18
May
14

A Life Worth Living

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I dropped my daughter off for a cousin play date at my brother-in-law’s house one March afternoon. Every time I see my brother-in-law, Peter, he insists on a hug, but he didn’t initiate one this time. I thought it was odd, but I’m not at all the affectionate type so I let it go. I certainly wasn’t going to initiate a hug, THAT would be way too WEIRD. I said goodbye to my little girl and turned back to my van to drive home.

That was the last time I ever saw my brother-in-law…the very last time I would ever see him, this side of heaven. A month later he died suddenly from natural causes.

REALLY wish I had that last hug.

On April 6, just days before Peter’s death, Dr. Rogers preached a sermon on John 4:27-42, about the ripe harvest and the urgency for evangelism. We tend to be lazy and think we have the whole rest of our lives to share the gospel. It isn’t until someone is old or sick and near their death that we finally get serious about evangelism. Truth is we don’t know what time we do have and the Bible tells us the time is NOW! We may not have another 30-40+ years ahead of us to share the gospel.

Peter died at an age many would consider too young—32. He left behind his dear pregnant wife with whom he was very happily married, and a 4-year-old son. It is a tough blow that stunned all of us. I am thankful for Peter’s solid faith in God and I am thankful for his example. Indeed he didn’t miss an opportunity to share his faith with others he met. He didn’t put it off until the eleventh hour.

At the hospital while we were awaiting the results of the EKG, Peter’s father-in-law commented that he never met a man like Peter—he would always talk about God, and he really enjoyed life. “Everything he talked about, he talked about with zeal.” It’s true, it didn’t matter what the subject was, nothing bored Peter.

Peter truly cared about others. As I said earlier he always insisted on a hug, and his was not a weak embrace—it was a firm and hearty hug. Walking in Philippians 2:4, he put others before himself. He was a servant—offering to help however he could, just to make another one’s life a little easier. He often pushed the swing for my daughter, so that I could have a break. I never asked for it, he just would take over. It’s the little things. He listened to you without interruption. He spoke tenderly and truthfully. He loved others deeply as 1 Peter 4:8 calls us to do—a love that originates only with Christ. You couldn’t know Peter and not also encounter the God he worshiped and loved.

I never grieved for anyone like I have for Peter. (Although my being pregnant may contribute to the emotions.) It doesn’t help either that I missed that last hug. You don’t really know what you have until you lose it. In a very small way, Peter’s death gave me a faint understanding of John 16:7. Obviously I do not intend to say that Peter’s spirit indwells or counsels me by any means. But his influence on me is greater after his death than it was beforehand. I had shamefully taken him for granted (as I do everyone—I never did very well at loving others). Now I aspire to the example that Peter lived, to love others and to share the gospel freely—for the glory of Christ. I fail miserably in these things—I am entirely dependent on the Lord for his grace.

I don’t intend to place Peter on some pedastool or romanticize his life. I am well aware that Peter was human, he wasn’t perfect. I knew him during some of his adolescent years—a rather dark and worrisome period of his life. But the Lord had a hold on him and his transformation is undeniable. God’s light shined brightly in his life.

Across the back of his forearms, Peter had these words tattooed: “Where, O Death, is thy sting. Where, O grave, is thy victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:55) Amen!

Our pastor is currently preaching through Philippians, noting how the apostle Paul desired to exalt Christ in all of his life AND in his death. Peter’s life definitely gave testimony to how great Jesus is and his death brought even further glory to Christ.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” –Jim Elliot

All glory and praise to God.

07
Aug
10

Dawkins on hold

I regret that I do not take more time to post more frequently. I apologize for the long silences. I desire to continue in my reading The God Delusion, but currently have neither the book nor the TIME to commit to the reading/studying/writing. I plan to return to Dawkins…sooner or later (hopefully sooner). Right now, most of my current reading is about baby food, nutrition, toddler development, discipline (look it up) and of course children’s books–stuff that is mostly too boring to write about here. For now, the most I can do is offer random posts about my own boring observations and thoughts, or publish things I’d previously written for other purposes.

15
Mar
10

Fair Is Fair, Right?

I recently obliged to a jury duty summons. Upon reporting the first morning everyone had to complete a simple questionnaire. One of the questions asked whether we had any religious, ethical, or moral beliefs that would hinder us from maintaining fair judgment on a trial. Check yes or no. I didn’t quite know how to answer. I wasn’t even sure what the question was asking.

Do they want to know whether I have any “moral, ethical or religious beliefs?” Who DOESN’T? (Or who doesn’t at least hold some kind of “right and wrong” doctrine.)

Do they want to know whether these beliefs could hinder us from keeping a fair mind? How can they not?? Certainly they at least effect our opinion of what “fair” is.

