Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Basic Income: Good, Better, Best

February 24, 2017

I sometimes play a game of “good, better, best”. The “best” represents the ideal, the thing we should all strive for. “Good” and “better” represent more likely outcomes or compromises.

No one seems to disagree that whatever the US is doing regarding poverty, we are terrible at it. It has created a nation of dependents who have little freedom. We have perverse incentives, rewarding people for bad behavior and punishing them for good behavior. For instance, if you go out and earn a little money, you lose even more money in benefits. We also have vast hordes of power-hungry bureaucrats who torment our people with pointless regulations and insincere bloviations about how good they are for helping the poor when in reality they are just trying to earn a little more money just like every one else.

Basic Income can be a “good” or “better” outcome, if we let it.

Here’s where I’m willing to compromise.

I’m willing to implement Basic Income in the United States, even though it is not the ideal, if you’re willing to abolish all the welfare bureaucrats and bureaucracies. Just write a check each month to each individual of the United States, and let those who want to cash it, cash it, but eliminate every bureaucrat who wants to govern how that money is spent.

I’m also willing to allow you to do that especially if you eliminate the Federal Reserve and have congress just print the money itself.

I am not willing to compromise on taxes, unless you want to eliminate all of them. Don’t even think about increasing taxes to find the money to add Basic Income to the bloated welfare bureaucracy. I won’t stand for it as it is no compromise at all.

The “best” that I strive for is:

  • No taxes
  • No Federal Reserve
  • Very little regulations, weights and measures, and that’s pretty much it.
  • No welfare, not even a little bit.

In that system, everyone would get rich overnight, and the government would have so much money they wouldn’t be able to spend it fast enough.

But I understand why you don’t believe me. We’ll see.

I am willing to let you have Basic Income if you let me get rid of the Federal Reserve and all federal welfare. Deal?

Why the Stock Market is Going Up

February 24, 2017

Liberals don’t want to admit this, but President Trump is one of the best things to happen to America, economically speaking. We’re having to look back to the 80’s and earlier to find comparable examples.

Economics isn’t a hard field to understand. Once you get that it’s made up of a bunch of actors who are simply trying to make the most money they can, you can see what effect economic policies have.

For instance, in a free market, where people can buy, sell and trade as they like, you would get the maximum increase in wealth. Wealth is defined as people having the things they want, and cannot be measured in terms of dollars or anything like that, since people don’t necessarily want dollars: they want the things and services dollars can buy. It’s easy to see why, when people are free to buy and sell and trade they end up with more of what they want than any other system.

In the United States, we don’t have a free market and we certainly don’t have anything close to it. You might find free-er markets in other parts of the world. But as far as it goes, we’ve got it pretty good, and as long as you have a good lawyer and tax advisor, you can make pretty good decisions. You’ll quickly find there are four big things that hold you back from getting everything you want, though.

  1. Technology. Or rather, the lack of fantastic technologies. I want flying cars, right now! But more importantly, technology changes the rules of production. Every technological advance means more options to make things better or more cheaply.
  2. Foreign trade, or restrictions on it. There are things in Japan and Germany and China that I want, but I am not free to bring them here, and that means I get less of what I want. It also works the other way: There are people in Japan and Germany and China who want my stuff and my services, but they are not able to get it, at least not at a decent price.
  3. Taxes. Taxes literally increase the price of everything, oftentimes making certain things unprofitable and thus completely shutting down huge sections of our potential economy.
  4. Regulations, the bad kind, the kind that businesses don’t want. These regulations don’t make trade and commerce regular, they outright forbid it.

These things are easy to fix, if we simply had the stomach to fix them.

  1. Technology is often limited by pointless regulations. You can see for yourself as Uber battles local cabbies for permission to do what should be every person’s right. My wife asked me a few days ago why she can’t buy a new car online, and I explained there are similar stupid regulations that say you must buy from a dealership. These kinds of things, and a million more, make innovation difficult if not impossible.
  2. Trade barriers only hurt people, moreso the people they were designed to help. Although President Trump is no free-trader, his proposals aren’t really that radical and don’t really change much.
  3. Taxes are literally killing our economy because we are one of the most heavily taxed countries in the world, and we spend a fortune trying to comply with tax regulations. An overhaul here is long overdue, and hopefully, a dramatic lowering of the tax rate, which should dramatically increase tax revenue as less money is spent on compliance and more flows into the government’s coffers.
  4. Regulations are literally the stranglehold on our economy. Any hint of lightening the regulatory burden is great news for innovators and most businesses, even the regulations that are supposed to grant semi-monopoly powers to big corporations.

