy the Trailtech SCMR16, and blow people off the trail or street. However, it is very home brewed, as we like to call it in lighting circles, and therefore, you need to do a lot of elbow grease to get it running and keep it running.

So what do you need to do with the home brew system. First you will need to buy the bulb. As of this writing it is around $130-140 USD. However, just having the bulb doesn't solve the problem because you also need to drive it some how.

Probably the best way of doing this is to purchase a battery or a battery pack to drive the bulb. One of the best places to start is on Of course, it doesn't stop with just picking up the battery. After the battery, pick up a charger. Then you'll need to figure out how to fuse protect your system. Then you make up a switch. The list goes on.

If it sound a little is. Batteryspace sell a whole kit here. However, many people have complained that the mount normally breaks, and you'll need to replace some of the screws from Home Depot. Oh well, this is the normal case with home brewed systems.

Most of the others, will want to basically buy something off the shelf.

2. The Cheap Route

The cheap route still requires some work, and some money. However, a few dollars more on a light scheme is better than being killed.

First buy the Fenix double AA flashlight from the Fenix Store. By using "cpf8" they will take off 8% on the price.

For a little under $60, after discount, this puts out an amazing 175 lumens. Most of us know the old Maglight 6D cell flashlight. This thing blows that flashlight away. I showed my sister one time, and she instantaneously said "where can I get that thing."

Without getting into the details don't run this flashlight from anything but rechargeable NiMH batteries. This this thing chews through batteries (it'll last a little over an hour with a good set of rechargeable batteries), so you want to get a good charger.

Now, I could write a whole posting on battery chargers, but to cut to the short, get the one right here. The LaCrosse charger is extremely cool, plus it comes with enough batteries to get you started. For $40, you'll have a world class battery charger.

How to mount it? We'll Fenix has seen a lot of popularity in there lights for bicycles, and they have just announced a new mount. You can find it here.

However, while this bicycle mount looks great an is recommended by the maker of the flashlight that you'll be using, I have have been using a no-name Chinese flashlight mounter. You can order it here or probably a better and cheaper way is ordering it here.

Although it is completely plastic, it have been working fine for thousands of miles. To make the flashlight grip, I've wrapped my Fenix light with a compressible wrap of rubber, otherwise the holder doesn't grip the flashlight that well.

Finally, for the tail light, the Planet Light Super Flash rear light is the best. Now, this rear light almost has a cult following, but it is a bit hard to find. What is worse is that the name of the light is not very specific.

However, here is the image. You should be able to order it through REI or Bike Nashbar. If you get the charger above, it will come with two AAA batteries that will power the tail light very nicely. The run time for rechargeable batteries in the tail light should be 10 hours on steady mode. The tail light is very eye catching compared to the competitor LED models.

So, for around $140-150, you will get a very workable system. There will be a couple of issues, like a shorter burn time, but the great thing is that you can stop and change your batteries

3. The All In One Expensive Route

If you have around $500, the best thing to buy is a Dinotte combo system. If the tail light in the cheap system is good, then the tail light here is blinding. The lumens in the cheap system is about 175. The lumens here are 600.

If you have enough time to research it, the best spot for this type of activity is either The Candlepower Forums or Lactic Acid Threshold.

The best thing about the Latic Acid Threshold is the great reviews plus a lot of shots of bicycle lights in action. Here are a couple of pictures of the Dinotte in action. The best thing that I like about the Dinotte is that it is an integrated system. You get the headlight and the tail light all in one package with a common battery charger. This makes for simplistic operation.

In the first picture we have the street without a headlight.

Now lit by the Dinotte:

The second one looks a lot better.

Monday, November 19, 2007

"Spirt And Mind" -> Atheists That Don't Know Their *ss From A Hole In The Ground

Some well respected atheists give me a headache.

It's not that they challenge my faith. It that their assumptions are so flawed to be laughable. I am not saying that ALL atheists are hackneyed in their approach, and I have written before how Scotty Atran is one of my favorite atheists that can actually challenge my faith.

However, two of my biggest and most popular atheists, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, are often quoted and often admired by the lay person. Unfortunately, the core logic of both are fatally flawed.

