Archive for December, 2011

How To Convince Me To Vote for Your Guy

December 28, 2011

I’m a big Romney fan. I believe he, as president, will set our country on the best course possible. I appreciate the other candidates, some a lot more than others, and I believe most of them would make a good president and all of the republican candidates would be better than Obama. But to me, and for me, Romney would be the best.

If you’re a supporter of one of those other candidates, or if you’re one of the candidates yourself, let me clue you in to how I feel about the primaries and what would convince me to vote for your guy (assuming Romney doesn’t do something idiotic that would change my opinion of him.)

I believe there are a lot of people out there that do not support Romney but otherwise would simply for the fact that he is a mormon. There are a lot of people who would otherwise not support Romney but who do because he is a mormon. In both cases, we have a classic case of an absurd logical fallacy. People who demonstrate this logical fallacy show me that their opinion is all but worthless. So don’t try to play this card, ever, at all, or even hint at it.

This put Huckabee out of the running the moment he opened his mouth. Many people, particularly on The Gateway Pundit and on Free Republic are simply ignored by me because they suffer from this logical fallacy.

There are a lot of people out there who are simply misinformed or uninformed. That’s alright, we are all ignorant in one degree or another. However, those who are rash and make life-changing decisions without gaining a full understanding of the decision being made likewise are not trustworthy. I throw their opinion out the window.

If you call Romney a “flip-flopper”, you lose my attention. Ron Paul, you made that mistake, and it has cost you my potential support. Of all the other candidates, you may have been the one to earn my support, but now you won’t, because you’re clearly all-too-ready to jump on political bandwagons before considering their truth. Pretty much anyone who says Romney supports federal mandatory health insurance is in the same boat, along with those who claim that Romney “forced” “Romneycare” on the people of Massachusetts, or people who say Romney is pro-choice.

Now that we’ve discussed some of the things that will disqualify you, let’s talk about some of the things that will make me consider your opinion with seriousness.

One thing I like to see in a candidate and their supporters is a grasp of political reality. If you do not understand what it really takes to get elected president in this country, and if you cannot see why someone who completely agrees with you on everything cannot get elected, then you are really missing the boat. On the other hand, if you can say, “I disagree with this person on that, but I still support him,” then I know that you are aware of political reality, and I will pay close attention to what you have to say.

Even more so for people who understand political strategy and tactics and who behave intelligently! Gingrich probably scores highest on this scale, at least until he failed to get on the Virginia ballot. Perry fails in many regards, because he had a difficult time working Texas politically, even though hardly anyone disagreed with him! Romney, of course, walked the hardest walk a candidate alive today has ever walked, and performed brilliantly.

Another thing I like to see is someone who treats his political opponents with dignity and due respect. That is, it is perfectly reasonable to disagree with someone politically but still be kind and generous with them. It is this unique trait that made America possible in the first place. Romney is such a man. His political opponents have remarked at how kind and gracious he is, even to his worst political enemies. Tell me how you and your candidate is the same, and I will pay attention.

Something else I like to see is someone who can defend their positions and their ideas. This is not an easy thing to do. Many issues are not as simple as we wish they were. For instance, on homosexual marriage, it’s awfully hard to explain in 5 seconds why government should be involved with heterosexual relationships but not homosexual ones. (It takes about 5 seconds to even say the word “relationship” properly.) But what’s important is that you can do that, or at least say what you need to say in a clear and concise way. If there is some subtlety to your position, you should be able to make that clear. Romney, in his earlier years as a senate candidate in Massachusetts, would say that he wouldn’t overturn Roe vs. Wade despite his beliefs. This was a really, really good way of expressing his position, which is subtly different from vanilla “pro-life”and vanilla “pro-choice”. Of course, today, Romney does support overturning Roe vs. Wade, and so he simply says, “I am pro-life” because he agrees almost 100% with everything that means.

Finally, something I really, really like to see is someone who is open to new ideas. (New to them—not necessarily new to the world of ideas.) Does your candidate research issues relentlessly, calling on people from all sides of the spectrum on a topic, and debate the issue within their own mind? If not, I have no use for them. Romney has, of course, shown himself to be such a person. He is thoughtful and deliberate. If you want to see how Romney has grown in understanding, you only have to look closely at how he handled the issue of life and abortion.

Candidates and their supporters who demonstrate these abilities earn a lot of respect from me. I have always found Paul supporters to be somewhat articulate, politically savvy, and able to reason and argue. I don’t agree with a lot of what Ron Paul believes in, and I notice that not all of his supporters agree with him 100%, but we all realize we are not choosing someone to run for pope or king. Unfortunately, Ron Paul is attacking Romney with the same ignorant and idiotic argument that others have tried, which has all but completely turned me off to him as a candidate.

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A Fundamental Misunderstanding in the Greenhouse Effect

December 21, 2011

I’ve been searching the past few days for something, anything, that would hint at why people ignore basic thermodynamics in favor of the more complicated radiation models. I think I have finally stumbled upon it.

