Monday, August 24, 2009

Roast Duck-

No, this is not a recipe. I suppose there is a philosophy of cooking, perhaps even a philosophy of recipes, but this is not a blog on that aspect of cooking. In fact, it is not about cooking. Not really.

I like to watch the Travel Channel when I watch television. That, or Food Network. I like travel, and I like eating. The shows that combine these things are my favorites.

Anthony Bourdain has a show called No Reservations. I really like his style. He does a lot of the writing for the show, and his narration is a bit cynical without being harsh and unpleasantly caustic. He is also willing to be surprised by positive aspects of his experiences as he travels, meets people and eats a lot of different foods.

In one episode he is sampling roast duck in the backwaters of China. The video shows the roasting pit, and the ducks, and the man doing the roasting. Anthony quips about the extended experience of the man roasting the duck. His observation is that a man who has roasted duck for forty years will probably produce an excellent roast duck.

If I recall correctly, Anthony did indeed find the duck to be excellent.

It caused me to wonder, however, about a man who would roast ducks for forty years. A man who probably received the duck roasting recipes and techniques and even the business as a family legacy.

Forty years. Roast duck. Probably duck done by time honored techniques and tradition. Generations of duck roasting.

Part of me wants to be such an expert at something. Part of me is horrified by the prospect of roasting ducks for the whole of a lifetime.

Granted, in much of the world a man (or woman) who received a successful family business and the skills to run that business would consider themselves lucky. Though the work is long and hard and ever so much the same, it is also valued and skilled and allows for a good life without too much suffering. Perhaps even a very good life, relative to the context in which it is being lived.

This should give me perspective on my own life. I have lived very well, and in the context of human history I am a man of great wealth. I have more than enough to eat, and eat more than I need all too often. I live indoors when I wish. I have family, and steady employment. I, in company with a major bank, own a home. I own land, a thing coveted by generations of humans.

My health is pretty good. It is great, most of the time, and even when it hasn't been it has not brought about long-term adversity. I do not struggle against those who would take my wealth or freedom or health, except in a very general and extremely indirect way.

I have not been compelled to roast ducks for forty years of my life. In fact, I have never roasted a duck, though I actually would like to do so. I have chosen to do some things I have not found fulfilling in order to fund the balance of my life, but no one thing for forty years. I perceive this as a price I pay for a relatively good life.

Is a roaster of ducks for forty years a man fulfilled? Anthony Bourdain may speak with admiration for such a man, but Anthony moved on in his chosen field and then moved out into related broadcasting. He paid some serious dues, but he was never a roaster of ducks for forty years.

In thinking on the roasting of ducks I find more questions than answers.

It also leaves me hungry.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Profound Trivialities-

I was responding to a blog the other day, and had occasion to relate something as to how this particular philosopher developed. I related to my youthful atheism, the transition to agnosticism, and my eventual conversion to Christianity.

Somehow, thinking on this I am reminded of the time I pointed out to a friend that our being together at that moment was the culmination of all of History. Yep. All of the events, great or small, that preceded our existence at that place and that time were represented in that moment. Us, together, talking about profound trivialities.

The atheism of my youth was largely a response to the apparent disorder of the world in which I lived, the presence of evil in the world, and an angst that was probably hormonal in nature. It was also partially ego driven. I felt cool declaring myself to be an atheist.

My agnosticism that followed was more thoughtful. I realized that the scope and potential of my human knowledge did not allow for an intellectual base large enough to declare God as non-existent. This occurred at a time in my youth when I was becoming profoundly aware of the scope of my ignorance. I perceived myself as a speck of dust on a speck of dust, and declaring the non-being of God was tragically egotistical.

Over the next several years I recognized that starting from the presupposition of a profound ignorance I tended to think on things with fewer biases and to be open to more ideas. I also embraced the concept of tentative belief as the starting point of any investigation.

That was, of course, during such times as I was actively thinking and building a world view. Keep in mind that I was young and often driven by my hormones and lurching maturation rather than careful thought.

For a time I thought Science would provide the avenue for expansion and exploration. It indeed was a realm of great interest, and some of the disciplines of thought rubbed off as I dabbled. However, I saw scientific study as an ever narrowing focus in which the scientist learned more and more about less and less. To exhaust the narrowest speciality in any given field of science was an impossible task.

