Posts for July, 2012
Well, the Great Wisconsin Recall is over. The winners are joyful and the losers are sore. At least some of the dust has settled so maybe it's time for a calm postmortem analysis. Full disclosure: I am a card-carrying Republican and voted accordingly, making a morning hike to the Wales Community Center to cast vote number 353. I also plunked a "We stand for Walker" yard sign on my front lawn. For the record, Wales turnout was 86%, going for Walker 3:1. Nevertheless, I will attempt to be at least nominally objective.
If noise level won elections, the recall side would have won hands down. For sheer raucousness this one was unprecedented, at least since the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations of the 60's. Fortunately, elections are decided at the polling place, not in the Wisconsin Capitol rotunda or the streets outside.
Incidentally, the true losers in this one may be the teachers, not because of the weakening of their union or the increased cost of their benefits, but because of the indelible image of teachers leaving classrooms to wave rather undignified signs and scream insults at the top of their lungs, all caught on camera. I have to admit, I did not buy the argument that this was a "learning experience in democracy." I'm sorry, but I lost a considrable amount of respect for teachers, even though only a limited number were involved. The recent spectacle of a significant number of teachers petulently quitting the New Berlin School System because they felt "unappreciated" by their administration certainly doesn't help.
There regrettably is still a considerable level of rancor, mostly in the losing camp, over the result. In most elections, the losing side grumps a bit and then goes back to commenting on blogs and gets on with life. What is different this time is the tremendous amount of protracted effort that went into the recall campaign. The collection of over 800,000 (valid) signatures was an amazing accomplishment. The effort went on for months and involved many hundreds of people putting in countless hours. The greater the investment, the more painful the loss. I fear this wound will be a long time in healing.
This Wisconsin experience is a microcosm of a national problem: the extreme polarization of politics in this country. It appears no one knows how to lose any more. Or for that matter, how to win. This is sad and more than a little worrisome.
We are a polyglot nation, which has been and still is, unfortunately to a lesser extent, one of our great strengths. Diversity, as it brings divergent constructive viewpoints, is a great and unique advantage that we possess in this nation. I fear that polarization has deleted the word "constructive" from that statement. If we are to survive as a cohesive and diverse constitutional republic, this has got to stop.
The problem is agendas. Political leaders have agendas that in too many cases do not include a benefit to society. The goal is re-election or election at any cost. Much has been made of the Koch brothers support of Scott Walker. (They support many other conservative causes as well.) On the other side is George Soros and MoveOn.org. I would call that at least a wash. Union support of the recall was based largely on self-interest, not the welfare of their members.
So, what have we learned from this $20 million exercise in futility? Very little I'm afraid. The militancy is still there on both sides. This upcoming national election will feature much of the same on a grander scale. The winner likely will be the side that smears the opposition more effectively than the other. I have a faint hope that there is a glimmer at the end of the tunnel. The financial crisis that exists in this country just might be the catalyst for change, this time constructive. At some point, maybe, just maybe, both sides will realize that we have a problem that threatens the survival of our life style as we know it. Perhaps there will be a sufficient number of realists with enough common sense of survival to hunker down and focus on the real problems facing us, realizing that their own well-being is at stake.
"The pessimist sees only the tunnel; the optimist sees the light at the end of the tunnel; the realist sees the tunnel and the light, and the next tunnel." Here's to light.
Back in December, 2008, I wrote a post called In the Beginning that discussed Creationism versus the Big Bang theory. The conclusion was, predictably, that Creation made more sense and besides, was a lot simpler. In that discussion, I described in some detail the Large Hadron Collider, a $9 billion monstrosity buried underground near the border between France and Switzerland. I won't repeat all that here. (If you're curious, check my archives for 18 December 2008.) Simply, the LHC was an attempt to "find" someting called the Higgs bosun, a subatomic particle that was supposed to explain mass and gravity, the rocks upon which various theories of the universe, specifically string theory, crash.
Mass, which begets gravitational attraction, is what essentially holds everything together, including atoms. It is the glue of the universe. For years it defied mathematical modeling. Then an English physicist, Peter Ware Higgs, in a flash of insight, imagined a new and unknown sub-atomic particle that "creates" mass, which in a fit of hubris he named the Higgs bosun, after himself. (Paradixically, a bosun itself is a massless particle.) The scientific world rejoiced and ran off hell-bent to discover this wondrous particle. The thought was that its existence heretofore had eluded researchers because they didn't smash atomic particles--specifically protons that are relatively easy to get and work with--hard enough, i.e. with sufficient energy. Hence the LHC that accelerates protons to 99.9% of the speed of light before colliding them.