Now, of the two, Sam Harris can and should simply be ignored. Sam is the type of person that dropped out of Stanford because of a big dose of ecstasy (I kid you not), and spent 11 years trying to find himself before he returned to Stanford to finish a degree in philosophy. He is trying to get a PhD in the neural sciences. Good luck Sam. Give us a call once you've actually done something other than be given a book award by a liberal institution.

Richard Dawkins can not and should not be dismissed. For all of logical faults, Dawkins is extremely bright and has added much to the world of science. Dawkins, for example, has coined ideas like the Blind Watch Maker and the idea of memes. Most of his work centers around the idea of the gene as the central focal point of Darwinist evolution. Many of his ideas may be wrong, but many may be right. He is truly very creative and smart. It is well worth reading many of his concepts and works.

So, why do I lump the drop-out and the professor into the same category? It is simply that they both defend an idea that is outrageous in its structure. Interestingly enough, because they both support the same logic, the two are in a mutual admiration society.

Both Harris and Dawkins have a very simple proposition:

a. There are problems in this world
b. There is faith in this world
c. Therefore, if we remove faith, then we will remove the problems

If you have a book on logic, look up fallacies. You will find a picture of Dawkins and Harris.

Let us, for a moment, say that all religion is absolutely false. Let us take two societies:

1. The religious society (which has an absolutely wrong belief)
2. The non-religions society (which has an absolutely right belief)

Which society do you think is going to be happier, healthier, and more forward progressive. To Dawkins and Harris, the answer is obvious. The non-religious society.

And my question to this is "what proof do you have of this?"

Scotty Atran, one of my favorite atheists, recently pointed this out at a conference specifically with Dawkins and Harris. In the 20th century, there has arisen at least two experiments where God was stricken from the page. Atran addresses these examples.

To quote Atran:

Two of these "isms" - communism and fascism - were explicitly based on what were once seriously thought to be scientific theories and philosophies. These particular variants led to the greatest mass murders in human history. Although, this is only a N of 2, and a poor base of evidence for generalizing to the role of science in politics in general, it is still 100% more informed than most other views heard at the conference

Atran further reflected on the words of his peers:

I find it fascinating that brilliant scientists and philosophers have no clue how to deal with the basic irrationality of human life and society other than to insist against all reason and evidence that things ought to be rational and evidence based. It makes me embarrassed to be a scientist and atheist.

In other words, it is very unclear if society without religious thought is a society that can survive long term. This is even if religion is proven as false.

I have heard Dawkins and Harris talk. They believe that the reason that certain people groups are so violent is because of their religion. Obviously they don't understand the godless communist systems under Stalin or Mao.

Now, the closest we have to a non-religious society in Europe. However, they are not anti-religious. They are pro-tolerant. This is a very big difference to what Dawkins and Harris are suggesting.

The problem with both Dawkins and Harris is that they simply have never studied the social sciences. I'm not talking about pop psychology. I am talking about the hard core sociology science work that has been done. There is no debate that man has a God-Shaped hole in their psyche. Now this God-Shape hole may be a left over structure of the way we are cognitively wired (coined as a spandrel by the brilliant Scientist Stephen Jay Gould). It doesn't matter how religion got into our society.

What matters is that it is here, and it seems to be irreplaceable.

You don't have to look hard at the data to determine several things:

1. Religious people have less stress
2. Religious people have more financial success
3. Religious people have more children

Sounds like a pretty good evolutionary advantage. To any atheists that stumble across this blog, maybe you should believe in something also if you want your genes to live on.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

"Body" -> Let There Be (Bicycling) Light Part I

If you are going to ride your bike year around, chances are that sooner you are going to want or need to ride your bike beyond sunset. To do this, you absolutely need at least two lights on your bike.

There is nothing more important that the proper selection of lights because this is the primary way of cars seeing you.

Now, many people will say that cars seeing you is a secondary importance, since you'll need a light for seeing the street.