Study was endless, but life is short. Throw in the threat of being drafted and sent to Viet Nam as an agent of our great nation and a sense of mortality grew deep and morbid. I responded by dabbling in sensuality but was not really cut out for it. Always I returned to the life of the mind.

It was the Age of Aquarius, and I was caught up in the wave of mysticism. I contemplated learning from the major religions by practicing each one for a time. As I explored the scope of my intended project I was often overwhelmed. So much to learn and do, and so little time.

I explored Hinduism first, cobbling my own mystical adventure as I sought knowledge. I might have sought formal guidance, but I joined the Army in hopes of avoiding Viet Nam. I reasoned that nuclear weapons were not deployed in active war zones, and so sought training in that field. My course was altered, however, by my inability to focus on the required training and my own inner explorations at the same time.

Failing my training in the maintenance of nuclear weapons I was sent to the Quartermaster corps, and became a Army supply specialist. That time of training in supply management was transitional. I was brought into constant contact with the first Christian I had ever met who was wholly committed to his faith.

His faith was intriguing. I reconsidered my course of exploration, and decided to explore Christianity next. I decided to believe in this Christian's God, and in this Jesus who somehow saved me from sin. I did not really know much about sin and salvation, but I embraced the things I learned as if I did believe.

Over a matter of weeks I did believe, and I began to grow in the faith I had adopted. My path took me through several of the many sub-sets of that which is Christian, and my own beliefs took form as a consequence of the experiences.

So it went for many years. I have held many jobs, been married for over three decades, raised three children to adulthood, and assumed my greatest title in that time. The whole course of my personal history, which was a consequence of all of history before my time, made me a grandfather. The title "Papa" is my greatest achievement.

Trivial. Everyone has a grandfather or two. Profound. No other experience is like loving and being loved by grandchildren. It is a mystery beyond mere knowledge, the confirmation of magic in the Universe.

I have no hope of knowing all I long to know. My mortal life is too short, and my resources are too few. However, I have hope of knowing what is best. I have walked dark paths, and seen the face of evil more than once. They are nothing compared to the light of love my grandchildren have shown me. That love is but a glimmer of the love that my God has for me.

How do I know? That is the mystery, and the mysticism. As I have only recently come to understand, my agnosticism has shaped me as much as my faith. I still love knowledge and learning, and embrace the experiences that give me both. Knowing and believing is only part of the experience. Greater, by far, is the mystery.

What, then, beyond this life? Yes. What then?

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Death Penalty-

Over time I have reconsidered my support for the death penalty. Perhaps some is the consequence of the changed perspective of many years of living. A great deal is the consequence of working many years in a county jail.

I have learned something of what life in prison is like. Even in our relatively humane modern prisons life is difficult and brutish. It is no favor to the guilty to sentence them to a life in prison, especially without prospect of parole.

With that in mind, the appetite for vengeance that drives the passion for the death penalty for many people can be satisfied with the knowledge that it is not a pleasant life to which the guilty are assigned.

Additionally, by sentencing a person to a life in prison it does remain possible to reverse the sentence should additional evidence vindicate a sentence server. That simply cannot be done in the case of an execution. On this point the opponents to the death penalty are right, no matter what their actual motive for that opposition.

From a cost only perspective a quick execution of those found guilty of murder would be a savings. However, few executions soon follow a sentence, and death row inmates are expensive to hold. Calculating a break even point in the cost of a life sentence as opposed to a death sentence might prove difficult.

I don't have the data, but the rough figures I have seen in the past indicate that the greater expense of death row housing over the protracted periods inmates reside in such housing hint at a probable savings in an alternative a life sentence.

While working in jail I have transferred a lot of young people to prison. Some I have transferred repeatedly. As the inmates aged they tended to get longer sentences. I don't recall seeing any of these repeat offenders come back after reaching the age of forty five or so.

Are they dying in prison? It would seem so. Many become diseased due to chronic abuse of drugs, alcohol, and dangerous sexual practices. Many practice violence in their youth that eventually comes back upon them as they are sentenced to long terms later in life. The probability of a long life is not high in prison.