President Trump has signaled a willingness and the willpower to overhaul the tax code and dramatically reduce regulations. Although he is on the wrong side of the trade issue, his ideas are really not all that bad, and in some cases, might improve our situation making the US an even more central hub to world trade. What President Trump cannot control is innovation in technology, but reducing regulations should free the economy to innovate on its own. Certainly, throwing mountains of cash at government-sponsored technology programs has lead to very little real innovation, as history has shown time and again.

The fact that the stock market is rising, so rapidly and so strongly, is a sign that people are pouring money into the market. This is because they would rather have their money there rather than anywhere else. While some of this might be fueled by erroneous speculation, I am sure a great deal of it has to do with the idea that if the president continues on the path he has started, we’ll be seeing the profits of these companies rising. That is, after all, the only value in a stock: what people think the company will do in the future.

The stock market crashed in 2008 as we saw our choice was narrowed down between Obama and McCain. The economy knew that neither was good news, and the better Obama did the worse the market did. Sure, when he took office the market was already crashed, so even after we figured out Obama and learned to hunker down for the next 4-8 years, the economy improved, but have President Trump win election means something very significant has changed, in a very unexpected way.

Can machines have rights?

February 23, 2017

There is a lot of messy thinking about rights nowadays, and it all has to do with the attempt to erase religion from our consciousness.

For the purposes of this article, I define “religion” to be “a set of beliefs”. With this definition, things like “atheist” and “Christian” become less useful, so¬† I won’t use them.

Also, for purposes of this article, I define “right” as “the things you should do” and “freedom” as “the things you can do”. Notice the difference, here.

Now, fundamentally, the question of rights is a question of morality, since rights are what you should do. That means that there is a good thing to do and a bad thing to do, which means there is good and evil and thus morality.

Ultimately, the question of what is good and what is evil is a question of what you choose to believe is good and evil. It is, in essence, a religious question. (Refer to my definition about.) You choose a set of beliefs, and those beliefs will determine what rights you and others believe you have.

Now, when we talk about morality, there are really two kinds of moralities you can choose to believe in. The first is an absolute morality, where the question of what is right and wrong is independent of the person doing it. For instance, murder, you might say, which is the taking of an innocent life, is wrong everywhere, whether African tribesmen do it or Barack Obama. This is absolute morality.

Relative morality says that some things are good for some people but not for others. These systems lead to things like racism, where it’s OK for white people to vote but not black people, or the European style of government where the elite are allowed to govern but the commoners are not.

Obviously, in our enlightened era, we find relative morality to be repugnant. We much prefer morality that is universal and consistent.

But this still doesn’t lead us much closer to the question of what is good and evil. It does tell us, however, that whatever we determine to be right for one person is right for another, and so we get to the concept of reciprocity. That is, my rights end where your rights begin, and vice-versa. Whatever rights we determine we have, we can’t have other people having rights that contradict it.

These are nice, but they still cannot give us a fundamental set of rights from which we can expand outward and discover all the remaining rights. For that, we need a god, a being who is able to make a decision (or, if you prefer, a choice) when it comes to morality.

We can make our own moral compasses, in which case, we are back to relative morality, which we find repugnant. Since people’s opinions and attitudes shift, their morality will shift also if it is solely based on themselves or other people. Or we can create or rather recognize a god or gods that are not human who make the rules about right and wrong for us. Whatever god or gods we choose, we can have them communicate with us through arbitrary or concrete means. If it’s arbitrary, then some people will say one thing and others another, but if it is concrete, then we have a single source of truth we can all turn to. By way of example, the Christian world embraces the Bible as the concrete source of God’s message to mankind and thus the source of morality.

Now, to wrap it all up, can machines have rights?

In short, only if we give them rights, and we can only give them rights if we think we are gods. And if we think we are gods, we are back to relative morality.

Thus, if we want absolute morality, we must deny machines rights until some concrete message from our god or gods tells us to recognize their rights.