Well, rejoice all you anti-creationists out there, according to a recent newspaper article, after 10 years of banging protons together, they have--"Eureka!"--found it. (If you read my 2008 post, you will note that I predicted that they would find it, because they had to.) Actually, they have found "indications" of its existence, whatever that means. The skeptics among you may quite understandably ask, "So what?" Good question. Let me tell you "what" from my perspective--full disclosure--as a practicing Christian.
Man is a proud and arrogant creature. Those characteristics are arguably at the root of most of our troubles, especially our interminable wars. Part of that arrogance is an aversion to acknowledging a being superior to ourselves. Thus, when Darwin published his Origin of Species the humanists jumped at it. From the Darwinian concept which required very long periods of time came the concept of the great age of the Earth and universe--billions of years. Up until that time, the Biblical age of the Earth, around 15 thousand years give or take, had been the accepted belief.
That opened up a raft of possibilities, leading eventually to the present "Big Bang Theory" (not the TV show!). Grossly oversimplified, the explosion of a tiny dot of infinite mass created gobs of vibrating strings, bidimensional membranes and 11 or so dimensions of which everything is made, along with time so you can't ask where that dot came from. This is in a nutshell "String Theory", or its latest incarnation, "The Theory of Everything." (You can't make this stuff up!) Problem was, all these vibrating strings and membranes didn't have any mass, and obviously, mass and its handmaiden gravity exist. Consequently, there was still a tiny opening for God.
However, the Higgs bosun, which someone perhaps facetiously nicknamed the "God Particle," a name that stuck, allows man to eliminate God from the picture. We don't need Him to explain the existence of everything. Man's arrogance is justified; he is indeed the eagle at the top of the totem pole.
I don't mean to imply that all scientists are atheists. Some ideas or beliefs tend to take on a life of their own. Great effort and resources have been expended to explain the world around us. We are able to function with the incompatible ambivalence of religious belief and science by conveniently stuffing religion into one hour on Sunday morning, or perhaps Saturday evening, and dedicating the rest of the week to science. This I call "magical thinking," for magical indeed it is.
So, how do I, the practicing 24-7 Christian, explain the "indicated" Higgs bosun? This takes a bit of credulity, but then that's what we mostly are talking about. Centuries ago, Galileo undertook to measure the diameter of the Earth. He made some instruments and used them to measure the height of a distant tower. By that means he came up with an expression for the curvature of the Earth and extrapolated that to its diameter. He was close, but not real close.
More recently, around 75 years ago. some college researchers undertook to duplicate Galileo's measurements. They faithfully reproduced his instrumentation from detailed descriptions and notes and replicated the experiment. Guess what. The result was extremely accurate, much more accurate than Galileo's figure. If we assume that he was not a klutz or a graduate of MPS, then why didn't he come up with a more accurate figure? Well, because our college students knew the answer beforehand. In other words, what we know or believe, or desperately desire to find, can influence the results of our research. You scoff, but I have seen personal evidence of this phenomenon.
Much of science today is concerned with various studies affecting the public. These studies are funded through grants from agents with an agenda. In other words, they have a preconceived idea of what they want the research to conclude. Thus, all smoking-related studies conclude that it is a terrible health hazard, including "second-hand" smoke. All coronary artery disease studies verify that cholesterol is the villian. All global warming studies conclude it is anthropomorphic (man-made). And the list goes on. Never is heard a dissenting word. The result is the corruption of true science by grant.
With respect to the God particle, recall that it is allegedly a sub-atomic particle, i.e. the result of breaking apart an atom. Consequently, it is invisible. Sub-atomic particles are usually detected indirectly by electric charge effects or collisions with other particles. No one will ever "see" the God particle. It will be identified by indirect means. I think that if 500 PhD's focus their minds on a single idea, they could move a mountain to say nothing of finding a sub-microscopic entity. As I said before, they will find it because they must. There is too much at stake.
This entire structure of the cosmos, strings, membranes, dimensions, Big Bang and Creation-without-God depends on this little fellow whom no one has seen or ever will see.
My attitude towards all this is based on plausibility. I find the theories of Big Bang and evolution to be implausible. Ask the DNA molecule that formed you or the developing baby in the womb, incredibly complex and precisely configured processes, whether they happened by accident. The wonderfully balanced world of nature defies definition due to its intricacy. The evidence of design, absolutely brilliant and--yes--miraculous design, is to me unmistakeable.
So, have your Bang, your strings, your God particle and your random mutations. I'll take Genesis.
This is a difficult post for me to write. The Aurora, Colorado, mass killing of 12 innocent souls and the wounding of 58 others, some seriously, is a monstrous tragedy with victims well beyond the casualties. Dozens of family members and friends are also deeply affected. Please believe me when I assure you I am not trying to capitalize on this tragedy, but I think there is a critical issue here that the media and others are missing. The significance of this and other similar mass killings committed without clear motive or justification is not being addressed, which masks their significance.