I shall not be joining any protests of the death penalty. I shall not strive to halt any particular executions. I shall support elimination of the death penalty as a voter. I will probably not consider the position of a candidate on the death penalty as critical with regard to my support and my vote.

I am reminded of one inmate I transferred to prison. He had three consecutive life sentences. I was confident he would serve the first one. I doubted he would make it through the other two.

Death was too good for him.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I Sell You Fish!

Years ago I had a friend and co-worker who was from England. He was an older gentleman, a working class fellow with working class values. He would, from time to time, relate stories from his past.

This is one of them.

The Second World War was raging as he came of age. Barely of age. He joined the British Navy at the age of seventeen, and spent some time in the North Sea and the English Channel. He was engaged in the D-Day assault, and support work after that significant day.

During one of those support cruises his ship was taking on supplies off of the coast of France. A French fisherman was selling his catch to the English liberators.

One sailor quipped, "I bet you are glad to see us."

The fisherman continued to unload his catch. As he did so, he said "When the Germans were here I sold them fish. Now you are here. I sell you fish!"

I could visualize this practical man who drew his living from the sea. Before the German occupation of France he sold his fish to the French. With the German occupation he sold his fish to the Germans. With the liberation he sold his fish to the English.

His life probably did not change much over the course of the war. His life was well ordered, though probably far from easy. He knew how to fish. Fish provided food, and procured the other things he needed in his simple life. He may have been contemplative, a deep thinker as well as deep fisher.

By his answer I would think he was probably not.

I certainly find appealing the idea of a life unaffected by the social and political winds. I just don't see our country falling to an outside foe. We still have too much power for that. I do see the possibility of us falling to economic changes, and some inward upheaval which will redefine the United States of America as something else.

Could I ride out such a shift? Could I sell my "fish" to whomever comes seeking them?

In thinking about this, I realize how bound I am to the existing way of life. I have vesture in a government pension, one for which I have worked and upon which my later life shall largely depend. I am not yet old but I am far from young. To be compelled by world events to start over is a rather unpleasant and overwhelming prospect.

It is unlikely that I shall ever be tested in this. Thinking about it, however, does emphasize just how dependent I am on the system as it is. I may long for change in that system, but I can no longer comfortably harbor thoughts of radical change.

Thinking about this old story, one I heard years ago, has compelled me to think a bit more about myself.

Perhaps I need to go fishing.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Lines of Tension-

Some years ago I came up with the idea of lines of tension existing between various aspects of my being. Not just my own being, the concept would apply to everyone. However, I am only fully familiar with my own being, and these were my own thoughts.

As an example, take the ideas of freedom and security. Currently the world is troubled by some nebulous threat called "the terrorists." In exchange for greater security from this threat it is expected that we give up some of our freedoms. Thus, we can see that there is a line of tension between the concept of freedom and the concept of security.

To get more security one must give up some freedom. To gain freedom one must sacrifice security. Tension.

I follow a blog called Geeks on Tour. In the post linked here Chris relates a line of tension I had not thought about. Dreams----Duty. The example was two movies. Follow the link, as Chris relates the two films quite nicely, demonstrating the line of tension between following one's dreams and following one's duty.

In my vague theory on these lines of tension I see happiness/contentment/fulfillment existing for each individual somewhere along each line. My mother-in-law Alta would be quite content to give up a great many freedoms to gain security. I, however, will tollerate considerably less security to have freedom. We are at different places on the line of tension, each seeking whatever happiness/contentment/fulfillment we can find.

Life is comprised of many aspects that exist in tension. Dreams and duty are another two. I responded to Chris's observations because sacrificing dreams in the name of duty had caused considerable trouble within me in the past. I was falling into a debilitating depression due to the level I had sacrificed dreams to fulfill duties. It was necessary to bring these aspects of myself back into tension in order for me to regain stability and begin working toward whatever happiness/contentment/fulfillment I might hope to find along that given line.

A perfectly balanced life would exist for any particular individual at that place where all lines of tension are in balance. Not the absolute center of each line, of course. It would be the place where each line is occupied at just the right point. It would be the ideal life for that individual.