See, in space, a good way to determine how hot something is is to look at its radiation output. This spectrum can give you a sense of the total power output of the object, as well as its temperature.

In a simple model we can consider the earth in space as an object where the sunlight incident on the earth is either reflected or absorbed. If absorbed, we can assume radiative balance. However, you have to measure the complete spectrum of both the incident sunlight and the earth’s emissions. The two should balance because energy in should equal energy out (unless there is a source or a sink of energy in the earth.)

Of course, this isn’t precisely accurate. Some of the energy could go to plastic deformations of the planet, or a change in the chemical properties of the planet, such as melting or freezing snow. Some of the energy could be leaked to outer space through evaporation. Some of the energy could manifest itself in the changing magnetic field, or a change in velocity or position. There are an infinite number of ways the earth could hide energy from radiation detectors. Assuming earth doesn’t, or doesn’t do it very much, is why we can use radiation balance as a rule of thumb in the first place.

And this is where climatologists go wrong. They forget that this is only a rule of thumb that is useful when you have vast vacuums between the two objects. Climatologists stretch the above simple model into a complicated model of the earth and the layers of atmosphere between them. Then they have to pretend that the layers of atmosphere can only interact through radiation. Of course, this is completely wrong; the layers of atmosphere interact with each other through convection and conduction and mass transfer. In addition, the ground interacts with the air through conduction.

Trying to map all of these interactions is nigh impossible. I know a lot of people have done tremendous work to try and figure out how much radiation goes where, and things like that. Some people even seem to have answers that seem to match what we see in nature.

Of course, in thermodynamics, the type of interaction is irrelevant. You can just measure how well the material transfers heat (via all heat transfer methods), and then have the number you were looking for all along.

I propose this simple experiment: Measure the heat conductivity of air and air with CO2 doubled or even trebled. If you think radiation is so important, then control for that, or use a really big room, or a long tube. The numbers you measure under controlled circumstances in a laboratory will give you much greater precision than anything you can measure in the wild. Show me how different air and air with more CO2 behaves, then we can start a discussion. As far as I can tell, no one has performed an experiment like that that shows the Greenhouse Effect. In fact, all measurements point to “NO.” Theory and measurements are in agreement here: there is no measurable Greenhouse Effect.

Tyndall and others did measure how radiation and various gasses interact, which is supremely interesting. But he had to isolate every other heat transfer method before making his measurements, because the interactions were nigh undetectable otherwise. Thus, his work is irrelevant in determining how well CO2 conducts heat from the surface of the earth. If anything, it is testimony to how irrelevant considering the radiation alone is.

Climate Science has a long way to go before clearing the bar that would cause me to give up my “addiction” to oil or skepticism towards climate science. It’s not an impossible road to travel, but involves scientific integrity, something which simply does not exist in the climate sciences. It has been revealed far too many times that the actors involved are not acting with any sort of scientific integrity. The fact that they do not release the data they are using is a sign that something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Unlike climate scientists, I don’t shift the goalposts every time something new is found. I simply want scientific integrity, accuracy, and sound logic and reasoning.

Latest Thinking on Homosexual Marriage

December 16, 2011

The debate about homosexual marriage is really a debate about religion. The question is: should religious ideals guide our society at all?

The arguments in favor of homosexual marriage tend to center around discrimination. That is, those who support homosexual marriage tend to believe that either marriage is worth nothing at all (and thus we are free to redefine it at will), or marriage is worth something, but it is discriminatory and so should be modified.

To argue with the first point, I believe I can convince even a libertarian that marriage is critical to our society, and that government should play a role in it.  My reasoning is as follows.

  1. Society with government-endorsed traditional marriage does not harm anyone.
  2. Society without government-endorsed traditional marriage does harm people.
  3. Therefore, if we desire not to harm others, we will endorse government-endorsed marriage.

All I have to do is show harm, or lack thereof, and my point will be made. This is done by showing how, when government chooses to issue marriage licenses, it doesn’t hurt anyone who chooses not to get one. It doesn’t hurt anyone who chooses to get one either. It is an option that people are free to either participate in or not. It is up to them. There is no government force involved in issuing licenses.

What about the religious discrimination, that is, the endorsement of government for a particular religious point of view? Doesn’t this harm those who do not hold that religious point of view? There are two ways to attack this. One is by showing that it is not religious, per se, and the other is to find a religion that does not believe in marriage and see if such endorsement harms them. I think you don’t have to look very hard to find people who marry without religion at all. And I can’t imagine a religion that teaches against marriage that is offended by the practice. The closest are perhaps those churches which believe celibacy is the superior way of life. However, here, offering marriage licenses in no way discriminates against those who choose to remain celibate.

