Sunday, March 29, 2009

Week in Review - Down with 'The Man'

Coincidentally, all three stories I found intriguing this week feature different ways of bucking the system. Not so coincidentally, they all come courtesy of Slashdot.

Evolution vs. Texas: So, the Texas school board is voting on whether to force teachers to raise doubts on the theory of evolution. My first reaction is to get the politicians out of the determination of knowledge, but then I realize it is effectively their job to ensure the "right" things are being taught. Is it right to raise doubts on evolution? My heart says yes, and my mind says no. (I just wish I could find one creationist argument that isn't easily refuted by current science.) Instead, I'd offer that they raise doubts on science as a whole. First, since science deals with studying the natural realm, there are things that science by definition cannot account for (like the supernatural); it is simply out of scope. Second, that what we "know" through science is just the best explanation we've come up with for the data that we have. Tomorrow, new data or a new explanation may supplant everything.

Bringing me to...

Supernova vs. Scientists: Knock knock. Who's there? Early supernova. Early super... Bang! When a person shows up early, they're called punctual. When a plane shows up early, it's called a miracle. When a supernova shows up early, it makes scientists wonder if they need to throw their current stellar evolution theories out the window. Isn't learning wonderful? It just goes to show that scientists can be wrong.

Which leads me to...

Famous Scientist vs. All: Freeman Dyson, a renowned physicist (and known to Star Trek fans for the Dyson sphere), is up in arms over the global warming stir. He claims "that climate change has become an “obsession” — the primary article of faith for “a worldwide secular religion” known as environmentalism." The saddest part of the whole situation is not in the disagreement, or that he's in the vast minority, but that it has led to name-calling instead of the intellectual discussion it deserves.

Several times I've seen a bumper sticker of the Anthony J. D'Angelo quote:
Your mind is like a parachute. It only works if it is open.
I completely agree with this statement. But a mind and a parachute also only work if they are properly anchored. So, keep your mind open, but also keep it tethered to the truth supported by evidence, whether it is the data of science or the historical accuracy of Scripture. Without it, your parachute may be open, but you'll be in for a very unpleasant surprise.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Week(s) in Review : Baseball

All-Asian WBC, Oriole turned World Series hero retires, a superstar catcher about to debut, and Opening Day exactly two weeks away! What a wonderful time of year!

Yankees Outfield - The whole point of this article is to show that the Yankees didn't need Manny Ramirez because Nick Swisher is just as good. The player values or potential corner outfielders (both batting and fielding):
  • Manny: 36.3
  • Swisher: 34.0
  • Damon: 29.4
  • Abreu: 16.7 (for comparison purposes)
  • Matsui: 15.8
  • Nady: 14.9
So, the argument goes if you stick Damon in left and Swisher in right, that's just as good as Damon and Manny. My answer is, what about sticking Manny at DH instead of Matsui?

Of course, the real issue is right here: picking Nady over Swisher.

Most Indispensable Players - Buster Olney's gut versus Baseball Prospectus' numbers. I love to see the analysis of how much better a player is than his actual replacement. The one thing I note in the difference between the two lists is Olney has six starting pitchers and four batters, while BP has ten batters. While the splits on Brandon Webb are impressive, I do find myself wondering whether a guy who plays two-thirds of a game every five days is the most indispensable. Also interesting is where they disagree on the same team: Utley vs. Hamels (PHI), Wright/Reyes vs. Santana (NYM), Jones vs. Lowe (ATL), and Soto vs. Zambrano (CHC).

The Worst Contracts in Baseball - Not of all time, but just current ones. Thankfully, the Orioles only have two of the forty-four there, and one (Eaton) doesn't count because Philly is paying his salary.

Week(s) in Review : Humor

Right to the links:

You thought your customer was crazy? - I'm impressed most by the customer's "research".

Top 10 confusing place names - I don't know if this beats Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, especially when it's next to Elephant Butte.

Letters to God - Some are hilarious, others show what insight children have into the reality of humanity.

Week(s) in Review : Science & Faith

After a few weeks of spending free time and energy taking care of a sick daughter, it's time to review the news that sounded interesting to me:

If We Have Free Will, Then So Do Electrons - Yes, I'll admit to having not read the article, and instead getting the gist of it from the Slashdot comments. Oh well. It looks to be an 'Oh well' on the article as well, basically defining free will as non-deterministic. The problem is 'random' is non-deterministic, too.

Degree in Creation Science? - So, the question is can any (non-profit, private) institute confer a degree upon someone? I guess the simple answer is 'sure', but it won't be worth the imitation sheepskin it's printed on. The real question, though, is whether Creation Science should be acknowledged as a legitimate scientific branch. I don't know enough about the work being done in that field, but my gut says the main goal it is achieving is making all Christians look like they're still living in the Dark Ages.

Fewer Americans are Christian - Well, it also says more Americans are evangelical. To me, it says more Americans are getting honest about what they believe and have stopped labeling themselves Christians just because their parents were or they got married in a church. It's clear from the Bible that Jesus wants us to stop pretending and be open and honest... that's how He'll reach us and make us Christ-followers, and Christ-like.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Prayer is a Card from a One-Year Old

For Valentine's Day, my wife and I each received a wonderful card from our daughter. It was something we each treasured and enjoyed. Later that month, she accidentally hit my wife in the nose; the next time she saw her, my daughter gave her a piece of paper with a flower and a message saying "Katie Loves Mommy." Did I mention that our daughter is only 20 months old?

Looking at the whole thing objectively, we know that our daughter did very little to contribute in each of these cases. We each picked out and bought the cards, and we were the ones that sealed them in envelopes. We even directed her to "sign" each card, and to give the card to the other. Similarly, I wrote the message and drew the flower, and then directed her to give the paper to Mommy. Still, we acted as though Katie was the one making the effort.

It strikes me how much that mirrors our prayer life. God acts as though we're the ones really moving mountains, but how much of the effort is really ours?
  • Who prompts us to pray?
  • Who guides us how to pray?
  • Who gives us the right heart to pray?
  • Who listens to us?
  • Who reconciled us to give us the right to be heard in the first place?
  • Who answers the prayer?
God is certainly doing the heavy lifting in prayer, yet he rejoices when we pray. He makes the point over and over again for us to pray. Our prayers are like fragrant incense to him. But why is that, if he's doing all the work? What do we add to the mix?

We carry the card to Mommy.