I can only imagine such a place, and wonder what it would be like. I generally find balancing one line throws another off balance, and I am constantly recovering from previous imbalances. I suspect that my experience is not unique.

At best this model of lines in tension can be useful in assessing conflicting aspects of life. Perhaps I will find the time to asess my life in the light of my little theory. Make lists. Draw lines.

Time. Hmmm. Time----

What is at the other end of that line?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


I follow a number of blogs. I don't add blogs to my list without consideration. I have to find something of value in the blog, a perspective that is either beneficial in some way or one that challenges my own thinking.

I really don't think anyone grows if surrounded only by like minded persons. I find that my own ways of thinking are challenged by the ideas of others, and I have to constantly assess my own ideas and think about how to express those ideas. I like this challenge.

Some of the blogs I follow are travel blogs. Others focus on things like story telling, or photography. Usually I am attracted by the work itself, but I also find myself becoming interested in the people behind the activities about which they blog.

Some blogs are idea blogs. I follow a Presbyterian minister, and another who is a student of Puritan theology and philosophy. I follow others who are not believers in God, even some who are quite atheistic. I enjoy examining their ideas, and also find myself fascinated by their humanity.

The Presbyterian minister is a hunter, a sports fan, and devoted to his church and family. He has depth to his beliefs and his way of living. Another I follow is a physician who is an amystic. Rejecting the mystical he is left not believing in God. He presents clear arguments for his beliefs, but more than that he shows himself to be a compassionate human being.

Some blog about their homes and display a deep love of their domestic lives. I sense a richness in their lives, and many share that well.

One of my bloggers blogs about Legos.

I am not, by nature, a socially involved person. Indeed, I have a reclusive tendency which I actively work against. I can be quite content in isolation, and must work to keep myself involved with other people. My fellow bloggers aid me in this task.

In the course of these interactions I find myself compelled to try and support my fellow bloggers. I have selected people who are genuine, and have depth, and express themselves well. Though a few of the blogs invite energetic discussion, I find that I approach these discussions with a bit of restraint. I value the exchange of ideas and perspectives, but am not so compelled to prove myself "right" that I assault my fellow bloggers with my keyboard.

My blog list grows slowly. I cull the blogs that prove monochromatic, that exist only to promote a particular perspective or agenda. I also cull those that don't seem to be growing or going anywhere. I add others with care. I am a frugal gardener, wanting to get the greatest yield possible from my little blog patch.

The real fruit of all of this is perspective. I see the world through different eyes, and grow a bit in the process.

It is a good thing.

Monday, May 4, 2009

I Kant Kant-

I read Critique of Pure Reason twice. Two different translations. I don't have the text with me right now, but I sold one and kept the other. The one I kept had a better translation, and was somewhat easier to read.

Not necessarily easier to understand. I do not claim to understand what I read. I thought that this was largely my own fault. I suspect that I did have a lot to do with my own inability to understand, but I later learned that others found the language and presentation a bit ponderous.

It was described in one article I read (and of course do not have handy to cite) that the German philosophers of the time of Kant (and for some time after) felt it "scholarly" to couch their concepts in ponderous prose. I do not know if that is true, but it would explain the difficulty in getting an untrained brain around many of the concepts.

I think another aspect was the effort of Kant to describe the very generalized ideas of knowing and reason. What can we know? What can we not know? How are the regions defined? Not small or simple questions.

Not quite so general (and perhaps meaningless) as "What is the meaning of life?" However, it was not quite so particular as making a measurable observation of some natural phenomenon. Then again, not all phenomena are easy to observe and measure.

I will probably drag the book out again, someday soon. I will read it, and perhaps convince myself that I understand a bit more than before.


Then again, perhaps I simply Kant Kant.

Evolution vs Creation in Education-

I find this debate terribly sad. It is sad because most of the players have very good intentions. It is sad because there is no compromise. It is sad because someone must lose something of value in the end.

The parents promoting creation/intelligent design wish to protect their children from a godless science. Not necessarily from science, but from a science that excludes God from the issue of creation. This is a genuine desire to protect, and the drive to protect offspring is powerful.