The same argument that homosexual marriage advocates use here works against them: If it is true that homosexual marriage does not affect traditional marriage, then it is also true that traditional marriage does not hurt homosexual marriage. You cannot use this argument and remain intellectually honest.

If there was government sanction against people who choose not to get married, then we can discuss that because that is obviously wrong. But that is not the case, and if it were, it is a different topic.

I think I have satisfied most people with my arguments, and my point holds: government endorsed religion hurts no one.

But just because it hurts no one is not good enough reason to do something. There must be a compelling argument to be made that by NOT doing something, injury is had. For instance, some libertarians argue that by not providing a military, or courts, or whatever government program they agree with, harm is done, and so it is in everyone’s mutual best interests to have government provide these things.

So I need to demonstrate that by not providing government-endorsed traditional marriage, we all would be injured.

Let’s start with the repercussions of marriage, and imagine what our life would be like without it. In discussing this, we cannot argue about sexual practices inside or out of marriage. Although I believe great harm is done to society and individuals when sexual relations are had outside of marriage, this is not the topic we are discussing. Instead, I focus on the issues of families and the law.

Government recognizing and endorsing traditional marriage has provided a common idea that is spread throughout our entire land. Despite the facts that different sects of religions teach different things about marriage, there is one unifying norm that is common. Without this, there would be great confusion and inconsistencies.

One of the ideas of marriage is that when you marry someone, you become their unique and only spouse. If government did not provide a registry of who married whom, it would be impossible to tell who is already married and who is not. This is a convenience, no different than requiring people to declare what legal structures they have setup. If you did not believe that government should require people to declare their legal structures, then you might not buy into this argument; if you do, then you must agree.

Marriage provides a default legal structure that is almost identical to what people’s assumptions are about marriage. Some states have slight differences, but largely it is consistent. If you marry someone, you intend to share your property with them, for instance. If you marry someone, you intend to leave your wealth to them if you die; you intend to give them joint-custody of the children that you conceive, etc, and etc…

Because of this legal framework, ignoramuses can get married and not require the expense to higher a lawyer to make sure all of their expectations are met. Surely the harm of requiring everyone who wants to get married to draw up a legal contract that outlines all of their expectations is enough that this requires government endorse marriage.

There is a lot of debate about what the ideal family structure is for our children. I think the majority of Americans admit that the best bet is a family of a loving father and mother, who have devoted themselves entirely to each other and the raising of the kids. Although not every family lives up to this ideal, many come close. By government providing the structure by which families are formed, and by government endorsing the highest ideal (and providing a legal framework to handle the worst cases), are we not better served as a society?

Consider the costs, then, of removing marriage as an institution from our society. Young people would be more reluctant to pay the cost to draw up a legal contract between their spouse, and would thus probably avoid the institution altogether, or rely on a set of pre-made documents that do not reflect the general sentiment of all people. If you wanted to see if someone was already married, you wouldn’t have a central database to check. The influence of government would not be used to create any sort of family, and also, we would lose the protections that we have for when people do not behave appropriately in a marriage and family.

I think you can imagine ways around all of the above problems, but it is evident that the costs of these workarounds is far greater than the efficiency and benefit of having government administer in the affair of marriage.

Now that I have defined traditional marriage as valuable, and shown that government should have a role in it, I will move on to the next argument I encounter. That is, that marriage is discriminatory and we should modify it to include homosexual relationships.

I cannot imagine why people think marriage is discriminatory. The common argument that, “Marriage discriminates because I love someone who I can’t marry” has never entirely made sense to me. Sure, there is an emotional appeal (who wants to stand between two people who love each other?) but it is based on the fiction that marriage is about love.

Marriage is not about love. It is about an agreement between two people, male and female, that they will work together to build a family. We know from history that many marriages were not about love at all. In fact, many lovers could not be married to each other, due to one reason or another, even though they were of the opposite sex. In this day and age, where the people with whom government allows you to have sexual relations with has nothing to do with marriage, why do you need marriage to proclaim your love anyway, in any form?

I think we live in an age where people have the false assumption that marriage and love are one and the same. This is simply not true, not today, not ever, and not in the future. Whom you love is completely independent of whom you choose to marry. If you only use love as your criteria for marriage, I beg you, reconsider! You are making a lifetime commitment to that person. If you base that off of fleeting passions, then you are doomed from the beginning! I guarantee you, one day you will wake up and be faced with the dilemma of you not loving your spouse that day. Is that grounds for divorce? Unfortunately, in some states, it is, which only reinforces this woefully sad understanding of marriage.

Now, let me try to help you understand why the limits of whom you can marry do not discriminate against the homosexual at all, let us consider a completely separate scenario. Let’s say you have a friend whom you trust and want to start a business with. The property of the business will only be owned by you and him, and you don’t plan on bringing in any other partners nor do you want to sell parts of your company in exchange for investment money. This sounds like the perfect example of a limited liability partnership, and indeed, your lawyers advise you to go with this legal structure. However, you protest! You want to form a sole proprietorship!