As is virtually always the case, the pundits and analysts come out of the woodwork to search for an explanation, precursor, motive or justification for someone deciding to kill a large number of innocent people, usually complete strangers. They look into the perpetrator's childhood, his activities, his associates, searching, searching for some vehicle of understanding. This derives from the pervasive notion that bad things can be prevented from happening if only we find the key to the behavior and fix it. Sometimes it's there in a distorted childhood or traumatic event, but usually it eludes identification.
Jeffery Dahmer had a stupefyingly normal upbringing in a normal family. He stated he didn't know why he did what he did, he just wanted to. The present mass killer, James Holmes, complete with red hair, appeared to be a relatively harmless Batman freak to friends, family and associates. One person, a shooting range proprietor, judged him from a bizarre voicemail greeting and strange conversation to be too unstable to shoot at his range, but did not consider him dangerous. Fellow neuroscience researchers thought him strange or did not notice him at all. The government gave him a sustaining stipend plus a $26,000 grant for his research, part of which he apparently spent to purchase the weapons he used in his rampage.
So. what motivated this hapless misfit and other mass killers? Are they just nuts? Certainly they are not mainstream mentally normal, but is that enough to explain such catastrophic behavior? I think it offers a partial explanation, in that we have shut down mental institutions and made it extremely difficult to commit someone against his will. However, there are lots of mentally deranged individuals walking the streets who don't slaughter a dozen or more fellow citizens.
So, what do we have here? How do we explain these seemingly inexplicable tragic events? We have a tendency in this country to avoid acknowledging evil. We explain the most heinous occurences, sometimes with extremely tortured reasoning. Atrocities committed by Islamic extremists are justified--not by everyone but by some--as the consequence of our bad deeds as a nation. Even 9/11 was so justified. Today, the cowardly street bombings by rebels in Syria are excused as a justified reaction to persecution by the Assad regime. It appears that only Adolf Hitler is acknowledged as an unredeemable bad guy by most folks. Yet, seemingly inexplicable outrages continue to occur with disturbing regularity.
Gun restrictions or an outright ban will not stop the acts of the man without a soul. An assault weapons ban is meaningless. The AR-15 "assault rifle" Holmes carried, along with a shotgun and handgun, was semi-automatic like most handguns, rifles and shotguns. "Semi-automatic" means the weapon fires each time the trigger is pulled. "Military style" is a meaningless appellation that relates more to appearance than function. The military AR-15 has full automatic capability, but is not available to the general public. The designation "assault weapon" is vague and undefined, which is why the NRA opposes their ban. A weapons ban will not stop mass killings. It will just serve to mask the problem.
The cold, hard truth is that evil exists in this world. There are individuals whose, in the Biblical sense, souls are dead. There is no voice of conscience to stay their proclivities for evil. There is no guilt or remorse. The image of red-haired James Holmes in a courtroom, nodding off during the proceedings, disconcerts family members and the public at large. Everyone is afraid to say it: this is an evil man. Jeffery Dahmer was an evil man. John Wayne Gacy was an evil man. So were David Berkowitz, Ted Bundy, Ed Gein, Charles Manson and more.
Without a soul, there is no limit on conduct. I do not subscribe to the inherent evil of man as some do. I interpret the concept of original sin differently. But there are those depraved individuals for whom there is no explanation other than they are purely evil. Evil has existed in the world since the beginning of history. It even has been responsible for despicable acts in the name of religion. This is not the fault of the religion, but rather of the soulless monster who cloaks his evil actions in it.
Aurora, Colorado, has no rational explanation, other than the act of an evil man. We search in vain for a rational causation. Holmes perhaps is technically insane, but that is not the answer. The only answer, and it is imperfect, is to confront evil where we find it and not to be afraid to deal with it, instead of like the shooting range operator who shrugged off his suspicions. Honest recognition of the existence of evil at least may allow us to identify and confront the enemy before the commission of a horrendous act of mass destruction.
There is no limit to the evil acts of the soulless.
- It's Hemmer Time Rain: "Hold my umbrella" - Benghazi: "Stand Down" (51)
- Cook's Corner Facebook recipes, who knew? The Best Pork Tenderloin (1)
- The Engineering Perspective The Raw Milk Debate (96)
- Eagle's Eye Stroke Story (26)
- "Hear's" to Life! Outnumbered in the Elder Care Journey (2)
- A Day in Ion Square A Change in Topic (101)
- Community Splashes Come meet the team from Transport Waukesha and enjoy a community social
- Alien Relay 2.0 To discharge or otherwise discriminate against any individual because of any of the following (228)
- Lake Country Rotary Happenings Splash Pad Ground Breaking Has Happened!
- Dispatches from the GOP convention Photos from Romney, Ryan events (24)