On the other side are scientists, striving to protect science education from being polluted by bad science. Unfortunately, God does not readily submit to scientific inquiry, and so good science will most likely be Godless. Not that all scientists are godless. Those who believe, however, cannot derive their faith from science.

Sadly, from what I have seen the creation/intelligent design faction does indeed promote bad science. This does not mean that they promote something that is not true. It does mean that creation/intelligent design may well belong in another venue.

I do not know if believers in God can begin with the evidence available through years of scientific inquiry and present a set of arguments that will pass the rigours of established scientific review. I an not so sure that they should.

I am still not convinced that science is the final arbiter with regard to what is true. It has proven valuable in building human knowledge and building a better world. It is worthy of a place of great honor. I am not convinced that it is ultimate.

A large part of the issue in this debate is good stewardship. Strangely, I find both the creation side and the science side are striving for good use of public funds in education. The scientist don't want to see public funds spent on teaching bad science. The creationists don't want what they view to be truth excluded from the education process for which they must pay through taxes.

Nobody wants children confused by different views of what is held to be true. However, lacking a consensus on what is true with regard to how things came into being, the educators are caught between waring factions. The children are destined to seek their own answers on the matter.

Perhaps that is the real focus. A system of education that teaches thinking, not just indoctrination. This is dangerous, of course. It will produce children who will not always think as parents may wish. It may produce children who think outside the box called "science," as well.

A generation of rogue thinkers might prove very interesting.

Dangerous children. Worth the investment.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Lines in Tension-

Music can be produced from a broad variety of instruments that have lines in tension. Guitar, violin, piano, and wash-tub bass. Many instruments which contain the potential for music in lines of some material drawn to a precise tension.

I find an analogy in ideas. Freedom and security, for example. A line stretched between absolute freedom and absolute security, representing the need to sacrifice freedom to obtain security, or to sacrifice security to obtain freedom. A line in tension.

With regard to this particular line, various people will prefer different points on the line as their particular place of comfort. Additionally, social orders that move too far toward one extreme or the other are more likely to fall than those that find a viable range somewhere toward the middle of the line.

A gross generalization, but one that seems to apply. There is no music if there is no tension. Too much tension and the line breaks. Not every sound that comes forth is music, either. Neither is music just one note.

Drums have planes in tension. A bell has a tension built into both the shape and the material of the bell. These instruments must be played in concert with similar instruments, due to the limits of their individual ranges. Even stringed instruments, though more flexible in range even in just one string, generally have several strings to expand the range of musical potential.

Many instruments come together to form bands and orchestras, bringing forth music from lines of tension.

I try to see families, tribes and nations in a similar way. Individuals living along various lines of tension, interacting with one another. Often it is noise. Sometimes it is music. Not always the same music, and perhaps not music to every one's liking, but a form of music none the less.

This idea of lines in tension sometimes aids me in understanding another human being. I look at how they live, what they are saying, what they are doing. I try to see the lines of tension that make up their individual life. Occasionally I can find a harmony between us.

This is a rather small thought to share. Not particularly deep, and perhaps not that insightful. Yet it is a way of thinking that might be helpful to someone.

That is why I share it. Let us make music together.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Thinking about Thinking-

I have recently engaged in a few sparing matches on another blog. Pliny is a scientific thinker and strong proponent of a scientific view of reality. He and his followers seem quite concerned by the conservative Christians who have been striving to incorporate creationist models into the system of education. For the most part Pliny and many of his followers do not have high regard for either the creation model or Christians and their way of thinking.

Pliny is quite fond of the evolutionary model. As a scientist and one who does not hold a Christian world view, that makes a great deal of sense. Most of his concerns and criticisms have been well thought out and well presented. In wrestling with some of those ideas as he presented them I have been compelled to think a bit.

I don't mind. I like thinking. Unfortunately, the last few years I have neglected my thinker, and so I am getting my thinker back into shape. Many of the half-baked mental models I played with many years ago remain half-baked. That is not to say they are not serviceable models, just that I never completed them.

In the past I did not have venues in which to exercise my thoughts. I was no longer in school, and my jobs did not present the right circumstances for mental exercise. So, my thoughts remained incomplete largely due to not having any sounding board. I had nobody to wrestle with. In recent years I exercised my mind less and less, and now it is as flabby as my physical form.