And if we deny the existence of god or the gods, that will never happen.

The moral of the story is that if we are to grant machines rights, we will destroy the very foundation of our morality and religion, and who knows where we will end up when we do that?

The Crimea Problem

February 16, 2017

President Trump asked Russia to give Crimea back to the Ukraine.

Russia said no, Crimea voted to be part of Russia and stay out of my business.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, especially because it’s clear neither Russia nor the president want to see a war over this issue.

The last thing we want is a war, but the last thing we want is to send a message that all you have to do is bring in your troops and hold an election and the land is all yours.

The fact that the president brought up this issue is a sign that he is either going to use it as a bargaining chip or he thinks he can actually get Russia to give up Crimea. It remains to be seen what concessions Russia will make to keep Crimea, or what leverage the US has in negotiating with Russia. It’s clear that we’re rapidly heading towards some form of alliance with Russia given the president’s manner of speaking about them. We’re already talking about sharing intelligence and joint operations in the Middle East. We already have the president sending olive branches out to Russia and Russia send back their own.

But I doubt we can let Russia stay in Crimea and maintain some sense of order in Europe for long.

On Piety

February 2, 2017

One thing that bothers me about the irreligious is that they have not struggled with the problem of piety and thus fall into the trap of presenting a disingenuous piety themselves. Or rather, they become what they accuse the religious of being, without realizing it themselves.

A good example of this is what is called “virtue signalling”. People on the left typically engage in this practice, although it’s not uncommon on the right either. “Virtue signalling” is when someone says or does something so that people think they are virtuous, but in reality, it is a meaningless gesture. For instance, “Retweet this if you stand against Trump for Muslim immigrants!” or “Sign this petition to help the refugees!” In neither case does the action proscribed actually achieve the intended result, but the people who engage in it feel like they have done something positive and people who see other do it think something similar.

This is what piety, or rather, disingenuous or false piety is in religious circles. How often do you hear about the person who faithfully attends their church meetings every Sunday, and yet find little time to help the poor or even to be with their kids? Or the rich businessman who dumps large sums of money into the offering plate, but spends their business hours trying to extort ever more money from their customers and denying their employees a fair wage.

Every religion struggles with this. Christianity, like all others, struggle with it too.

The curious thing about Christianity is how it deals with this problem. And trust me, it’s a big problem. After all, if you aren’t actually doing good things, you are doing evil. A bit of opportunity calculus makes this clearly evident.

Christianity solves this problem by making our actions completely irrelevant. Christ doesn’t judge us based on our actions. Or rather, our actions are not the deciding factor. That is to say, try as you might to live all the teachings of Christianity, it cannot be done unless you have first been changed to become like Christ. This change comes about by the Grace of God, and none of us who experience can say anything else but to praise God for it.

Thus, Christians should not be looking on the outward appearance. All the good behavior, especially publicly visible good behavior, doesn’t amount to anything. It says literally nothing about whether a person in their heart is good or evil. So Christians should rightfully eschew this sort of outward, superficial, disingenuous piety in favor of trying to change their hearts to be more like Christ’s.

When you first join a church or a religion, or at least set your intentions towards adhering to it, you likely do what everyone else who has done the same has. You start with a zealous, even dangerous commitment to obey all the rules and restrictions. This is unhealthy, not only because oftentimes the ideals are simply impossible to achieve, but because you will find that when your actions do not align with your heart, you become more and more stressed.

It usually takes some time for you to develop empathy. First, you begin to see yourself and how you have failed to live up to the high standards you set for yourself. As you compare yourself with others, you spend less time finding faults, and even finding praise, but more time saying, “We really aren’t so different.” It’s at this point that you need to make a decision: Are you going to renege on your initial commitment, and give up? Or are you going to allow your experience to guide you down a better path?

In the case of Christianity, and I hope, someday, with all religions, we are forced to consider the better path: Forgiveness, both for ourselves and for others. This, and nothing else, is the true piety we all strive for in our religions: Sincere understanding, sincere compassion, all the while never giving up on our ambitions to achieve our ideals.

If the irreligious considered this, and walked that path for themselves, they would spend far less time virtue signalling. After all, what does it accomplish to tell others you are good when you know that you are not? What good is it to judge our hearts by our outward appearance? No, you would learn, like all the religious eventually do, that complete compliance with ideals is impossible, but that’s ok. We can still be friends, and we can still help each other.