“But,” your lawyer responds, “a sole proprietorship is a structure designed when only one person owns the company. Since you want two owners, you want to form a partnership.”

“Well,” you shout back, “That’s discrimination! I won’t stand for it!”

“It doesn’t matter; that’s the law. You can’t have two owners in a sole proprietorship.” The lawyer coolly replies, attempting to soothe the mood.

Do you see how absurd this sounds?

The institution we call marriage is and has always been an institution between husband and wife. Asking for marriage to legally unite two males or two females is like partners trying to form a sole proprietorship. It is simply not the right institution for that relationship.

Now, many states have created the “civil union”, which is a legal institution that matches more closely what people want when they intend to “marry” a man and a man, or a woman and a woman.

Of course, many, if not all, of the benefits we extend to marriages extend to the civil union, so the argument cannot be made that there is any discrimination going on here. Nowhere in marriage or in civil unions is the sexual preferences of the people involved relevant.

Now, for those who want to change the institution of marriage to include homosexual relationships, let’s discuss the harm that will be done to others by doing so.

First, if you say that there is no harm to traditional marriage to offer the same institution to same-sex couples, then the converse is also true: There is no harm to you. Obviously, you don’t believe this, so this argument is absurd.

Now, let me demonstrate the actual harm that occurs.

One, religions cannot discriminate based on the sexual orientation of the people involved, but they can discriminate based on the institution involved. For instance, in adoptions, we cannot say, “Oh, we will not allow you to adopt this baby because your husband and wife are both men.” But we can say, “We will not adopt this baby to you because you are not married.” Religions that have a sincere belief that man-woman couples, united in legal marriage,are the ideal institution to raise children in, cannot act on that belief without crossing discrimination laws. So, by extending marriage to include homosexual relationships, you have prevented us from practicing our religion (which you are free to disagree with), or have forced us  to break the discrimination laws.

Two, government schools can no longer teach that marriage between man and woman is different and desirable. Instead, they are forced to teach us that homosexual relationships are just as good as heterosexual ones. Since we believe that this teaching damages us, we believe that that damages our society in real and lasting ways.

Three, consider our church, which believes that marriage between man and woman is ordained of God. If we were to teach that doctrine, then we would, rightly so, be considered as discriminating against the other people who enjoy marriage, if such a definition were to include homosexual relationships. I don’t think you understand what grave harm this is. Think of all the legal hurdles a church that would want to teach and advertise that blacks are subhuman would face, and then consider what we would face if we continued to teach and advertise that essential doctrine. If you believe that teaching that man and woman should be married is just as bad as teaching blacks are not fully human, then you are free to believe such. But injuring others for their beliefs? That is not what I hope you intend to do, because it shows gross religious discrimination.

I have not perfected all of these arguments, so they are subject to change. However, I do want to emphasize that it is entirely reasonable to oppose redefining marriage, and that it is a sentiment that is shared by a very large number of people.

I think when I engage in discussion on this topic, people who support homosexual marriage show a complete lack of civility. To them, arguments rely on passion, not reason. They also feel that others who disagree with them are stupid, or bigots, or full of hate. I can’t expect to change the mind of people who are so passionate and who lack reason in their thought process, but I will point it out to show how unreasonable their position is. If you are one of those who rely solely on passion to drive your political opinion, know that you too are unreasonable. We know what happens when we don’t temper our passions with reason, or at least, I hope we do.

So, in addressing my points, try to use the same dispassionate reasoning to make your case I tried to use to make my points.

Once again, I remind the reader that logical fallacies or polemics (combative tone) are grounds for me to not approve a comment. They are worthless and a waste of everyone’s time. If you have a particularly notorious example, I may show the public just so they can understand what people on your side are: In other words, I don’t think it will reflect favorable on your positions to try it.

Open Letter to TheNoize

December 14, 2011

A commenter on Digg called TheNoize asks:

I would assume religious freaks would WANT to see the christian cross broken and turned upside down – after all, it’s the torture device where Jesus was nailed and brutally killed. Why would anyone use that as a symbol of their love for Jesus? It’s completely nonsensical.

I reply:

You need to listen more to what Christians really believe.

Hint: Christ’s suffering is what makes our redemption possible. Why would we want to ignore that?

(Of course, my comment was buried because I didn’t represent the groupthink there, but that’s a different issue.)

In the interest of actually answering the sincere questions I believe TheNoize was asking, let me try to continue the conversation here.

There are several points of argument.

First, TheNoize asserts that Christianity is crazy.

Maybe you need to listen more to the clear indicators that christianity is coocoo and makes no sense in a world where science has figured out a lot more about the Universe than all religions put together.

My rebuttal is that if he thinks Christianity is crazy, then he doesn’t understand Christianity. Billions of people believe in Christianity, and they can’t all be insane. (Assuming, of course, that sane people tend not to believe insane things.)