Not a pretty sight.

Having the Internet, I started this blog as a place to exercise my thoughts, and perhaps get some mental models assembled and made presentable. However, I still wrestled with some emotional issues, and was unable to get down to some serious thinking.

Visiting Pliny's place demonstrated to me that I really need to get my mental muscles back into fighting trim. Unlike physical combat, where my flab at least provides a useful mass for restraining combatants, mental wrestling requires some serious conditioning.

I am assessing some areas that will need exploration, and the exploration will provide the conditioning to prepare me for more intellectual adventures.

My problem has always been a curiosity greater than my lifespan. I have trouble narrowing my focus. I see so many avenues that are bright and interesting, and I want to travel them all.

Evolution and creation are only two models that I long to explore. However, associated with that exploration is an examination of contemporary Christian culture as it relates to the conflict between evolutionists and creationists. There is also an interesting avenue in which I long to explore the contemporary culture of science, and learn how that culture selects what is (and is not) knowledge.

That brings me back to the conflict I experienced in my youth regarding the perspective of the scientist as opposed to, say, a mystic. While science as a system reveals things that are true about the universe in which we live, I wondered about those areas that seemed unsuited for scientific analysis. The mystical was only one such area.

I still want to define more ways of thinking. This was the essence of my conflict in one discussion at Pliny's place. I contended that science was a belief system, a way of thinking. It is a system with a set of presuppositions, a perspective on reality, a particular vocabulary, and limits as to what it can encompass.

Pliny and his followers did not agree. My presentation left a lot to be desired, and I recognized that I was at fault for having not even clearly identified my position.

Of course, this points to another area of interest. The psychology of belief. That seems to be a subset of epistemology as well as psychology. Two rather large fields to explore.

It would be so much easier if one area of thought would catch my interest so intently that I could focus on that to the exclusion of all else. I would only delve into other related fields to help in understanding my darling. I would specialize and master something.

My broad interests have resulted in a little knowledge about a lot of things. This has earned the moniker Dr. Lockridge in my present place of employment. One associate likened me to a children's show host. Doctor Lockridge's Wading Pool of Knowledge. Though it is a bit of a dig, it is such a comical image (and true) that I have embraced it.

So, can I use this venue to focus my mind, and perhaps put together something that serves the name of this blog?

I can't wait to find out.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Internet, Blogging, and the Exchange of Ideas-

I was recently engaged in a few discussions over at Pliny's blog. Though Pliny has a small following, the people are thinkers and Pliny presents some interesting perspectives to explore. I responded to a few blogs, and found my own perspective to be somewhat different from those of Pliny and his other followers. For the most part the exchange was pleasant, and I learned a few things in the process.

One thing I learned is that the years of little intellectual interaction has dulled my capacity to engage other thinkers. I am a bit rusty in presenting my thoughts clearly and challenging ideas different from my own. Hopefully I can correct that by engaging in the exchange of ideas more frequently. Nothing like exercise to regain the tone in the intellectual muscle.

Another thing I observed is the difficulty of exchange in the blogging forum. The blogger presents an idea in the form of a short essay. Guests may respond in a comment section. Pliny has followers who receive his blog entries automatically. Most seem to agree with him in general perspective. In the blog world this leads to generally short comments expressing that agreement.

In challenging the blog, or aspects of the blog, it is necessary to present an argument. Unfortunately, this begins to look like a blog within a blog and deviates from the idea of a comment. While some of my arguments inspired some exchange, it was not quite the same as might occur in a classroom or similar venue intended for such exercises.

So, the blog format is good for expressing ideas, but not quite as effective in exchanging ideas. It serves well as a news and comments forum, but is not sufficient as a serious discussion forum. If my observation here is incorrect, I have yet to find a place where it is better applied.

Another thing I noted was the anonymity of the blog realm. A blogger can adopt a persona, and engage in vindictive exchanges instead of seeking to grow one another in knowledge. Rant style blogs can invite and encourage these types of exchanges, but they can easily leak into what might be intended as a serious blog intended for the exchange of ideas. It is not unheard of for anonymous bloggers to attempt to overcome a blog of a different perspective by loading it with noise.