WHAT IS FAIR??

That was the begging question in my head. I was stuck. I wanted to know by whose definition of fair I should answer the question. I can’t believe that we all could have the same standards of justice. It seemed like an impossible question to answer. Maybe I was obsessing over the word too much, but I was not going to pretend to know what “fair” is.

Of course I have religious, moral, and ethical views—-so does everybody to some degree. Of course my views effect my idea of what is fair—-that’s true for everybody too. How can anyone check no? Yet there is a “no” check box. The question assumes that the answer could for some be negative. Was I misunderstanding the question? Afraid I may be thinking about it way too much, I checked yes and moved on.

For the next couple days I waited in the hallway outside the juror’s lounge, trying to read but unable to concentrate. (I scarcely have the time to read at home and here I had two full days to waste and couldn’t turn a page. How aggravating!) Two seats to my left sat a woman who seemed to have a strong personality.  She liked to talk. Her voice could be heard the entire corridor. She talked to no one in particular, just anybody who’d give her their attention. She started out boasting how she tries to do one good deed everyday.

“But not to my kids” she quickly specified. “I don’t do good deeds for my kids. They don’t deserve it.”

(Is it a “good deed” if it is deserved?) I kept my mouth shut and let the woman proceed with her ramblings.

“My kids are annoying.” she went on. “My daughter doesn’t think I can hear her. She’s always yelling—-right in my ear too! My son is mean. He’s always shoving his sister and pushing her down. My boy is seven and my girl is four. He’s always pushing her down. So I push him down! Fair is Fair, Right?” She exclaimed, inviting our laughter. “He’s bigger than his sister and he pushes her down. I’m bigger than him, I push him down. Fair is Fair!” She thought herself so clever.

Some of the jurors chuckled or at least smiled at her logic. Was I the only one listening? Do they really think this woman’s logic is funny—-or were they simply amusing her? I was the ‘Angela Martin‘ in the room—-while everyone else smiled, I kept a somber face with a conscious effort to not show any scorn.

I understand my ‘sweet, adorable’ little girl will not always be ‘sweet and adorable’.  Someday she will be seven—-though I won’t need to wait that long before she begins to pull stunts to test my boundaries and push my buttons. And my reactions to my daughter’s behavior will not always be just or effective or good.

But this woman’s rationale disgusted me. I don’t know…if I were a seven-year-old and I shoved my little brother or sister, and my mom responded to my behavior by echoing it…I think I would learn that shoving is okay–after all, mom does it!. And I probably wouldn’t learn any other way of resolving conflict. I’d grow up to be an immature brat who gets what I want by shoving others around. There are enough “grown up” immature brats already. I wanted this woman to consider what she was modeling for her son but I dared not open my mouth. I’m a very new first-time mom who knows better than to share her inexperienced opinion.

The woman’s statements confirmed for me that human ideas of  ‘fairness’ are indeed flawed. Fair is fair, right?

Who knows what fair is—-already I met another juror who differs from me on the subject. Remembering the stumbling question on the questionnaire, I knew I’d checked the right box. The answer can only be yes. My guess, however, is that the woman checked “no” to the same question. Impossible.

There is only One who judges perfectly. There is only One who is truly just.

I don’t believe I over-analyzed the question. Maybe the people who wrote the question should give it more thought.

14
Jun
09

New Beginnings

09

My husband and I  have recently become  new parents with the birth of our daughter. I love being a mom, even with its challenges. It is amazing the tremendous joy and fulfillment our little girl brings. As a new mom, I have less time for reading and blogging…and whatever time I do have for reading, I page through mothering books. Not sure how often I will write here or even what form my posts will begin to take in this new chapter of my life. But I do not plan to disappear from the blogosphere completely.

(I also had to return Dawkins to the library, so I don’t know when I’ll ever pick up on him again.)

31
May
09

The Anthropic Fantasy–part 1

Professor Dawkins notes that creationists are eager to find gaps in the evolution process, where scientific evidence is lacking for Dawrin’s theory, and then argue from there that God (as if by default) must be the creator and designer behind complex life. Dawkins sees this as a lack of imagination (The God Delusion, 128).

Lack of Imagination?? (Wouldn’t an atheist, from their naturalist perspective, normally accuse a creationist—who believes in ‘crazy’ Bible stories and miracles—of having TOO MUCH imagination?) This is very interesting.