Once you start biking in the dark, for the most part, in both the city and the county, lights are not necessarily to see the road. When you are on a bike, you naturally go slower than a car, your eyes adjust to the local lighting, and often times street lights will be more than enough light for you to bike. The primary purpose of bicycle lights is to be seen. Because of this, it is easy enough to think that you really don't need a bright light. You need just a light to "be seen."

However, we will examine our human perceptions. In reality, a light "good enough to be seen" is really a light "good enough to get hit by."

To understand why a bright light is so necessary, we must take a detour into the world of vision.

The most important thing, for a car to see you, is to understand how far you are away.

The #1 reason for cars hitting bicycles is either a car pulling out from a side street or a car pulling across a street. Both of these are problems of the driver not adequately seeing or judging distance to the bicyclist.

In vision, why we get hit is often a problem with depth perception. Everybody knows that we see in 3D. The reason that humans see in 3D is that they have stereopsis. If you have two cameras or two eyes, which act just like cameras, there is a parallax between your two cameras or eyes.

Parallex simply means that one eye will have a sightly different image from the other eye due to the fact that they are set apart in our heads. Most of us enjoyed, as a child, closing one eye then the other eye and watching the image just just back and forth. When I was a child, and bored in church, I could make the pastor jump around a bit with this trick, even through we weren't pentecostal. (Yes, that is a joke.)

Because our eyes are set apart, each eye sees something slightly different. If our brain wasn't morphing the data from our eyes, we would be seeing two images from either eye like two images on the TV screen that didn't line up.

However, our brain magically puts those two images together, and the slight differences in the images register at different depths in our vision. When you start to think about how our brain works, it is a miracle. What should be a problem with our vision design turns into a benefit. If we had to try and create it, I don't think that it would be easy. However, God using his skills to create something clever.

By this gift, we can judge if an object is 100 ft away or 1000 feet away automatically. However, some people don't have two eyes. For instance, my sister lost one of her eyes at a very young age, and her stereopsis does not exist. However, she can drive, although her depth perception simply does not exist.

If we lose an eye, how do we judge depth?

Again, the magic of the brain is that a secondary system cuts in. The brain, with just one eye, can calculate distance by an object's size. If you see a stop sign in the distance, your brain says "Stop Signs are 7 feet high, and they have a 18 inch sign." If the stop sign is a small object in your field of vision, it simply says "well it must be far away."

However, this depends on the mind having a previous reference frame for size for any given object. What happens if you stumble across a stop sign that is really small? Without other objects in you field of vision, you'd simply misjudge the stop sign and say "that stop sign is really far away."

Now, we are all familiar with this type of work. In movies, small miniatures are made to deceive us. This works very well, as long as the miniature is detailed, because we only use one camera (or eye) to judge distance.

So how does this impact night vision? Our eyes have an iris, which lets in light. When it is bright, the iris shrinks making our pupils (the black thing in the center of your eye) small. When the pupils are small, it is easier to judge distance because it helps to focus the image. However, at night, the iris gets bigger to let in more light, and it becomes harder to judge distance via stereopsis. Just like my sister, the brain switches to the secondary system of judging distance. By previously stored reference frames.

Most car headlights are similar in brightness at a given distance. So if a light looks dim, it must be far away. If a light is bright, it is close.

The other thing that helps the driver to judge distance is the distance between the front two headlights of roughly 6 or so feet. So the problem becomes obvious.

1. Bicycles don't have two headlights with a spacing of 6 feet

2. Many bicyclists have dull lights that will look like a car really far away

Even if you are close to a car, the driver will have part of his or her brain saying "don't worry, that dull light is really far away." Compounding this problem, you only have 1 light vs the 2 required to help judge the distance on the car.

So if becomes very obvious why you shouldn't have a dull headlight. You will be really challenging the driver of cars to figure out how far away you are.

This is beyond just theory. I have been nighttime biking for many years. The difference in how cars react to a bright and dull light is absolutely amazing. The brighter the light, the less that I would be cut off. To the opposite, if you can't judge depth well, you can't judge speed. So guess what happens when you have a really bright light, and a car sees you coming?

It waits. And waits. And waits. It waits because the driver can't tell how fast you are closing on it. They only see a bright light, and they expect it to be closing quickly.