 

Prediction: Trump wins black vote in 2020

January 24, 2017

If you haven’t heard, the manufacturing unions have all switched to support President Trump. He withdrew the TPP, a terrible trade agreement that would harm America and American jobs, and he listened to industry leaders and union bosses on why they aren’t hiring more people and building more factories. Already he’s signed executive orders to reduce the regulatory burdens and expedite environmental reviews.

It’s only been 2 working days with Trump in office, but already he’s gained the favor of a huge component of the Democratic Party.

My prediction is that before long, we’ll see President Trump pushing issues that the black community cares about. Rather than just pander to people based on skin color, he’s going to work with people who know what it takes to revitalize the inner cities, reduce crime, and increase prosperity for all. We already have Jesse Jackson praising the president’s inauguration speech, and we have Martin Luther King III supporting his agenda. He’s met with Steve Harvey and he’s getting Dr. Ben Carson engaged.

The thing about President Trump is that he isn’t a divider. He knows how to handle people that are consumed by politics. He simply doesn’t care for it. You can call yourself black or white, union or capitalist, democrat or republican, and he’s going to treat you the same.

This is what America needs right now, more than anything else. As a conservative, I could care less whether President Trump pushes my agenda forward or not. If conservatism fails for the next 8 years but we finally learn to talk to each other without hating each other, that is a big win. See, conservatism cannot be enforced on anyone. It must come from the grassroots. The president is showing people what I truly feel about the people around me. I don’t care your background or your persuasions. Just give me some time to listen to your problems, and let me tell you how the solution to those problems are right within your grasp, and you don’t even need to win elections to obtain them.

Noteworthy is that so far, the president’s agenda has been empowering the people and disempowering the government. It doesn’t matter how he disempowers the government at this point, anything is good, and the more the better. Government is exactly what we need less of, and that’s what he is giving us. For so long conservatives have been pointing out how government, the trust in government, the dependence on government, is the root of almost all the problems we face in society today. (I can tell you why people are turning to government — it has to do with family and the breakdown of the American family. If families were strong, people don’t need the government, and socialists know that.)

Anyway, I make a prediction: Donald Trump will win the re-election in 2020 because blacks will vote for him in droves. Unions will vote for him in droves. The only people who won’t vote for him are beltway insiders and bureaucrats. I don’t know who the democrats are going to put forward in 4 years, but I can’t imagine anyone who can win their home state if things continue the way they have for the past two days.

Just a few words…

January 23, 2017

One, if you haven’t noticed, the democratic party is dead. D-E-A-D dead. It’s over for them. Who is there to support them anymore, and what power and credibility do they have?

Two, the people protesting Donald Trump are all, universally, complete and utter fools and idiots. I’ll waste no space in debating this further, but if an honest-to-gosh protester wants to debate me in the comments, I’m game. Your goal is to convince the world that you are not an idiot and a fool.

Three, I can see something so clearly now that I could not before: Trump is literally an angel from heaven, a divinely-appointed man with a mission from God. I compare him to people like those in the Bible who conquered Israel at God’s command. He is a tool in God’s hand. You don’t have to be a saint or even believe in God to be a tool in his hand. But here we are! The arm of God is revealed, if you just open your eyes, it is plain as day.

Watching his press secretary speak, listening to Trump speak, watching the few things he’s done, has convinced me that God is pouring out his wrath upon the liberals and the tyrants in our country as we speak. Everyone and everything that was set against individual liberty and the right of man to worship freely and raise their families in peace, those things are going to go away. Everything they do to discredit Trump backfires. I mean, Trump’s advisor says “alternate facts” on national media, and next thing I know, it’s being used to discredit the national media. This was yet another “47%” moment, and it yet again backfired. I mean it when I say it: Trump can literally do no wrong right now. His team is made of greased kevlar. I honestly would not want to consider trying to take them down. It is simply impossible to do by mortal hands.

To those who hate Trump: Listen carefully to what the man has to say. Listen! He is not speaking the language of division. He never once calls democrats or republicans or anyone else but those who have fought him his enemies, and he never once was unwilling to forgive and forget. Trump simply doesn’t care about politics and he doesn’t care about who side you are on or were on. You’re an American, and that’s all that matters to him.