Granted, there are tools for managing these disruptive practices, and such management must become part of a blogger's toolbox. I value an open exchange, and such openness requires some exposure to minds less inclined toward teaching and learning and more inclined to fighting battles on the Internet. As a consequence of that openness, I will have to master some of those management skills as well.

Due to the nature of the blog as a vehicle of short essays, it will be necessary for me to develop more discipline in my own thinking. From years of rattling around in my own head I find I do not have the proper discipline to form well thought out opinions and cogent arguments. My writing skills are up to the task, but my mind has grown fat and sloppy.

At present my mind tends to be all over the place. I begin thinking along a particular line and my mind races ahead, sniffing at the many trails that lead off from where I am thinking. While that has been adequate for solitary musing, it does not serve for putting ideas together in a way that inspires discussion and real learning.

My experience exploring the realm of the blog indicates that people of particular hobbies do some of the best blogging. Crafters, photographers, and other artists sharing their crafts and their thoughts create some of the finest blogs. Some are very good, indeed. I find visiting many of these blogs to be life-enhancing.

Can I explore my own thoughts and opinions, and create a place that is life-enhancing for visitors?

We shall find out.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Evolution, Creation and Belief-

Many years ago I was quite interested in the Creation/Evolution debate. As a convert to Christianity it appeared fundamental. Evolution represented the "old" way of thinking, my pre-Christian framework. Creationism obviously was a "new" way of thinking and essential to the change in the way of thought my conversion necessitated.

I am less convinced of the necessity and centrality of these concepts to the divergent frames of thinking at this point in my life. I have examined the issue from time to time over the intervening years, and have found problems with a hard-line position on either side of the argument.

Used as models each of these ways of thinking have merit. The creation model can provide a useful foundation for thoughts regarding God and that which He has created. The evolutionary model provides a good framework for scientific thinking about how things might have come to be as they are. Each model is useful.

When evolution is introduced to thoughts about God and His relationship with His creation some challenging questions come about. The conflict is sufficient to cause advocates of one model or the other to perceive problems with the ideas of God, creation, science, and evolution fitting into a complete world view.

It is hard for me to challenge evolution because I do not fully understand the theory and its application. As a generalized model it seems to describe much about the universe, provided I make certain assumptions about the universe. However, I find the same circularity of reasoning in much of evolution (as I have been able to understand it) that the proponents of science throw out as a challenge to biblical systems of thinking.

The anti-entropic nature of evolution is problematic. Things tend to fall apart unless a conscious effort to hold them together is made. Yet evolution is a tendency for unconscious things and stuff to fall into ever more complex relationships. Matter naturally tends toward simple states, not greater complexity. It is hard to describe evolution creating increasing complexity without some inclination to give it a consciousness.

The absence of transitional species is also a challenge in adopting a singularly evolutionary view of reality. Adaptability within types can be representative of good engineering on the part of a creator, without necessitating transitions between types of creatures. Taxonomic rules seem to have been formulated to support the evolutionary model, but my understanding of taxonomy is just inches from complete ignorance. Evolution seems to depend much on taxonomy, but again that impression may be just a shadow in my mind.

Creationism does not always answer well the challenges of observing nature. Unfortunately, it is a biblical doctrine, not a scientific system of thought. Since it is not intended to address the many questions a scientific examination of creation inevitably will bring about, it appears inadequate. For such an application it is inadequate.

By way of illustration I refer to a study I once did. Jesus once proclaimed the mustard seed as the smallest of all seeds. He did this to illustrate a biblical concept regarding faith. Jesus was scientifically inaccurate. My research showed that the orchid has a much smaller seed than the mustard seed. However, nobody in the time and place Jesus was speaking had that knowledge. The common knowledge was that the mustard seed was indeed the smallest of all seeds.

Jesus being who he was (and is) might well be expected to know the scientific truth. However, for his purpose of illustration the popular knowledge was sufficient, and in context his statement was true. Historical, social and physical contexts are important in assessing even the nature of seeds.