As a rule, cars always wait much longer for me at night than day time. However, if you have a dull light, they will not wait at all, and often cut you off. It is clear as "day and night" for the difference.

In the next section, we will examine the different technologies of headlights on the market today.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Mind -> "Alan Sokal Affair"

Reader, meet Alan Sokal. We are going to be talking about him today.

Recently, I was reading my nephew-in-law blog, and he was describing and complaining about a book written by a Professor out of Penn State, Richard Doyle, trying to wring out the philosophical implication of science.

Having my curiosity piqued, I went to Google Books to get an idea of how this person wrote.

Here's a nice little quote from his book Wetwares:

"Uploading,' the desire to be wetware, makes possible a new technology of the self, one fractured by the exteriority of the future....Uploading seems to install discursive, material, and social mechanism for the anticipation of an externalized self, a techno-social mutation that is perhaps best characterized as a new capacity to be affected by, addicted to, the future."

Now mind you, I am a bit interested in the subject Doyle wrote about, and I even touch on an attribute of uploading intelligence when I discussed Penrose in an earlier post. I am not turned off on any talk on Wetware per se, but I profoundly turned off on poor rambling and incoherent writing on wetware. There seems to be a wide spread belief in the humanities (and now stretching into science) that you express your education thought by making it incomprehensible.

This leads us to the "Alan Sokal Affair," which is often shortened to simply "The Sokal Affair."

Dr. Sokal is the stereotypical physics geek. He currently teaches at NYU and you can visit his page there. He evidentially was a bit of a rebel, having taught in Nicaragua during the Sandinista regime.

In 1996, he submitted a paper to Social Text, out of Duke University, one of the non-peer reviewed journals popping up at the time. The paper was called "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity." The paper, in summary, said that quantum mechanics had a implication on the idea that science is actually just a made up reality, signifying that science is a belief structure. The editors at Social Text probably said, "Well of course this must be correct. It makes science more social scientific."

They published Sokal's paper. Once published, Sokal revealed that the paper was a hoax.

Sokal's paper, in function, was a loose knit chunks of hyperbole, crazy graphs, and unintelligible statements with a few political quotes thrown in. The author had carefully constructed it to be tripe and nonsense.

Social Text immediately did the proper thing: it vilified Sokal as being dishonest. One of the publishers told the New York Times, "he's ill-read and half-educated." Obviously, and this is why the editors could spot the fake right away. (My sarcasm is hopefully evident.)

After all, they were duped by a clever professor into publishing something that made no sense. They immediately claimed that Sokal did a grave injustice. To me, the problem never with Sokal. The problem is with a paper so corrupt that they couldn't admit their mistakes. When he offered to explain his hoax in a follow-up, the journal refused to publish it. However, other journals did.

So, what did Sokal have to say about his paper? Let's look at one section:

"...but the most hilarious parts of my article were not written by me. Rather, they're direct quotes from the postmodern Masters, whom I shower with mock praise. In fact, the article is structured around the silliest quotations I could find about mathematics and physics....

This involved, of course, advocating an incoherent mishmash of trendy ideas -- deconstructive literary theory, New Age ecology, so-called ``feminist epistemology''[15], extreme social-constructivist philosophy of science, even Lacanian psychoanalysis -- but that just made the parody all the more fun....

Now, what precisely do I mean by "silliness''? Here's a very rough categorization: First of all, one has meaningless or absurd statements, name-dropping, and the display of false erudition. Secondly, one has sloppy thinking and poor philosophy, which come together notably (though not always) in the form of glib relativism.

The first of these categories wouldn't be so important, perhaps, if we were dealing with a few assistant professors of literature making fools of themselves holding forth on quantum mechanics or Gödel's theorem. It becomes more relevant because we're dealing with important intellectuals, at least as measured by shelf space in the cultural-studies section of university bookstores."

Sokal is one of heroes of the modern age. Within 6 months, he demonstrated powerfully, more than any academic article or study, how a diseases of false thinking has climbed into our academic environment.