His line from the inauguration: “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice!” This is the liberty bell’s clarion ring! You who see government as us vs. them will never, ever understand this message. Don’t even bother trying. The rest of us know exactly what it says, and we know exactly what we must do. You cannot win against us. It is impossible for hate to trump love, to use your own words.

I don’t know what 2018 or 2020 will look like, but I am pretty sure of one thing: People won’t care what party you belong to anymore. They are going to judge you based on whether you are with Trump or not. Do you consider America as the most important country? Do you want to establish and reestablish our ancient philosophy and religion that made us who we are? Then you are on Trump’s side. If not, you’re still on his side even when you don’t think you are. You are only isolating yourself from everyone else.

I never thought I’d live to see the day we live in. Something amazing has happened, and I can’t believe it myself even though I am watching it happen. There is an electricity like nothing else I’ve ever felt, except perhaps when Reagan was first inaugurated and when he ran for re-election.

There is a scripture, I don’t know where it is at the moment, but it basically says in the millennium, Satan will be bound and people will laugh at him, asking, “Was this the guy who caused all those wars and made people fearful?” I’m looking at Hillary and I can’t imagine that she was ever a force to be reckoned with, that the movement she was representing was anything more than a bunch of hollow people behind hollower masks. Was the democratic party really that frightening? Did I really believe that Obama and all of the democrats working with him could even cause a minor wound to America?

Welcoming Back Monarchy to the Constitutional Federal Government

January 19, 2017

The Founding Father’s genius in the constitution is not just paying lip-service to the natural rights of man, but in setting up an institution that would perpetually defend it with little or no bloodshed.

The Constitution establishes a government made up of 3 branches but 5 parts:

  1. The Executive
  2. The Legislative
  3. The Judicial
  4. The States
  5. The People

For many years, we have struggled with finding the right balance. That is why our government is so oppressive and why we have gone so far off track.

Donald Trump, I believe, will restore the Executive Branch to what it should be. He will act like a king, something this country has needed for a long, long time.

To wit, here are some characteristics of kings that make them very well suited for running a country:

  1. They make decisions quickly, after consulting with experts.
  2. They hold themselves accountable for the general welfare of the country.
  3. They ignore partisan politics and act solely according to what they think is best. They are incorruptible.
  4. They represent all people, equally, rather than a few small groups of people.
  5. They have no concern about democracy.
  6. They have no concern for tradition.
  7. They are full of passion, such as patriotism and even anger and revenge.

Of course, many of these attributes make them less suited for leadership. Nevertheless, no one can deny that kings and monarchs have, for many millennia, lead successful countries. What brought down monarchies in the modern age is not so much the kings themselves, but the bureaucracies that grew around them as people began to rely more and more on state power.

I am no monarchist. I do not think monarchy is the ideal structure. However, I believe monarchists have a lot of good points, points we ignore at our own peril. Go visit some monarchist forums and pay close attention to what they say. There is a reason why it is not a small movement. I believe conservatism should include monarchists by definition. While we may not agree on having a king, we do agree on why a king is a good thing.

Now, how can Donald Trump restore the executive? Why, he is going to act more like a king and less like a bureaucrat, a partisan, or worse, a manager.

  1. Donald Trump makes decisions, decisively, and quickly. He consults with experts.
  2. Donald Trump holds himself personally accountable for his actions. He has said he will “Make America Great Again.” If, after 4 or 8 years, America is not great again, he will have no one to blame but himself.
  3. Donald Trump is no republican, and he is no democrat. He attacks people on both sides of the aisle, and is willing to work with anyone. Literally, he cannot be bribed because there is nothing he cannot buy.
  4. Donald Trump has been very careful not to make himself out to be a “conservative” president, or a “republican” president. He repeatedly emphasizes that no matter whether you supported him or not, you will be reaping the benefits of his administration. He is setting himself up as a representative of the entire country, not a small subsection of that country.
  5. Donald Trump has shown little or no concern for the polls and the opinion makers. I don’t think he cares one whit whether he is popular or not, as long as he can get the things he wants done, done. We saw this repeatedly on the campaign trail when he said things that were obviously offensive to the majority of people, but things that needed to be said regardless.
  6. Donald Trump doesn’t show any concern about tradition. For instance, he is kicking people out of the press pool and doing things his way. His inauguration is much more modest than his predecessor’s.
  7. Donald Trump regularly displays passion, and not in a fake way. Donald Trump talks like a person, a person personally invested in America’s self-interest.