Dawkins introduces the anthropic principle to address the large gap between the origin of life and the process of natural selection. When we apply this principle to explain the origin of life, we observe and appreciate all the many precise details that need to come into play in order for life to happen. Dawkins describes a number of these particulars…our distance and orbit around the sun, the gravitational force of Jupiter to grab threatening asteroids that would otherwise destroy us, etc (135-136). To the question “Why do I exist on Earth?” the anthropic principle notes that the very asking of the question requires that we first of all exist, and the fact of our existence on Earth shows that Earth is friendly to our kind of life. The answer: “We exist on Earth because Earth allows for our existence.”

Dawkins presents the anthropic principle as magical statistics.

It has been estimated that there are between 1 billion and 30 billion planets in our galaxy, and about 100 billion galaxies in the universe. Knocking off a few naughts for reasons of ordinary prudence, a billion billion is a conservative estimate of the number of available planets in the universe. Now suppose the origin of life…really was quite a staggering improbable event. Suppose it was so improbable as to occur on only one in a billion planets….even with such absurdly long odds, life would still have arisen on a billion planets—of which Earth, of course, is one (138-139).

Between 1 and 30 billion planets? I find it truly amazing that anyone can even begin to count them. And to count GALAXIES even! Napoleon, like there’s anyway you can even do that. Pull a number out of hat, then “knock off a few naughts”…and what do we have? A made up number that means NOTHING!

After we find our magic number we can start supposing things. Let’s suppose really ridiculous odds for the origin of life, (but not odds so ridiculous that it would be unreasonable).  Let’s keep the statistics generous enough to support evolution or else our theory will fail. Where are they coming up with these fantastical variables?

Abra Kadabra and BANG! (cue poof of smoke) we exist! Is this really science?? Or is it fantasy? I can see now why Dawkins would accuse the creationist of lacking an imagination.

It gets even more confusing. After first refusing to acknowledge chance for the reason we are here, the theory of evolution necessitates pure LUCK to initiate life. Are we going in circles here?

We can deal with the unique origin of life by postulating a very large number planetary opportunities. Once that initial stroke of luck has been granted—and the anthropic principle most decisively grants it to us—natural selection takes over: and natural selection is emphatically not a matter of luck (Dawkins, 140).

Why do we exist? No reason…it just happened, that’s all. Lucky for us.

I am having a terrible time taking this seriously…maybe I lack imagination. Either I seriously misunderstand this theory or it really is a fantasy.

18
May
09

Eternal Evolution?

Irreducible complexity is the notion that a mechanism is so complicated and complete, that if any part of its whole were missing, it would not be able to function (The God Delusion, 122). Two common examples for this argument are the eye and the wing. Many creationists would claim that a partial eye or a fraction of a wing would be useless (123-124).

Dawkins disagrees with these two examples, bringing to attention the flatworm, whose eye is apparently less evolved than the human eye and can only detect shadows and light (124). While giving no real examples of creatures with partial wings, Dawkins rationalizes that a fraction of a wing—though not as good as a whole wing—is still functional.  There is always a height from which a winglet can save you from a fall (123). (I find this logic somewhat silly.)

I am not going to pretend to know the anatomy and complexity of these or other organs. I couldn’t tell you one way or another whether an organ is irreducibly complex.

Dawkins admits that irreducible complexity would destroy Darwin’s theory of evolution:

The creationists are right that, if genuinely irreducible complexity could be properly demonstrated, it would wreck Darwin’s theory. Darwin himself said as much: ‘If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find no such case.’ (Dawkins, 125)

For some reason Dawkins believes irreducible complexity would be likewise as lethal to the intelligent design theory (125). I can’t figure out why. I should think irreducible complexity is absolutely necessary!

Complexity must either be infinitely reducible, so that we never reach a beginning in which case natural selection becomes an on-going (everlasting?) series of effects, with no definite initial cause. (And this would seriously contradict science in the law of causality.) OR there must ultimately be an actual eternal existence that has no beginning and has no end—whose complexity indeed is irreducible. Neither option is very accommodating to the theory of evolution.

Evolution only works within the construct of time. Dawkins already explained the cumulative process of natural selection. Over so many ‘billions’ or ‘trillions’ of years (far, far less than forever), we’ve supposedly evolved from the same primary life form. Wouldn’t that very first building block have to be irreducibly complex? If there is no end to the reducibility of complexity, then how do we dare frame the process of evolution within a supposed span of time?—(and so short a time at that.) The process of natural selection would go back forever. It would be eternal. This theory doesn’t make sense.

The origin of life must be BOTH eternal AND irreducibly complex if it is to initiate the whole process of natural selection. If neither of these attributes are present in the origin of life, then it remains nothing more than an effect. And we know that an effect cannot exist without a cause. There MUST be an ultimate cause.

We may not agree about who or what the ultimate cause actually is, but we certainly need to recognize the necessity of irreducible complexity and eternal existence.