However, if you are a Christian, you should also be able to see bridges back to our own faith. The problem, in this case, is that the left tried to grab science and use it to support something more than it does. In the same way, often in the Church, we do the same thing. In some sense, you need to approach both Christianity, and scripture, and science in the same way.

To be successful, don't read into the data. If you find out that science says "the earth is 6 billion years old" and you read "God created the earth in 6 days," don't immediately warp the science to suit scripture. On the other hand, don't warp scripture to suit scripture.

The objective, if you are a Christian, is to approach every problem with an open heart and an inquisitive mind. In all my years, I have never found where I couldn't reconcile scripture to science.

And I never needed to check my brain at the door or hide behind incomprehensibility.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Body -> Comparing Power Meters: Polar CS600 to PowerTap

This is one of those reviews that I really didn't want to write.

Mainly, because I knew it would be a bunch of work. However, seeing that I needed to ease back into training after the forest fires, I decided to take a short ride to do a bake-off between my two power meters: The Polar CS600 and the Cycleops Powertap.

Conventional wisdom would tell you that the Powertap would be more accurate than the Polar unit. I pulled my Powertap off of my racing biking and crammed it onto my commuting bike. This highlights the first issue: The Polar was a pain to set up. While I didn't like moving the Powertap, I really didn't want to move the Polar.

Moving the Powertap was a bit easier, but the biggest challenge is that my commuting bike is based around a mountain frame, and the spacing is 5mm too wide on the rear wheel. However, you can clamp hard and a road wheel will stay in a mountain bike dropouts. However, I rode a bit gingerly, not wanting to dislodge the wheel.

Although I did not have an ergometer to test them against, I could compare them against each other and against my perceived exertion. If they both measured the same, then I had confirmation. If they varied, then I would use my body to judge which was closer.

Once I got home, I dumped the data and parsed it into an Excel data file, and plotted the two meters against each other.

The first half of my trip was up a hill, and while I didn't grind it out hard, I did have a moderate pace that was above 150 watts for the most part. I immediately noticed on this section that the meters seemed very close. This was better than I expected.

Here is a chart of this section. Click on the chart to make it bigger.

The polar samples at a lower frequency. You can see that the power curves are simply smoother. However, for the most part, the Polar curve and the Powertap curve track nicely together. The TSS score from this data was close together, as were the calories burned.

Net-net of this section showed that if you are pedaling at a moderate pace to harder pace, the two power meters track nicely together. Now the Powertap samples twice as often, but in my mind you don't vary your instantaneous power that fast. So the higher sample rate is inconsequential. A bit like a Nyquist sampling test.

However, once I crested the hill, I had a long down section where I had no desire to pedal hard, due to the jammed in nature of the rear wheel. So, I was just pedaling at an easy pace. This is where the two power meters split. The Powertap had under 100 watts of power. The Polar, on the other hand, was showing 30% higher readings.

As you can see on the graph, this is reflected in the data. I don't need any rational on what was happening. The Polar unit measures vibration from the chain. As you put power on the chain, oscillations get faster. If you could hear the chain, it would sound higher. However, at easy pedaling, it is difficult to catch the note. So, I clearly believe the Powertap. It felt right.

So what are the take aways?

1. The Polar is surprisingly accurate. I thought it would be okay, but under moderate to high cycling loads, it is very close to the Powertap.

2. Therefore, as long as you are really working out, and keep the chain under tension, the two units will be very close. The only issue is if you are easy pedaling. However, unless you are pedaling easy all day, I don't see this as an issue. While I had a tracking issue, it only happened under a particular condition, which I don't do very often. If you are tourist that pedals at 80 watts, it will over read the power. However, if you are an easy tourist, I bet you don't care about power meters anyway. For me, this was a short bit of high biased data that doesn't ruin the whole data set. It is a "who cares?"

Now, in some sense. I have also seen reports that some people have removed a link or two to keep the tension a little higher, and this has removed bad data. I haven't tried it, so your mileage may vary.

However, I am pretty happy with the CS600. I bought it mainly for other things like the altimeter and the great pulse monitor. However, it does a very good job for power also.