Next up, how we can get the other 4 branches playing their roles again. The great thing about having an executive like Donald Trump is that the only way to stop him is by getting these branches to do their jobs.

  • The legislative needs to exercise absolute oversight over the executive. If Donald Trump acts in such a way that people demand congress review all of his actions, all the better!
  • The legislative also needs to focus on writing fair and just laws, laws that will not only restrain Donald Trump but laws that apply to all.
  • The Judicial needs to get out of the business of writing laws and into the business of weighing individual cases. Hopefully, Donald Trump will challenge the court’s usurpation of legislative authority. It seems it takes a president to stand up to the courts.
  • The states need to assume their role as states. We are a federal system, where there is no “one government to rule them all”, but several governments, each with their own domain. If Donald Trump were to make a power-grab for the authority of the cities or states, hopefully people will be bold enough to stand up against him, and clearly define the limits of the federal government.
  • The people, I think, have learned that they do have power in numbers, that they are indeed a force to be reckoned with. The issue is that the people need a leader, and I think Donald Trump is just such a leader who can harness the power of the people for good.

It remains to be seen what will happen, but if Donald Trump ends up bringing the branches of government back into balance, we all win, bigly.

One more comment: Sometimes it doesn’t matter *who* leads, as long as *someone* leads.

Logic, Science, and Religion

January 19, 2017

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord;” (Isaiah 1:18) Modern revelation adds “let us reason together that ye may understand” (D&C 50:10)

I gave a talk last Sunday to two wards, and I felt I needed to put these thoughts together in a blog post that the world could see and comment. (I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)

I believe that God wants us to engage him intellectually, logically and reasonably. Indeed, that’s what Jesus did when he was on the earth: He engaged his opponents with reason and logic. It was a scribe who saw that Jesus was reasoning that asked the great question: “Which is the first commandment of all?” (Mark 12) Jesus answered that question, of course: Love God, Love your neighbor.

So let us reason together.

My background is physics. I earned by BS in 2000. I did pretty well in physics, I think, and got a better grade than pretty much anyone else. I aced the tests, and I really enjoyed myself. I tell you this not to brag, but to quell any kind of ad hominem logical fallacy.

Let’s talk about logic.

600 years BC, we had Socrates going around Athens asking questions: “What is piety? What is virtue? What is beauty?” He was killed for asking these questions, but his disciple Plato wrote some of the things down and Plato’s disciple Aristotle kept the tradition alive. I think we can credit Aristotle for the founding of science. Aristotle’s disciple Alexander conquered the world, and that’s why the New Testament is written in Greek, so these people literally changed the world.

It wasn’t until about the 1300s that Europe rediscovered the ancients, but more importantly, they began to question again. We call this the Renaissance. 300 years later, more or less, we have Renee Descartes (pronounced de-cart). He is credited as being the father of modern science.

Before I go any further, let’s talk about what logic really is. Logic starts with assumptions. Then you apply logical manipulations to these statements and get a conclusion. That’s all it is. Without any assumptions, there is no logic to do.

If you don’t like the conclusions, then you question the assumptions or you question the logic itself. If there was an error, you expose it. But logic in and of itself is cold and uncaring. Give it a set of assumptions, and it will give you a set of conclusions.

What should be our assumptions? In religious terms, what should we believe, having nothing else as a foundation?

Renee Descartes struggled with this question, as we all must, and discovered some interesting things. First, he could not trust his senses. For all he knew, the universe we live in itself may not be real. We could be living in The Matrix. But the one thing he knew was this: “I think, therefore I am.” In other words, the fact that he could question and analyze meant that he existed.

To Christians and Jews, “I AM” is a very special phrase. When Moses asked God how he should tell the children of Israel that he was sent by God, God told Moses: Tell them, “I AM THAT I AM”. “I AM” is a name for God.

It is Christianity that gave us the idea that man and God are not so different after all. Jesus Christ bridged the gap, and if we follow him, we too can become like God, joint-heirs with Christ. (Do I need to expound on this? It is plainly in the Bible.)