He doubts my figures; very well, let me show them. The current best estimate is about 2.1 billion Christians. This is likely a lower figure than the actual number, because of the strictness of the data set. (reference: http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html)

He tries to assert that I used argumentum ad populum, which would be the case if I asserted that Christianity were true because billions of people say so. That wasn’t my assertion. My assertion was that it’s unlikely something is crazy is billions of people believe it, since the population who believes in it is likely not crazy.

I figure this matter is closed, unless he wants to continue discussing it. It’s up to him to show how Christianity can be considered crazy despite the fact that billions of people believe in it. His assertion that billions of people have been wrong is a good start, but there is still more work to do.

Second, he asserts that Christians “are the least educated people in physics, astronomy, chemistry and biology.” My rebuttal was that I have a BS in Physics, minor in Math, and consider myself a Christian. (Thus refuting that the “least educated” are Christians. I am certainly not the least educated person.) I figure this topic is closed, unless he wants to try and defend the assertion that “generally, Christians are less educated than non-Christians.” I’d be happy to take that topic on. I believe atheism is a religion for the intellectually lazy, so it would be a fun debate.

The next section deals with some of the ideas I have about Christianity and science and how they complement each other. I think he missed some of the ideas I have, and I owe it to him to see that he has a correct understanding of what I believe.

Point one: The fundamental assumptions of science.

Me: “Point one: The universe is ordered and logical because God said so. There can be no other reason, because then you have circular reasoning. Using logic and reason to prove logic and reason is circular reasoning. (The same applies in so many other sciences: you start with a basic assumption and then run with it. The correct set of assumptions are the assumptions God gives us.)”

TheNoize: The universe is by no means ordered and logical, according to science. It’s actually mind-blowingly chaotic, in ways no human can understand (our brains are structured to organize information in order to understand patterns, and use them to survive). It’s not by circular reasoning – it starts with no reasoning, just observation. “Seeing is believing”. But you’re right, religion departs from a dogma imposed by the church – science stars with objective observation, and then formulates theories, not according to a book – but according to measurable, observable reality. Doesn’t that sound more reliable to you?

There are really two kinds of chaos. One kind of chaos is the assumption that the universe is not governed by any logical laws. The other is the idea of logical chaos, ie, unpredictable and dramatically varying results based on minute changes to initial conditions.

I don’t believe that you believe that the universe follows no law. In fact I think you are arguing that what you observe does indeed reflect the nature of reality, and that experiments should be repeatable, with no time or space variance. (Meaning, the laws of nature don’t change based on your position in time or space.)

My original point is that science starts with the assumption that the universe follows laws, one of the first laws being that things must be logical, that we can observe reality, that our observations can be used to deduce the laws of nature. The predictions that science has made have been remarkably accurate, so much so that it is obvious to any observer that making these assumptions was a really, really good guess.

Note that this idea is new! Throughout history, mankind has not assumed that nature is a logical thing. Indeed, people have long assumed that violent, emotional gods governed the motions and processes of nature. It is only the religion of Christianity, which teaches that God follows logic, and that God rules the universe through logical laws, that modern science began. In other words, the assumptions that lead to science were directly from the teachings of Christianity.

In answer to TheNoize’s question, no, I don’t think what he believes in is more reliable.

Point Two: Science is the study of God.

Me: “Point two: Science is the study of the universe, or in other words, the study of God’s handiwork. By understanding the laws that God has set down and that govern the universe, you come to understand science. Hence, science is, originally, a uniquely Christian pursuit. All of the great founders of science were Christian who believed God wasn’t lying. I believe any scientist who is honestly pursuing truth, and willing to accept the truth no matter what it may be, is doing God’s work. (If only every scientist were an angel…)”

TheNoize: I partially agree, because a lot of scientists were religious in a time when almost everyone was.

If you’re trying to say that modern science developed in a time when men were generally Christian, not because of it, I will argue with you. The entire reason why science was developed into the form which we understand it today is because religious people, Christians, were trying to study and learn more about God and his Creation.

You can turn back the clock to many moments in history when science could have, and according to many atheists, should have, developed, but at each of those times it sputtered. Why? Well, you can invent one reason or another, but I believe it is because none of those cultures were dominated by a religion that not only believed in logic, but necessarily assumed that the universe conformed to this belief. In essence, without Christianity, modern science would never have been invented.

Point three: Science can only show facts, and cannot deliver absolute truth about explanations.

Me:“Point three: Science, at best, can only show facts. While we may invent explanations of those facts, we can never tell which explanation is true.”

TheNoize: Well, those facts are clarified by more facts. Explanations are based on facts – the more facts science discovers, the closer it gets to the real explanation, and therefore the universal reality.

Me: “Even if we recorded and documented every event in the history of the universe, we would never arrive at one obvious truth that describes everything.”