I believe the ultimate cause is the eternal God, Creator of all things–including time. He is the source of life and is certainly irreducibly complex. Regardless of whether we acknowledge him as our Lord and Maker, we cannot exist without of him. Remove the cause and you remove the effect.

The creationist’s determination to hunt for irreducible complexity and other such “gaps” between stages of evolution seems to really annoy Dawkins. I guess this determination is not so different than the atheist’s obsession to spotlight holes in Scripture in order to find it unreliable. (Dawkins demonstrated this obsession himself in just the previous chapter.) This is NOT annoying. This is good! If there are holes in the ship wouldn’t we sure want to know about them? It is GOOD to critique and examine an argument, to be sure it is solid. Otherwise, you might find yourself on a sinking vessel.

10
May
09

Improbabilty or Chance

I am struggling to understand the difference between chance and statistical improbability. It is very apparent that there must be a critical distinction between the two concepts, because Richard Dawkins writes a number of paragraphs on the common mistake that creationists make—referring to chance as the only alternative to design (The God Delusion, 119-121). Other atheists get worked up on the choice of words as well. They prefer the word improbability instead of chance. If the distinction is important to the atheist, than it is important for the creationist to understand the difference. I have yet to understand what that distinction clearly is, and so far I have not received a clear explanation. I looked up the following words in the dictionary. Will someone please explain to me the difference?

chance

3. The possibility or probability of anything happening: a fifty percent of chance.
4. An opportunity or favorable time; opportunity: now is your chance

prob⋅a⋅bil⋅i⋅ty

1. the quality or fact of being probable
4. statistics

a. the relative possibility that an event will occur as, expressed by the ratio of the number of actual occurrences to the total number of possible occurrences.
b. the relative frequency with which an event occurs or is likely to occur.

im⋅prob⋅a⋅bil⋅i⋅ty

1. the quality or condition of being improbable, unlikelihood.
2. something improbable, unlikely

My High School class graduated with no deaths, barely. In our senior year, one classmate had suffered very serious injury in a devastating car wreck. He was given one percent of one percent chance of survival. You wonder how on earth he even lived. The theme of our yearbook that year was ‘I survived’ in honor of him. Somehow (miraculously?) he was even able to walk the stage to receive his diploma at graduation. You can imagine the applause.

If a doctor states that a patient, given his condition, stands a fifty percent chance of survival, is that not a statistical answer? While knowing the calculated odds, does it not ultimately rest on uncontrolled chance? And if the patient does survive, while much to his own advantage, would it not be commonly esteemed a strike of tremendous fortune, or luck? (or from the creationist’s perspective…tremendous providence.)

The statistical improbability of complex life emerging and thriving as we observe it on earth, is said to be too impossible to be given to chance. Considering no other alternative, the creationist insists that their must be a master mind behind everything, and that master mind is God. Dawkins insists on natural selection as an alternative to chance (121). Natural selection, according to Dawkins, is a series of relatively improbable events, which in accumulation add up to an immensely improbable phenomenon–one that is too impossible to be given to chance.

…natural selection is a cumulative process, which breaks the problem of improbability up into small pieces. Each of the small pieces is slightly improbable, but not prohibitively so. When large numbers of these slightly improbable events are stacked up in a series, the end product of the accumulation is very very improbable indeed, improbable enough to be far beyond the reach of chance (Dawkins, 121).

The best I can understand this is to relate it to the lottery game where you have to match eight winning numbers. I don’t play the lottery, but they run these lucky numbers in the evening News….Eight glass chambers each with twenty-five ping-pong balls numbered between 1 and 100 bouncing around inside, awaiting their release. One by one, a lady would release one ball from each chamber. When I was little I used to guess the numbers before they came out. Twelve! (I had a 1% chance of guessing correctly on each one.) Seven! (One out of one hundred chance to get it right.) Sixty-three! (Every turn got more suspenseful) Fifty-one! (Four down four to go!) Eighty-four! (Oh boy!) Fifty-one! (Mom, come quick! So far, I guessed all the numbers correctly!) Nineteen! (One more!) Forty! (I did it! I did it! I guessed them all right!)

I DID infact guess them all right once. A freak chance. My guesses were completely random, as were the resulting winning numbers. A 1% chance of guessing the winning number correctly eight times stacks up to be a highly improbable outcome, but not too improbable. I was just downright lucky. (Of course this is a very small scale illustration when discussing the origin of life. But I am only trying to understand the concept of natural selection at this point.)

Does this accurately summarize the concept of natural selection? How is Natural Selection too far beyond the reach of (freak) chance?

Right now, this all feels like a game of numbers and words, perhaps even a house of cards. What am I missing?




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