So perhaps Descartes knew that he was really saying, “I think, therefore GOD”.

Regardless, Renee Descartes put together the foundations of science, which I think of as:

  1. The universe exists.
  2. Logical laws govern the universe, absolutely.
  3. Mankind can understand those laws.
  4. However, we are flawed.
  5. But we can test our ideas against reality.
  6. By testing ideas against reality, we can distinguish truth from error about the nature of the universe.

Let me add God back into the equation to show you where these ideas came from and why it had to be a Christian like Descartes that came up with them:

  1. We can’t know that the universe exists, but God created it, so it must.
  2. God governs the universe, and he is logical and reasonable, so the universe must be too. The only disobedient thing in the universe is man.
  3. God and man are not so different, and man is destined to become like God, which requires understanding God, which requires understanding the laws that govern the universe.
  4. Since we are fallible and mortal, we make a lot of mistakes. Mistakes are not permanently fatal, and we can repent and change over time, though.
  5. If we experiment and test our ideas with the universe, we can see if they are right or wrong. “By their fruits ye shall know them”, in Jesus’ words.
  6. This process can be repeated endlessly.

All of the founding members of modern science were Christian. Yes, we had fantastic contributions from people all over the world and from all faiths, but ultimately, it took Christians to bring these ideas home and to push human thought into modern science. None can argue against this.

Moving along, I want to point out a few things.

Science is simply a set of assumptions, assumptions that work really, really well. What are your assumptions going to be? Are you going to assume, as ancient man, that the universe is arbitrary and ruled by the passions of elite gods? Or are you going to use these assumptions?

What assumptions or beliefs are good and which are bad? Can we not test assumptions and beliefs just like we can test scientific theories?

Let me share some assumptions that I have that have been tremendously beneficial for me. I hope you will find them useful for yourself as well.

  1. This universe, you, humanity, is not a mistake. It was intended to be this way.
  2. It was intended by a God who has infinite love and compassion, and truly understands us and our state and wants us to become like him.
  3. As long as we keep trying to be better and better, as long as we leave our sins behind us and move forward, we can become more and more like God, and that’s OK.

Now, I want to mention one thing: God gave us free will, the freedom to choose our own set of assumptions. He cannot force us to accept one set of assumptions or another, but he can show us the consequences of those assumptions.

Some people talk about belief as if it were like getting hit by a truck on the freeway. God doesn’t work this way. It is more like an invitation. Sometimes he sends you a card in the mail. Sometimes he knocks on the front door. Sometimes he gives you a ring on the telephone. But in every instance, he merely asks you to believe. He never forces you. Now, some of us say things like “After such-and-such an experience, I couldn’t help but believe” but this really is not true. We could’ve equally chalked up those experiences to random chance or coincidence. We chose to attribute those experiences to God, nothing more. Ultimately, it’s all up to us what we choose to believe and choose to see.

Alma taught about the seed of faith, how we have to plant and nourish it and it will grow until it gives you fruit, namely, eternal life. (Alma 32) I won’t revisit the entire story, you can do that on your own time.

What I will say is this. When we have a seed, and we nourish it, and it dies, it could be because it was a bad seed, or it could be because we didn’t nourish it properly. Many of us, throughout our lives, find our seeds of faith wilting or dying. I’m here to tell you that’s ok. God gave us time on this earth to explore and change and grow. Sometimes we have what we think is a good seed but it turns out it’s not so good. Besides, if it is a good seed but we’re just bad gardeners, it doesn’t mean we should neglect the rest of the plants in our garden.

If you’re one of those who doesn’t have any plants in their gardens yet, start planting some seeds and watering them! That’s the only way you can get plants. You won’t get plants by hoping or wishing. It takes getting your hands dirty and finding new seeds. And patience. If you’ve ever planted a seed in a cup with a little kid, you know that it’s just when the kid is about to give up and throw it away that the seed will sprout.

If you’re one of those who had lots of beautiful plants but, through neglect or just by picking bad seeds, those plants are dying, the answer is to find new seeds and plant them.

If you’re one of those with a beautiful garden with lots of flourishing plants, go get some more seeds! We need to keep adding to our faith so that we can gain all good things, not just some of them.