TheNoize: How do you know that?

I don’t disagree that more facts brings better explanations (by eliminating incorrect ones.) But I question where the end will be: At some future day will we possess all knowledge of the universe through observation and reason? I don’t think that’s a reasonable assumption. I’d challenge TheNoize to show why he thinks there is an end to knowledge, because as far as I can see, all signs point to infinite knowledge in the universe.

Imagine a sphere that represented all of human knowledge. The inside of the sphere is what we know, and the outside of the sphere what we don’t know. The surface of the sphere represents what we know we don’t know. As that sphere grows, will it ever envelop everything? No. We do know, however, as the sphere grows, our knowledge of what we don’t know yet increases.

I believe that knowledge is infinite, and that infinite knowledge can only be possessed by an infinite being, which we are not (in this mortal state.)

Me:“We use things like Occam’s Razor to prefer one explanation over another, but there is nothing that says that the simplest explanation must be the best.”

TheNoize: Occam’s razor only steps in when you’re truly confused about which explanation is more factual and makes more sense… That rarely happens in science. You usually have at least 1 theory that has been more supported – and historically, that theory is usually the one that ends up being true!

Unfortunately, I think some of your ignorance about scientific ignorance is showing. It is not the case that on the leading edge of science there is obviously one correct theory. As an example, can you count on one hand the number of perfectly reasonable GUTs? Not to count String Theory, with all of its variations.

Popular media would have you believe that evolution and the big bang are settled science, and that no reasonable person can disagree with these theories. If that’s the case, why are we still studying these things? There are countless variations on these theories alone, and any honest scientist who supports these theories knows this. Much of the details of these theories are known to be incorrect, and demand more understanding, theories, and experiments to clarify.

If we take a broader view, science has to exclude a ton of explanations because they are simply not testable. One explanation that science can’t work with is, “God wanted it that way.” If the universe were really ruled by the whims of an infinite being, then this could be the ultimate explanation. But science is powerless to determine if this is the case or not. How would you test to see if reality aligned with an infinite being’s whim of the day?

Me:“Explanations (theories) are either right or wrong, and that’s all we can really say. “Yes, it agrees with observations,” or, “No, it does not agree with observations.”

Isn’t that brilliant? That means you’ll only believe something if you have facts to back it up. How mentally sane and stable is that?

I don’t know how you made the jump from what I said to what you claimed I said. I’d need more explanation.

I would normally leave these kinds of arguments out of a reasonable discussion, but I want to help you understand why these kinds of remarks aren’t helpful, and certainly don’t reflect well on your attitudes to science. The word “polemic” is worth remembering. Normally, scientists immediately give up arguing the moment polemic enters the discussion. Be grateful I decided to continue the discussion despite your polemic.

Point Four: Science is not worthy of religious worship.

Me:“Point four: Science is an imperfect art, so the conclusions of science are no more worthy of worship than idols made of gold or stone. Only perfection (God) is worthy of our worship. Therefore, even if you could prove to me something that contradicted God’s word, I would say, “Yes, that’s what the evidence points to, but I still believe in God.” In other words, people who “believe” in science the same way I believe in God are worshiping dumb idols.”

TheNoize: Science is imperfect? How about religion? What’s more perfect? A castle solidly build out of facts, or a palace on a cloud of assumptions that were vaguely extracted from ancient, outdated scripture, that we have no evidence to be actually the word of a God?

(In response to point two, but really about this point.) But my question to you is: how do you cope when science finds things that are different than what religion found to be true? List of true discoveries that took a while (or are still taking) for religion to accept: round earth, earth not the center of the universe, earth orbiting the sun, bats not being birds, evolution and natural selection. I remind you that, before the church admitted their errors, it tortured and killed innocent people who defended the scientific truth, for hundreds of years. Doesn’t that make you sad? To be associated with such an institution?

A castle built on facts alone is a castle without a foundation. Why are facts a foundation? You cannot say with facts alone. You need something more to explain why facts are a valid building material.

Religion is not based on assumption. Or do you think Moses was assuming while God was conversing with him on the mount? Do you think Jesus was conjecturing when he spoke with authority and declared, “I only do that which the Father commands me to do.” Do you think I assumed that I knelt down in sincere prayer, and received a response from God?

Religion is based on simply believing what we are told by God, his book, and his prophets and messengers. If you believe, then you will act according to what you are taught. If the thing is truly from God, then it will be proved true, according to God’s word. If not, then you will know likewise.

When science teaches something contrary to religion, what do I do? I investigate what God’s word really says. I ask God what his opinion on the matter is. I put my trust in God, not my brains, not anyone else’s brains, or eyes, or machines, but God. I know that eventually, I will find a way to resolve the difference, either through a better understanding of who God really is, or a better understanding of what science really says. But my assumption starts with God, and ends with science, not the other way around.

