Archive for May, 2010

After You

Friday, May 28th, 2010

In the course of a day at work I go through a lot of doors. Well actually, there’s a few doors that I go through, in aggregate, a lot of times. Now the people up here in Portland are a courteous bunch. I’ve already remarked on how polite the drivers are, though I’ve only mentioned that from the perspective of a fellow driver.

Now that I’ve been walking to and from work I’ve seen another side of the drivers. There deferent almost to a fault to pedestrians. I’ve had drivers stop their cars half a block away to let me cross the street. When I wasn’t even at a corner. It’s a little mind-boggling to someone raised in L.A.

But I was telling you about doors, not drivers. There’s a lot of us moving about the office and invariably several of us will reach a door at about the same time. That means that pretty often whoever opens a door is faced with someone, or even some several, that were about to open the door from the other side. Again, almost to a fault, whoever opens the door will then hold it open for everyone that is in reasonable distance. Once everyone else has gone through, then they get to go.

It’s almost enough to make me not want to open a door. After all who knows how long I’ll end up having to stand there. I was thinking about this and asked God what she thought of it. She told me that she rather liked it. She said that it was a nice way of reminding people what it says in the Bible. In the Bible I asked? Sure, she told me, it says plain as day, “the first shall be last.”

Ring Around the Brain

Friday, May 21st, 2010

One downside to my new job and my new city is that I’ve got a workmate that has dragged me into a couple of conversations where I’ve felt obligated to defend science. You’d think that someone that makes their living as a computer programmer, whose every day tools are the results of thousands of repetitions of the scientific method, would get that science works and that the considered output of a preponderance of scientific specialists, in the area of their specialty should be given high regard and heavy credence. But alas.

You’re probably thinking that I’ve come to work with someone “skeptical” of Global Climate Change, or even simply of Anthropogenic Global Climate Change, and I admit that I would find that sad and that it would lower my opinion of their intellect, the truth is it’s much worse than that. I’m working alongside a Creationist. Well, he hasn’t actually said he’s a Creationist. What he has said is that he doesn’t believe in evolution. I’m going to play fair witness here for a moment, so sorry to those of you that hate it when I split hairs (and I do split hairs a lot). He hasn’t said that he believes in Intelligent Design, but he has said things in support of Intelligent Design. He hasn’t said that he doesn’t believe in speciation but it seems like that’s because he doesn’t know the word speciation, or at least not well enough to be comfortable using it. What he has said is that animals adapt, but don’t necessarily evolve and certainly don’t evolve into new species. He hasn’t said that he believes in a young Earth or the Biblical flood, but he did say that the geologic theory of the creation of the Grand Canyon over millions of years and the theory that the Grand Canyon was created in a massive flood that brought in huge amounts of debris that settled out in layers were both plausible. I don’t think he actually said “equally” plausible, but I sure think that was his implication.

So I sat here and tried to reconcile the notion that you can’t be stupid and still program computers, with the notion that you can’t not be stupid and actually, literally believe in Creationism. And I kept going around in circles. So I turned to God. I asked him how can somebody be both stupid and not stupid at the same time.

The first thing he told me was that I could find the answer to the question in the question itself, but I didn’t let him get off that easy. I mean just telling me that I’m being stupid while obviously not stupid doesn’t really get me any closer to an answer. So we continued talking. Finally what it came down to is a question of brainwashing. There are many millions of people that have been brainwashed, from before they’ve even given up breastfeeding, to believe in Religion and to believe in what religion teaches them. So the question then becomes, if they’re not stupid why don’t they move beyond their brainwashing when confronted with the sheer irrationality of what they have been taught?

It seems to circle around the point of blind spots. Brainwashing inherently creates a blind spot in our minds. Here’s the conundrum… If I point out to you that you’ve been brainwashed and that this thing you believe does not in actuality pass the simple muster of being consistent with itself, let alone with observable reality, why would you take my word for it? Just as I wouldn’t take their word for it that the Grand Canyon supports the notion of the Biblical flood, they will not just accept that it doesn’t. So to overcome their brainwashing they have to not just be given the word of experts but they would need to, at the least, study the field enough to themselves become experts. Anything less would not be enough to overcome their brainwashing.

And that’s way too much to expect most people to do. Especially when they know up front that doing so may well deprive them of notions that are actually quite comforting and pleasant. So I get it now, I do, but that doesn’t mean I like it. And I like even less that I now have to wonder what in my own worldview might be merely the residue of brainwashing, and is any of it worth the effort involved to clear away, is any of it worth the effort of rinsing away the soapy ring around my own little mental bath tub?

Welcome to the City

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Spring is in the air and animals are on the move.

I’m used to living in L.A. and Phoenix, where the term “wildlife” is mostly reserved for nightclubs. Sure there are animals in the suburbs but they tend to be pretty circumspect. The coyotes make an appearance every so often but usually you don’t see anything bigger than an opossum and those you usually only see when they’ve been ground into the road. Now I haven’t actually seen anything bigger than an opossum here yet, but God has told me to keep my eyes open.

So I’ve been watching. In my neighborhood there’s signs warning of deer crossing the road, but I’ve seen those signs in other places and found the signs to be a lot more common than the deer, so I’m hopeful but certainly not holding my breath. A little closer to home, there’s a stream that I cross on my way to work every day and the last few days there’s been a goose and maybe eight or so goslings playing around in the mornings. In that same area I watched a considerably smaller bird land on the sidewalk, pick up an earthworm and fly off again. It was nearly eight in the morning so I don’t know how early I should really consider that, but by my reckoning, for the first time in my life I’ve actually seen the early bird get the worm.

One last sighting was made by a coworker who snapped a picture with his pocket camera. It was in that same stream where I watched the goslings but a bit further along where it runs alongside my office’s parking lot. The picture’s a little blurry but not so much that you’d mistake it for a shot of bigfoot, instead it’s obviously a shot of a beaver, swimming along with it’s paddle-tail flat out behind. Now the suburb of Portland that I’m living in is a city called Beaverton. It’s kind of nice, for the first time in my life, to live someplace that has a natural and obvious derivation for its name. And not even a touch of irony to it, so the City of Angels can eat its heart out, as far as I’m concerned.

Goodnight and Amen

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Christ is famous for basically three domains. He performed miracles. He was an accomplished philosopher. And he was the son of God.

Now that last one is the sticking point, the last one is the one that people just had to take his word for. Miracles? There were witnesses. Philosophy? He talked up a storm and a bunch of his friends wrote a bunch of it down. But “son of God?” Well let’s just say that a lot of kids with absentee fathers make up stories about how great their old man is.

But in the end there was one trick, one miracle, that most of the people were willing to concede he couldn’t pull off on his own, one grand show stopper that would at least make his claim plausible, that would mean he had “outside” help: Coming back from his own death.

So that’s what he did. He lay in his tomb for three days and then headed out, a little more ripe than just three days without a shower could explain. He went and saw some friends, some of whom hadn’t heard yet that he’d been executed. Then he headed up to Heaven. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I mean, through Christ’s resurrection we finally had evidence that he’s god and suddenly he’s like “well, bye now.” If there was ever a time that people would have paid close attention to what he had to say, that would have been it.

I asked God why. He told me that the most important trick, the one that every magician really needs to learn, is always leave ’em wanting more. It’s not a bad answer, but I’m not sure it’s enough of one.