In all cases, go get more seeds, go plant those seeds, and nourish them. And meanwhile, don’t forget the plants you already have. Someday, if we keep this up, we will see we have a beautiful garden with *all* the good plants, all of them bearing fruit.

I like to talk about how when I was a young child, I believed young child things, and that was good enough for me when I was a young child. When I became a teenager, the young child things didn’t work anymore, so I had to go relearn the gospel as a teenager, which was good. But when I became a young adult, those teenager beliefs didn’t satisfy me anymore and I had to go relearn the gospel again to believe in things that were good for me as a young adult. And now that I am a father with teenagers of my own, those young adult things don’t work and so I need father-of-teenager beliefs. I imagine when I am 80 years old I’ll have yet a different set of beliefs. It isn’t so much that what I learned as a child was wrong, but that those simply aren’t the things I need today. We should expect that as we grow and change, our beliefs must grow and change with me. That’s why we need to keep learning and keep studying and praying and changing.

Let me tell you an example. When you are a teenager, you see your parents and how wrong they are about things, but as an older adult, I don’t care about that so much anymore. We’re all flawed, and we all have errors and it’s no use to beat each other up because we are wrong about something. It’s so much more important to have peace and calm and share love one with another than point out each other’s faults. I couldn’t see that as a teenager, and I don’t expect other teenagers to either, but as a middle-aged man, I am beginning to understand that crystal-clear. I imagine when I am 80, I’ll understand it even better, or perhaps even understand it in a different way.

Sometimes we hear about how science and religion are diametrically opposed to one another. This is an example of a false dichotomy, a logical fallacy where you say either one or the other can be true, but not both.

The founders of modern science were all Christian. To say that modern science opposes Christianity is simply absurd. Christianity created modern science, and modern science is based on it, as I have already shown. Indeed, if anything, modern science *is* Christianity.

Sometimes scientists come up with strange ideas that are contrary to Christianity, but really, who cares? Science is all about testing out strange ideas. The history of physics is a history of error. I can name so many smart people that believed wrong things, from Einstein saying “God does not play dice!” (He does), to Maxwell and Ether Theory, to Newton saying light is made of particles, to Rutherford believing in the plum pudding model of the atom until he saw alpha particles bounce of gold foil. If there’s anything I learned studying physics, it’s that whatever we believe about science today is probably wrong. It’s just a matter of time until we figure out how it is wrong.

But that idea — believing in a scientific theory — what is the point? Can Quantum Mechanics bind a wounded heart? Can Electrodynamics tell you how to treat your teenage kid? How can understanding the Second Law of Thermodynamics give you the right words to say to your wife to save your marriage? Do you see the powerlessness of science compared to religion?

I believe we should also approach religion scientifically. We should test our beliefs out, keep the good ones, reject the bad ones, and continually search for better ones. We should be praying for guidance and new ideas, we should be searching the scriptures, we should be walking circumspectly before God. Our church is a big church. We invite all, no matter what they believe, to be with us and worship with us, to grow with us, to be part of us. We have time here on earth to work through this all. It’s what we’re here for. We trust God knows what he is doing better than we do. We’re a hospital of sinners, not a museum of saints.

Finally, I want to end with my testimony. I know God is real. He answers my prayers. If you want to know for yourself about God, pour your own heart and soul out to him. Tell him how you really feel about him, whether good or bad. He’s a big boy. He can take it. He understands you better than you can understand yourself. I know that God answers those prayers. He will answer yours.

In Jesus’ name, amen.

Self-control and Sex Ed

January 18, 2017

So, I had a thought. If we can’t trust teenagers to keep their pants on, why can we trust them to practice “safe sex”?

In my mind, we would be better off teaching them (a) your passions are really, really strong, and (b) you control them by not letting them engage in the first place. That is, stay away from anything that might stir up those emotions. And when you feel those emotion stirred up, get away.

We should also teach our children that these feeling are not bad. They just have to be used properly. Namely, marry young, stay married, have lots and lots of … kids, and well, you’ll figure out the rest as you’ll have plenty of time together to experiment with each other.

If children looked forward to marriage as the time when they can safely and comfortably express their inner desires, then we would have a lot more married couples, a lot less heartbreak, and we wouldn’t have the problem of teen pregnancy.