It is possible for me, a person who believes evolution to be incorrect, to do scientific work in the realm of evolution. In a way, science is a game with rules. As long as you follow the rules (and worshiping the theories of science is not a rule!) you can play the game. Many scientists do this every day. In fact, I have seen scientists play both for and against their own theories.

Point Five: Science does not give me what my soul needs.

Me:“Point five: The parts of my life that are important are my soul, my happiness, and my eternal salvation. Science provides me no more comfort than a car or food. My soul hungers for the companionship of Deity, and science can never satisfy that.”

TheNoize: My soul finds awe and respect for the Universe in science, and that satisfies my spirituality. Spirituality and religion have been tied to the belief that YOUR beliefs are true and correct, eternally. What better, more fact-based faith can you have, besides science? The parts of my life that are important is my positive influence in the world, my happiness, and the people I love. You’re more focused on eternal salvation in your next life (that may or may not exist) than being a good man in this world? I don’t think that’s very positive, or moral, or ethical.

Here, you’re making the fallacy of what’s good enough for you is good enough for me. You also don’t understand what all my religion entails, so you can’t render a judgment on whether I need it or not.

Me:There is so much more to life than the universe around us. We are more than meatbags that happen to have interesting electrical patterns in our skulls. Science doesn’t tell me that.

TheNoize: Sure, there’s philosophy. Why are we here? What’s our purpose? Science seeks answers to answer, ultimately, those questions as well. We don’t know the answer yet, because we don’t have enough information. That doesn’t mean we have to assume it’s all in the good book, and stop caring for studying our universe. That would be insane. Meat bags? Sure, we’re meat bags – but isn’t it amazing how we evolved out of single cell organisms and protein chains that started replicating in the primordial seas? It doesn’t seem like it was god – it seems like it was the universe itself, and we’re merely a part of the way it works. Why? Nothing can tell you that, because no one knows the truth. Religion can pretend to give you the truth – and you can believe in it 100% – but that doesn’t mean it’s the truth! If you know history (and philosophy), you still have to include the possibility that you’re believing in lies.

“Science seeks answers to answer, ultimately, [the questions of why we are here and what is our purpose] as well.” Unfortunately, no, this is not in the realm of science. I challenge you to find a scientist who believes that science can answer these questions. I doubt you could even put these questions in scientific terms, as a testable hypothesis or theory.

“Isn’t it amazing how we evolved out of single cell organisms and protein chains that started replicating in the primordial seas?” Unfortunately, I do not share your belief that this is where we came from, and even if I did, what would be more “amazing” is the powers of the infinite that have created the universe moved to create mankind in his own image. The product of lifeless processes are not amazing. They just are.

“Nothing can tell you that, because no one knows the truth.” Here’s where you’re wrong. If you assume no one knows the truth, then why bother? We’re all wrong. I assume that there are people that know the truth, and they are the people who are able to gather the truth from God himself.

“Religion can pretend to give you the truth.” False religion can absolutely pretend to do anything, kind of like the science religion you preach. True religion is based on truth, and truth alone, and does not need to pretend to be anything.

“If you know history (and philosophy), you still have to include the possibility that you’re believing in lies.” You think I am ignorant of this? Honestly, who do you think you are talking to? One of the points I hope I inspired you to consider is that there are other people with different ideas who may be just as smart as you. I would hope someone of your intellectual capacity would realize that just as you are smarter than others, there are people smarter than you. And just as there are smart people who have different ideas, then there are smarter people who have different ideas.

But to answer your question, the very, very first doctrine any Christian must adopt is the doctrine that allows them to see truth from error (or lies.) What gives them the power to do this? Their connection to God, and his personal revelation to them through the Holy Ghost. If you spent more than a few moments reading what Jesus actually taught, and how his disciples actually learned, you would know this.

Now that I have thoroughly explained to you how a sane person can believe in Christianity and be a scientist, the ball is in your court. You can apologize for your polemic and grow up and acknowledge that there are people smarter than you who do not think the way you do, and you can begin attacking Christians on the things they actually believe, rather than the things you wished they believed. Or you can persist in ignorance, although I imagine you would think less of someone who did so.

Appreciating Roger Williams

December 8, 2011

I stumbled upon the history of Roger Williams almost by accident. I had bought A Patriot’s History for my own study. At the time, I was most interested in the years between Teddy Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge. I wanted to appreciate more why Ronald Reagan chose Calvin Coolidge as his political mentor. I all but ignored the nation’s founding, content in the understanding I had already developed.

I decided to pull my children out of school this year, because of the local teacher’s union strike. Not only was it unlawful, but a judge ordered them back to the classrooms in plain English, an order they claimed they could not understand. At the same time the teacher’s union representative was telling us that he was practicing what he taught the children — to fight against bullies (as if the taxpayers and parents and administrators in Tacoma were bullies, and as if there really was a policy to encourage children to fight back (there wasn’t). I decided that no union teacher deserved to fill my young children full of ideas, especially if they could not appreciate the truth, the law or a court order, and set their union up in opposition to the very people they were supposed to serve.