By nature the doctrine of creation is deductive. It is drawn from a document proclaimed to have been revealed from God, and discerning the truths and teachings from such a revelation is necessarily deductive in nature.

Evolution is a theory developed inductively. It attempts to explain creation by creating an overall set of rules to explain what is observed. God and His relationship to creation are not relevant to the theory. While the existence of God and His act of creation may be inferred by the evidence, it is not essential from a scientific perspective. As a needless complication it is simplest to leave God out of the evolutionary picture.

I suspect that this is generally done, and the godly perceive the godlessness of evolution as an inherent evil and so cast out the whole theory as ungodly and wrong.

The universe is today perceived as a much larger place than in the times that the creation model was first presented. Indeed, the universe as now perceived is a much larger place than when I was born. In the context of that smaller universe a literal creation story was sufficient for many, many generations. Today it may need just a little explanation to make that context clear.

It is not much different from sermons on the analogous relationship of faith and mustard seeds in a world where orchids are now relatively common.

Neither is the theory of evolution static. It is a piece of inductive reasoning subject to constant reassessment and revision. It is science, and that is the nature of scientific knowledge. Science is useful as a tool, but insufficient as a faith.

For me the human experience is dynamic and existential. The depth of my knowledge is insufficient to be absolute. The evolutionary model is beautiful. The creation model is equally beautiful, but quite different. I can experience each in turn, and recognize that they exist in the universe I inhabit.

Perhaps not a decisive conclusion, but an honest one and one I can live with.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


I am not a China scholar. However, with the advancement of China in the world economy I began watching a bit more closely. I read a history of China, to get background, perhaps a decade ago. At that time I made a prediction based on the long tradition in China of holding the merchant class in low esteem. I predicted a slow development into the world economy because of that prejudice.

I was wrong. China today is where I expected them to be in about thirty more years. They are advancing fast. I have not been surprised by the "communist" Chinese government embracing a form of capitalism and developing a stronger economy as a result. The Russian "communists" had a state capitalism that brought them rapidly into the world economy. The Chinese have done the same.

No, the real impediment I expected was the ancient prejudice toward the merchant class. I really don't know how the dynamics are working at the individual level, but China is a real economic force and moving fast.

What I expected to be a real issue for a repressive government has been the Internet. Though they try to contain the exchange of information and opinion, I expect the Chinese to fail. This article indicates that the erosion is progressing. It will be interesting to see what develops as more and more Chinese acquire ready access to information.

For other nations, such as our own, I see a progression toward reduced freedom. This will be the result of two factors. The first is population growth. Freedom necessarily diminishes with crowding. It is simply not possible to allow unrestrained freedom on an individual level when people are confined to small spaces.

The second factor is the nature of regulatory bodies such as governments. Regulators regulate, and they will naturally move toward greater regulation of societies. Mature and aging governments become choked with regulations due to this trend. Increased regulation will necessarily diminish individual freedom. Hence, as governments mature freedom naturally declines.

These last two are matters for another discussion. My point is that China is becoming progressively more interesting. This particular movement might be repressed, but it cannot now be done quietly. The world of the Internet is aware, and watching.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The American Waffle Party-

I truly do like the ideals of the Libertarian Party. However, it is true that they are not likely to get a high level representative elected. The two party system is deeply established and any other parties seem to draw suspicion on the part of the public.

The Libertarians have been inclined to compromise the more radical ideals in order to be a viable party. That may be necessary, but it is the radical change in government that I long for.

This last election I was compelled to vote for Obama. I do not care for the Democratic Party for the most part. I do not care for the Republican Party, either. Neither has demonstrated any real competence in managing the country. My vote for Obama was a vote for change. The Bush administration has taken us in a direction I do not support. Perhaps Obama will change direction.

This brings us to my proposition for a new Party. The Waffle Party. Members of the Waffle Party do not put forth candidates. There is no particular Waffle Campaign.

What do Wafflers do? They vote the incumbent out, each and every position in each and every election. Don't let them sit long enough to do anything.

Perhaps not much will get done under the influence of the Waffle Party, but at least nobody will be in power long enough to create a particularly large mess. Cleaning up after the incumbent will become the singular task of anyone elected.

So, vote the incumbent out. Waffle for a better America.