However, I do not believe in “free range” education anymore than you can cultivate a beautiful garden by letting it run wild. I had a strict regimen for my children, consisting of plenty of reading, plenty of writing, and plenty of math. On the side were history and scientific pursuits. I find they can accomplish more work in 2 or 3 hours, than they would accomplish in an entire week at school, even spending 2-3 hours a night with them completing their homework.

So it was that I assigned my oldest son, 10-year-old Archie, to read a page or so from A Patriot’s History, and write brief summaries about what he read.

When we reached the story of William Bradford, I asked him to write a short report on the man. He did, and it was terrible. So I read about William Bradford, and admired him for the great sacrifices he made.

On the next page, I read briefly about Roger Williams, a man who stood opposed to William Bradford’s views on almost everything. So I assigned my son to read about Roger Williams, and write a short report about why he is so important in history. This report was much better, although it missed some key elements I had hoped he would find. In expounding this to my son, we talked about some of the things Roger Williams did in detail. Soon, I was engrossed in his history.

After reading about Roger Williams, I am impressed to say that he was the first Mormon in America. Indeed, searching “roger williams mormon” uncovers a number of interesting links. Mormons universally appreciate Roger Williams, and quote him frequently. Our apostle, Elder Holland, claims him as his tenth great grandfather. He is found in our Sunday School material, alongside Wycliffe and Luther, as revered names who will be forever remembered as a critical component to the restoration of the gospel.

I believe Roger Williams represents the view that many early Mormons had, and explains why they clung so quickly and so faithfully to Joseph Smith. They were looking for a man like Joseph Smith, and had been studying to be ready to identify him when he came. Those who knew scriptures knew what Joseph Smith was, in the same way people who knew the scriptures knew who Jesus was when he walked the earth, even when his disciples would try to hide his identity.

I say “know” the scriptures because I find there are two types of people in this world. Those who read the scriptures, see the words, and understand that they carry some meaning; and those who read the scriptures and are filled with the spirit of God, and uncover treasures of knowledge that cannot be found by a study of the letters and words alone.

In effect, I believe Joseph Smith and the early saints bled America dry of these people who thirsted for the spirit and knew enough to recognize it when they tasted it. As they left the United States to colonize the desolate land of the Great Salt Lake, they took with them a large proportion of the spiritual heirs to Roger Williams.

Rewind a few days in my life, and I was up in the south end of Seattle at a Bible study. (For those of you familiar with LDS faith, we do not do Bible studies, at least not in the way our Christian friends outside of the church do.) I listened for over an hour to a man expound the scriptures and give the most beautifully simple sermon on Latter-day Saint doctrine. He explained, with conviction, power, and authority, the basic doctrines of the LDS church, including a summary of the structure of the church, a structure which still amazes me in its simplicity, brilliance, and utter impossibility were it not for the direction of the spirit. (That is a lesson for another day.)

To those who are “church watchers” or critics or who are trying to find fault, I pity you. If you look for the bad among the membership of our church, you will find it, probably in every one who is a member of our church, without exception. We freely admit that we, as individuals, not perfect, but full of faults, and we confess and forsake our faults when we can, according to the doctrine of repentance. We strive to be better every day than we were the day before last. We fail sometimes, but we succeed as well.

If you are finding fault with the structure of the church, or our doctrine, or our belief in revelation, then you are finding fault with God, and you align yourself against all that is good and holy and honorable and just and merciful. There is no easy way to put that. If you feel some degree of darkness slip into your heart when you do this, if something inside of your heart and mind cries out in pain as you do this, then you know for a fact that you are assaulting that which is good and honorable. You have every right to do this. God gave you your life and your time on this earth so that you can be free to do what you wish with your agency, but that doesn’t erase the fact that one day, you will have to stand before God, with a perfect recollection of all your guilt, and confess that all his ways are just and merciful. If you do not believe what I say is true, ask God right now, in all sincerity and humility if he will not judge against you in the last day for finding fault with the church. I trust that God will answer in the way that is appropriate for you.

Roger Williams lived, as best as I can tell, according to his conscience. From day one, he was willing to sacrifice his own life for pursuing that which he knew in his heart was true. Every step forward was plagued with all manner of trouble and affliction, but isn’t that what Christ promised his disciples?

That’s the kind of perspective that Roger Williams had. He was, in my mind, the first modern Mormon to set foot on this continent. I cannot deny that he was sent by God, and inspired by Him, and laid the groundwork not only for our nation but for our church.

More importantly, those who claim a faithfulness to the idea of a separation between church and state, should pay their honor and homage to Roger Williams, and the faith and doctrine that lead him to proclaim such. After all, Roger Williams found that the separation of church and state was a doctrine of the gospel of Christ, much more than just a good idea.